OPINION: There is still 2 weeks of election campaign to come but I guess I have seen and heard enough to know which way I will probably vote in the election – and I think the choice is Labour vs National. A vote for the minor parties is likely to be a wasted vote and much and all as I find him entertaining I don’t think I could bring myself to vote for Winston. And I am potentially a swinging voter. I have switched parties on only a few occasions.
My voting background is that I am a pragmatist rather than an idealist – given a choice between a visionary policy which could end in disaster, and a nice safe policy which has little visionary content but has a good track record to back it up – I would probably go with the latter.
And ultimately an election should be about policy not about personality. In that respect, I can understand Gareth Morgan’s frustration – expressed in rather lurid terms – about the apparent fascination with personality in this campaign. And in the personality stakes, Jacinda Ardern really has it all. Other commentators have already waxed lyrical on this subject so I won’t repeat all of that. But the comparison with Bill English leaves English in the dust.
I thought one of the questions in the Hosking chaired debate was telling – asked if it was necessary to lie to be successful in politics Ardern was quick with an emphatic and quite believable “no”. A clear statement of principle. Asked the same question Bill English walked all around it and really avoided giving a direct answer. I think he was being both honest and pragmatic in doing so. John Key made an art form out of walking around the truth without telling a direct lie – English doesn’t have that same willingness which could well get him into trouble. In fact, it already has in one or two situations.
So if voting was a contest of personalities Jacinda Ardern would have my vote.
When it comes to policy both parties have a mix of policies, which individually I do and don’t like. Some of the more recent efforts from National, for example, are starting to sound a bit desperate and I would not be surprised if they disappear into the background if National is re-elected. Ardern has been more strict in keeping to a defined policy portfolio and there is a clear determination to implement what has been promised which is a bit scary. No pragmatism evident here. I would prefer a dose of pragmatism along the lines of “it seems that won’t work in the way we thought, so we will look at making changes to the policy or going in a different direction”. On those grounds National could ultimately be the safer bet.
However, there are distinct reservations about National which would make it a rather reluctant vote. One is the fuss created by Joyce about the 11.7 billion hole in Labour’s cost figures. Doing this was gratuitously cynical and will probably hurt National more the Labour. And there is a lack of vision from National which contrasts with Ardern’s visionary style.
A factor which could swing it for some voters is the reality that National have been there for 9 years and are looking a bit tired. There are a freshness and articulation of vision about Ardern which is quite appealing. On the other hand, National has dealt effectively with some really difficult issues e.g. the financial crisis, the Pike River mine disaster, the Christchurch earthquake etc. In that respect, they have “form”.
Which just goes to show that there is never a perfect answer. For swing voters, voting will often be a case of balancing pros and cons on a knife edge.
By Bas Walker
This is another of Bas Walker’s posts on GrownUps. Please look out for his articles, containing his Beachside Ponderings.