Covid, politics and the election

The Government have been criticised for some time for using regular Covid media conferences to promote themselves leading up to the election.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fronted important announcements, which was a significant reason for widespread public support of the lockdown. She earned strong public support of Government actions.

She was helped by the very competent media skills of the Director-general of Health, Ashley Bloomfield.

But for a while Ardern continued to do the media gigs with little of importance to say but an update of the daily totals and reminders of care that needed to be taken to minimise the opportunity for Covid to spread.

Criticism of her promoting herself and her Government and her party started to grow. Some of the news was not so good as new cases started to add up and a number of people escaped from isolation. Coincidentally or not she removed herself from the Covid front line most of the time.

At the same time Ardern replaced the inept Minister of Health David Clark with the far more competent and media savvy Chris Hipkins, who has been the regular Government Covid spokesperson since the beginning of July, along with Megan Woods.

It can be difficult to differentiate between dealing with Covid and competent government, but there is no doubt Labour’s election chances have been substantially enhanced by both their handling of Covid and their frequent public performances.

The major Government party has always had a significant advantage in election campaigns. They have far more media exposure – even more so during the Covid pandemic – and they have money to dish out to appear generous too voters – and there is a lot more of that at the moment dealing with Covid and the economic impact.

So Labour are benefiting, and are no doubt milking it a bit with the election in mind. It has been suggested that there won’t be any Pacific Island bubble until after the election so as to not risk adverse publicity during the campaign. This may be a bit cynical but is fairly normal politics, albeit in abnormal times.

Polls show that Labour has benefited from Ardern’s popularity and the relative success of keeping control of Covid – and the publicity for doing that.

This has put Labours main opponent, National, in a difficult situation (made quite a bit more difficult by their leadership changes and MPs behaving badly). It has been hard for them to criticise the Covid response, and hard for them to promote anything better as an alternative.

National have been effectively been sidelined by circumstances, self inflicted wounds and by Ardern in particular doing so well in the eyes of most of us.

Judith Collins has had a mixed start as leader. She is better than Bridges and much better than Muller, but those were low bars.

She is much better handling media – but she is far from perfect with that. Both her occasional flippancy and trying to appear to be tough don’t come across very well.

And she hasn’t been helped by a bit of bumbling by her deputy, Gerry Brownlee. While the Government Covid response is inextricably linked with politics, Opposition politicising of it has major risks for National.

Covid is too important and poses too many risks political point scoring.

Today’s ODT editorial warns both Labour and National: Leave health response to experts

The ongoing public health response to the global pandemic must not become fodder for the election campaign. It is far too important for that.

Clarity and certainty are paramount as our communities meet the Covid-19 threat. Mixed messages from all and sundry may make us vulnerable.

The election campaign has started. Now, we should expect to get all the information we need about the Covid-19 health response from the public servants managing it.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield, unsullied by the need to seek re-election, remains the primary source of key health messages. He is the most qualified to explain where-to next.

So particularly now the campaign proper has kicked off politicians should butt out unless something out of the ordinary needs to be addressed.

National Party Covid-19 border response spokesman Gerry Brownlee cast a light on the potential for mixing messages with his latest foray into the practical response.

Yesterday, he pondered the Ministry of Health’s latest guidance urging people to have masks ready in case the country has to return to Level 2.

The announcement came out of the blue and he had ‘‘seen very little evidence that would back up the reason for it’’, he said.

‘‘Why is it now when we have 94 days now with no community transmission and apparently secure borders that they’re suddenly wanting to bring this up,’’ he asked.

‘‘I think it’s a bit of a squirrel running up a tree so that we’re not looking at the teetering employment situation.’’

That and other things Brownlee has said don’t help Collins or National’s cause. National could learn from Labour, who mostly keep deputy Kelvin Davis out of the spotlight.

Dr Bloomfield this week warned community transmission was inevitable — our border may eventually be breached — and people should not be complacent. Epidemiologists continue to say the same thing. This all meant the guidance had to change, eventually.

Such readily available information helped explain the ‘‘why now’’ of the announcement, but if it caused distraction, it was generated by politicians.

Not just by politicians. Political axe grinders have claimed Bloomfield and particularly the Government are ‘scaremongering’ and trying to raise fear in the public for political purposes.

Our health advisers are apolitical public servants. It is a very serious thing to suggest they would issue an important health advisory to benefit the Government.

But in this case, health advisers were not left alone in the advising. As has been the case since lockdown, a senior minister shared the daily announcement spotlight. Minister of Health Chris Hipkins amplified the advice, in a simple act that some considered enough to infer a political motivation.

Whether it was right or wrong to do so — though we suggest it was wrong — is almost beside the point. The point is, politicians must opt for absolute care during the election campaign.

They must spend the next few weeks letting health officials make and restate official health announcements. They should defer to them, and let them explain the need for masks, sanitiser and quarantine.

