How Labour might rouse the beast

A well-managed Budget could still cause political problems for National if the Opposition is able to re-connect with New Zealanders who don't usually vote... let alone go to the symphony orchestra

Kick me, I'm in a time warp. Did National's strategists get the year wrong? Or is there a cunning plot to call an election this November?

Wasn't that an election year budget?

Shouldn’t Bill English have reached for the loaves and fishes next year? Voters have an infuriating habit of pocketing the goodies, quickly forgetting government largess and asking “what’s next”. 

A year and a half is a long time to forget.

Nine out of ten to the PM’s spin team, though. Got the meedja salivating; though getting the Hon John to defend the well off while Mark Hotchin was publicly plutocratting it up in Hawaii wasn’t the cleverest timing and lost them a point.

Solid points to the DomPost political team, however. Vernon Small alone noted the absurdity of a ‘fiscally neutral” budget where everyone was better off in typically witty fashion and Tracy Watkins sprung the spin doctors, though after the event. 

National Party budgets by definition move money from Mangere to Mairangi Bay, the only questions are: By how much, and will the shafted side notice? Here’s the opportunity for Labour.

There’s a fearsome beast lurking on the electoral rolls that’s mostly somnolent, but just sometimes storms out of hibernation and makes election success problematic for National.

Let’s christen it the Don’t Usually Voters.

It was the DUVs storming out of the shadows that denied Stephen Joyce success after his brilliantly conceived campaign in 2005.

Remember the last gasp 43,000 vote win to Labour when all of those seats beginning with M reported so late on election night. That was the DUVs aroused from a decade or more long slumber by Don Brash threatening market rents for state houses tenants.

There are 70,000 state houses with an average of four voters per household. Well over half are DUVs. Go figure, as the TV watcher, Jane Clifton, might say.

Would you sit on your hands if one party was going to put your rent through the roof?Not if you knew about it, and there’s the rub.

National tried an under the radar launch of that policy, but Labour crashed through the ignorance barrier with its brutal “Eviction Notice” (and with the help of crypto-socialist Katherine Rich, who got the policy big legs by moaning about the pamphlet to the press).

Though National showed some comprehension of this animal last time by visiting that state house street in Mt Albert, can they keep it snoozing in its cave for more than a year after Bill’s budget? DUVs can’t easily be polled (few landlines, uncivilised work hours, squawking kids, poor English etc). There is a way of getting through which Jack Vowles once stumbled across, but that’s another story.

Here’s how you might rouse the beast...

  • Give yourself four hundred bucks a week in a pay rise and give Mr and Mrs Fa’alalouli a dollar fifty.
  • Put the price of everything up with a GST hike.
  • Cut back on the kindy subsidy and make the mums pay more.
  • Put the price of fags through the roof.
  • Put the price of petrol and power up on top of the GST rise.
  • Hawk off Kiwi Bank.

And just for good measure, you might just give the DUVs a second reason to get out and vote, perhaps a noisy referendum on MMP?

The ball’s in your court, Phil. Some new candidates and rejuvenated local organisations you-know-where would be great start, even if old mates go out to a well superannuated pasture.

While pondering the budget I took advantage of the freebies Tony Gibbs sent me to see Dame Malvina Major and The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying both.

Malvina Major’s voice, the cognoscenti muttered, was past its best. But she sounded bloody good to me and she’s a nice person. She sang at the Labour Party conference after the home-straight win in 2005; no invoice followed.

I hadn’t seen the NZSO before.  It’s sensational and a visual delight. The Elgar piece was a bit fiddly for my untutored ear and my mind wandered after I twigged that it probably wasn’t going to turn into Land of Hope and Glory.

A double bass player had day-glo blue hair, (she looked fabulous) and I was surprised to see Mark Ford, the Auckland Transition Authority head, playing the lead cello. He turned out to be an MF doppelganger, but I briefly entertained the idea that it was indeed a moonlighting Mark, given his propensity for sublimely skilled toil and I looked hard for his signature monogrammed cuffs. 

There were about seventy mainly young players in the orchestra.

Are they all paid the same? The string people work very hard all the time, while one bloke at the back had the job of managing a tangle of silver plumbing out of which he coaxed farty noises every twenty minutes or so.

The high arts are in good shape, judging from the show and that theatre man Raymond Hawthorne (looking more like 54 than 74) has a full dance card well into next year. Comet Clark has a long tail.