Eyes off the ball while their eyes will be on the ball

National are starting to act like they've got the election in the bag - and if they weren't confident enough already, the Rugby World Cup is just another thing in their favour

It's less than a month until the greatest political distraction the country's seen since, well, who knows when.

That's right, the Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 9 and it's going to suck huge amounts of oxygen out of the political debate in the three months prior to polling day.

And you know who's most delighted about that, don't you? National. In terms of democracy and an informed public, it's terrible.

From a political viewpoint, however, it's the gift to the governing party that will give and give, day after day after day until almost the end of October.

Already, government ministers are kicking for touch, refusing interviews and clamming up on anything that might spark public debate.

For them, the odd press release, set piece community visits and a five minute stand-up as they walk the corridors of parliament amount to communicating with the public.

As I say, bad for democracy, but for them, good politics. I'm sad to say it's what any party would do these days.

For the other parties, even National's coalition partners, it's a strategic nightmare. It takes time - and numerous media mentions - for people to absorb policy.

Just look at Labour's capital gains tax. I was speaking to someone recently furious at the idea because of the cost it would impose on his family home - not realising that the family home is exempt in Labour's plan.

And if you think it's tough for Labour, imagine being one of the minor parties, trying, say, to discuss its tax policy when the country's in the midst of a debate about the best All Blacks wing pairing..

What many forget is that news is finite - there are only so many pages in a newspaper and minutes in a news hour.


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