But will they? Ardern focussed on the Covid response in her Adjournment Debate – Jacinda Ardern speech, and appears to be openly campaigning on Covid competence and control.

And all that leaves Collins and National is to try to attract attention with alternatives but without appearing too negative. They have a way to go to work that out, and a long way to go to suggest they deserve to run the government.

Otherwise Ardern and Labour will cruise to victory virtually untouchable, as they appear to be doing now.

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27 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  8th August 2020

    Pete, absolutely right.
    Jacinda appeared non stop when there was positive Covid news but ran a mile when the news did not fit into her election agenda.
    Demonstrating yet again, the snow flake that she is.
    Hopefully, after 19/08 she can immerse herself in kindergarten teaching.
    A profession that she emulates on a daily basis.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  8th August 2020

      I get very cross with you John….when you post nonsense like…this.

      Reply
      • John J Harrison

         /  8th August 2020

        Blazer, good to hear.
        About time you looked outside your leftie box and viewed the real world with an open mind.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  8th August 2020

          So deluded …. its priceless. The polls are saying Labour at 50%+ and yet he thinks Ardern will be looking for a new job. is this the themes they talk about at those pricey NP fundraising Cabinet Clubs you attend.
          After September there will be one more crushing by the NP steamroller that of Collins herself. Bridges , Muller and Collins all promoted beyond their ability

          Reply
    • duperez

       /  8th August 2020

      I guess you kept a diary itemising Ardern’s appearances and the content of what she said and the days of non appearances and the contentious issues she was avoiding on those days.

      To be clear you likely detailed stuff like her missing from TV on two days in a row after appearing for 8 in a row being down to longterm important appointments. If one happened on a day someone had scarpered from isolation I realise other stuff should have been put off because she knew more than the police and military personnel who fronted.

      I realise following events that closely might require or hint at obsession and fixation. You mightn’t need believe this but some are fixated about her appearing or not.

      Reply
      • Someone has pointed out that the 13,000,000 masks stockpiled by the government would last less than 3 days if everyone had one a day.

        Reply
  2. Harry

     /  8th August 2020

    “Political axe grinders have claimed Bloomfield and particularly the Government are ‘scaremongering’ and trying to raise fear in the public for political purposes.”

    This is exactly what they are doing. Call me am axe grinder if you like, but Bloomfield is part of the government’s scaremongering agenda – and he loves the power that goes with it.

    I am in the supposedly at risk age group, but I would rather take my chances with the flu (Conjob19) than the creeping police state.

    Reply
    • Jack

       /  8th August 2020

      It’s more often non political axe grinders who have eyes to see the scaremongering and creepy politicisation of covid.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  8th August 2020

        Let me re word that –
        Sword sharpeners see clearly the rude political agendas (evil spirits dare I say) around Covid.

        Btw, it’s kindness to suggest evil in the spiritual. It steps us back from blaming individuals who are simply doing their best.
        I don’t believe AB loves the power. Then again, I don’t know the fellow. He certainly comes across as Jacinda’s twin.
        Wish I was important enough to speak with Jacinda. I can’t get my head around the fact she knows first hand about anxiety (shared during one or more of her soppy interviews) yet she continues on buoyed by her unrelenting positivity. Surely the accolades and hero-ising would do her head in? Frighten her? In reality she is a dangerous leader. That’s the spirit of the matter imho. I don’t blame Jacinda exactly. I feel sad for her ignorance. Painfully, we all pay. I suppose I do feel a tad angry with her.
        It interests me that Judith exudes cheerfulness and lightheartedness. That, to my mind, is true positivity. I don’t see it as flippant, whereas that’s how I perceive Jacinda (even with her head covered for grieving Muslims). I saw grasping for self and a desire to push indoctrinations in her adjournment speech. It appears she has plenty more in her tank. For that I blame her partner and her cult stuck parents.
        We all ‘see’ different things.
        I know I’ve annoyed the PBT’s with my wee sermon. Suck it up. ‘They’ turfed me from ‘church’. I need to carry my cross somewhere and it’s a free land.
        I believe the reason that preaching from me (more exactly – what you perceive is preaching) is annoying to others is that overt teaching is not a part of my cross to bear.
        Politics here helped me to get a clear mind about what is my cross to bear – it’s not preaching.
        Swoop now haters – it won’t hurt me. I carry my cross! We need Kiwis who carry their crosses and, trust me, it’s not what you think it is.
        OK, don’t trust me. Trust Jacinda? Any politicians for that matter??
        I wonder if Pete considers my musings as trolling, any more than others who comment here.
        There are folk on this site who seem to think that their musings are acceptable whereas mine aren’t. In times past there has not quite been respectful free speech and kindness for every Kiwi here.
        Being a Christian in NZ is not what you think it is, guaranteed. That’s one thing I am qualified to state.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  8th August 2020

          I had enough schooling and enough of it was religious to have views of the world.
          Enough to recognise everyone is as entitled to their musings as others are to question them.

