Certainly, Labour is going to try and convince Kiwis that Don Brash is, as John Campbell kept repeating last night, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. If Labour can convince voters that Don Brash represents everything about the 1990s that they hated, then it will sail into a third term with whatever support flotilla it needs. As John Armstrong writes:
The more damaging label Helen Clark needs to pin on Don Brash is that he is an unreconstructed radical.
The Prime Minister believes the electorate is not looking for radical policy change at this election. However, she says radical policy change is what is on offer from National.
If the first premise is correct, then by her logic, the winning of the election lies in convincing middle-of- the-road voters of the second by reminding them of where Dr Brash’s ideological inclinations might take National once he is ensconced in office.
To that end, Labour had some success last week in hounding Dr Brash over his stance on New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy and his refusal to declare whether he would send combat troops to Iraq.
Dr Brash’s credibility will have taken a hit, but the election will not be won on foreign policy.
Labour needs to find him out on a crunch issue of major domestic concern.
Well, there are plenty to choose from. No Right Turn had a nice little passage last week explaining where Don Brash is trying to lead New Zealand:
In the past, Brash has presented himself as a market fundamentalist, praising New Zealand’s “remarkable reforms” while arguing that they did not go far enough. In particular, he has advocated the removal of all forms of employment protection, including the minimum wage, minimum holiday entitlements, and the employment court; lamented the continued existence of the welfare state (or any sort of safety net insulating people from market forces); and argued for further privatisation and sale of state assets. He has also praised Roger Douglas’s “Blitzkrieg” method of ramming policy change through in the shortest possible time, in order to avoid and limit public opposition. In other words, he belongs to the branch of fundamentalist neo-liberalism which sees democracy as a threat to their vision of “good government”, and which believes that they, rather than we, are better placed to determine what we actually want.
So, there’s plenty to work with. National’s cunning over the past few months has been to convince voters whose economic interests would be severely damaged if National took charge of employment law to turn against Labour. Using George Bush’s strategy of concentrating on values, National is smearing Labour as PC social engineers. This is aimed at getting socially conservative, blue-collar voters to turn towards National, despite the fact that their employment policies will hammer these very voters.