Rob Hosking had an article in last week’s NBR about how Opposition Leaders are normally not as positive as John Key is. And he doesn’t mean positive and cheery in
terms of personal demeanour (even though Key certainly is that). He means positive about NZ’s future. Normally the Opposition Leader portrays NZ on the
edge of Armageddon, and only by them becoming Prime Minister will the country be saved. Bolger did this in 1990, Clark in 1999. But in almost every speech Key gives, he starts off saying how he thinks NZ has a great future ahead, and the next 30 years could be wonderful with demand climbing for our dairy and other agricultural products. He then of courses shares his concerns. The brain drain, the school dropout rate etc. But he makes clear that he is not saying NZ is stuffed if they don’t change. He’s saying that NZ will miss out on opportunities, will fail to achieve its
potential and the gap will just get bigger between us and Western Europe, with Eastern Europe becoming our new benchmates. Also lacking from most of his speeches is the harsh criticism of the incumbents. Other MPs do that, and Key certainly will throw some barbs, but usually with humour rather than outrage.
It’s a novel strategy for an Opposition Leader. Not totally new. In 1935 the then Opposition Leader did much the same. Now I’m not saying there are any similarities, just that 1935 was remarkable for how Savage conducted his campaign.
It will be interesting to see whether the tone changes, as the election comes closer. For now, it certainly seems to be a winning strategy.
In some ways it reflects the first few months of David Cameron's leaderhsip of the Conservative Party. I reckon he'd do well to revisit it. It's possible to attack the government in a positive way. John Key is showing how to do it.
There's actually nothing new in this, but it's amazing how often politicians think they can only win by attacking the other side in a vicious way. Reagan beat Carter because he was optimistic about a country in a deep malaise. Margaret Thatcher won, at least in part, because she was an optimist. Tony Blair certainly did. David Cameron and his senior colleagues must avoid being tainted with aggressive negativity. The constant barage of press releases coming out of CCHQ, rightly pointing out the government's failings, must be more than balanced with a recognition that all is not bad in the land and we have a great future ahead of us if we play it right.