Knock-out Strategies for the Leaders Debate on 19 September
Personalities aside, how could Chris the Nat Leader lay a knock-out punch on Chris the Labour Leader, or vice versa? At a time when diversity is (nearly) everything, the two Chris’, who share lots in common, will be trying hard to differentiate their similar products from one another. To keep this Blog balanced, lets list three simple strategies which each Chris could employ to one-up the other Chris. Let us start with how Hipkins could achieve a victory, going into the election the bookies underdog.
First, most people don’t much like the boss. Painting Luxon as the guy who wants to be boss of our country, like he was at Unilever & Air NZ, but this time around the Chief (Executive Officer) of NZ, would not greatly enamour him to many Kiwis. Aside from us liking humble, regular, one-of-the-people kind of folks, which John Key played to perfection, a deeper issue is at stake. Being PM is fundamentally a different job to being a CEO. A CEO is like the dictator of their organization. They give orders. However, a PM should set the rules of the game, but not join as a player. Those rules should be as non-interventionist as possible, allowing others to make the decisions how best to run their own lives and businesses within the simple framework set by government.
Second, painting Luxon as being pro-big business would be a timeless classic. One that has been rolled out throughout the ages by leftist parties trying to bring down rightist ones. Why didn’t Luxon speak out against Air NZ’s $550 billion dollar profit? Does he side with the airline and not the customers? Why did he pull out of the agreement with Labour to support more housing supply by allowing densification of our cities? Was it because his neighbors in Epsom didn’t want 3 level buildings going up next door - a “not in my backyard”, NIMBYism, reaction by posh folks he supported? Why hasn’t he railed against the big supermarket chain oligopoly? Why has he not spoken out against Big Bank profits? Is it because Sir John Key is Chairman of ANZ?
Third, on the non-economic dimension, Hipkins could try putting it into our heads that the other Chris is out of tune with NZ’s culture, beliefs and values. After all, he has lived out of NZ for much for his career. Meanwhile, Hipkins could keep selling the image of himself as the local Hutt boy, more in touch with concerns of ordinary folk & our identity as a country, which has become more closely tied with the environment and Maori perspectives.
Now let’s shift sides and take a look at what Chris Luxon could do to land some heavy blows against Hipkins.
For starters, blame him for our current economic mess. This is Chippy’s biggest vulnerability. According to Chippy, everything is the fault of the floods & Putin. However, Hipkins played a crucial role in keeping this country’s borders closed even when the severity of the virus had waned and most of us had been vaccinated. He oversaw an unnecessarily large borrow and spend campaign, never put in safeguards to stop the biggest and most profitable Kiwi companies taking the wage subsidy and sat by whilst the Reserve Bank embarked on an unjustified money printing programme. Whilst our borders were shut, Hipkins, as Minister of Education never helped build a self-sufficient domestic skill base throughout our schools, polytechnics and universities. Instead, he’s now fallen back on mass immigration to satisfy skill shortages. The original Hipkins ideal of a high wage-high skill economy is gone.
Second, after leaving Hipkins little room to move in his ability to defend his past record, Luxon could highlight how Chippy's future pledges appear to have been written by a management consulting firm at best and a PR company at worst. It isn’t even clear Chippy wishes to defend his own Labour party core values which he could have done by implementing his Finance Minister’s unemployment benefit scheme and his former Revenue Minister’s tax cuts for low earners paid for by a wealth tax. Chippy has abandoned his party’s own principles in a personal quest for power. However, it has left him exposed. It undermines his own slogan, “In it for you”.
Third, highlight how under Hipkins' tenure as a Minister and PM the country has become more divided than ever. He's pitted vaxxers against anti-vaxxers, Maori against non-Maori, farmers against environmentalists, and motorists against each other on crowded city roads. Under Labour, wealth inequality has soared. Unlike even US Republican Presidents like Teddy Rooselvelt, Hipkins has not taken on monopoly power & competition issues with zeal. His idea of how to alleviate the cost-of-living is not to make the food industry more competitive, but instead to cut GST on food which increases supermarket profits and creates a fiscal hole.
Although the election looks lost for Labour, as a matter of who scores debating points, it looks to me like both sides have equally powerful ammunition.