          So in reality Jacinda is a dangerous leader and ignorant. I wonder if she would be more or less dangerous or more or less ignorant if she were fuelled by religious nuttery.

          Reply
          • Jack

             /  8th August 2020

            It seems to me that Jacinda is fuelled by religious nuttery – said before that she was raised by a cult. I believe she has not escaped its clutches and her special personality deemed that we all were obliged to go along for the ride. Jesus cults are the hardest to shake off from one’s persona. Dangerous in that she is ignorant regarding the spirit at play. For all her ‘kindness’, Jacinda is actually behaving as though she is entitled. Helpful in other ways b/c kindness is worthy of an airing. When it fails, as Jacinda’s does, we can all learn from that. Asking a team of five million to keep moving with you is odd. She has a fight on her hands – and has my sympathy as far as her being one Kiwi.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  8th August 2020

              She is a servant of her ideology employing all the PR and political techniques she has learnt for that purpose.

  3. I believe that it is scaremongering.

    If we have eradicated/eliminated C19 as the PM claimed just before the new cases appeared, why do we need masks now ?

    Why is there suddenly a new Covid threat ? Where’s it coming from ? All our cases are in isolation and known.

    I hope that this is not a lead-up to make us all wear them for an epidemic that doesn’t actually exist.

    The PM and Ashley can’t have it both ways.

    Reply
    • Jack

       /  8th August 2020

      The mask thing reminds me of a very young primary teacher, fresh out and determined to run a tight ship. A compassionate heart soon brought in the reality check. Then she had her own children. More tweaks. Now a good teacher.
      In the beginning – a class lined up straight, no one touching another, silence, perhaps even each with a mask on, would have delighted that brand new authority.
      Jacinda is authoritarian in a most deceptive way. I find it creepy. A nice kind person takes their reality checks like an adult. She just doesn’t seem real in that regard. Give me a broken down Mr Muller any day.
      The mask matter is controversial. There’s something about Jacinda that brings out the pig headedness in me. Not on my face! Unless I want to – unless I’m comfortable with the facts I have researched.
      Perhaps AB is a lover of money. It’s easy to do that! A friend warned me that pining about needing more is also a form of money worship. Applied to politics, that adds up. Political Socialists want everyone to have more. It blinds them to their failings – they avoid accountability. And the masses who love money adore and trust them, so the media would have us believe.
      Definitely politics at play far more than a healthful dose of care regarding Covid. The reality is – we don’t need to be fearful. Prudent, yes. That reality varies from person to person as it should.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  8th August 2020

      Well well.. its the biggest scaremonger on this site is pointing her bone at others ? Remember all the extra people going to die , figure show 550 or so less people died this 6 months compared to first 6 months last year… Did I say I was right again ?

      There is a possibility of going to level 2 ( with masks) if new cases outside isolation occur.
      The reason…and this is important… the testing at the border isnt even 95% accurate, more like in the 80s
      False negatives ..look it up…mean some are cleared to leave after 14 days when they might still have the virus ….
      The two tests they have ( 3 days, 14 days) should catch most of those, the chance is still there.
      Once people are back to their lives they could be super spreaders – weddings and funerals can infect many people in hours. or some young people out at restaurants and bars , clubs maybe 2 to 3 times a week.

      Another pointo mention , we got to this current state by being super cautious ( apart from the initial hotel fiascos) and the public expects the heath experts to continue so. The naysayers, like you, were totally wrong before , so that says a lot about your new comments

      Reply
      • You were the one who kept saying that flu was much more deadly than Covid and producing figures to prove it. You banged on and on about it.

        I am not a scaremonger or I would be in favour of masks being worn by everyone, not suggesting that this is an over-reaction when there’s no community transmission.

        The health experts at MoH wanted a 4 week Level 2, not a drastic 7 weeks at 4 & 3 that almost collapsed the economy. The government ignored advice to test and quarantine from the beginning, thus allowing the virus in. Instead, as the PM said, she put ‘instinct’ ahead of ‘evidence and science’ (and if you don’t believe me, google something like ‘Ardern, instinct, evidence and science’ and you will hear her saying it) and closed the whole country down.

        Reply
    • duperez

       /  8th August 2020

      Our house has never burned down or suffered from major event. We still have insurance.
      Our health people should not lay in a stock of ventilators just in case there is a pandemic. They shouldn’t have done it in the USA or anywhere. Doing so would suggest we think we think Covid is coming back worse than ever.

      You’re the one who has wanted it both ways, all along.

      Reply
      • A pandemic is worldwide, not in one country.

        I have certainly not wanted it both ways, that’s a lie.

        How many of the existing ventilators were used for the 15 people who were in hospital ?

        Reply
    • Jack

       /  8th August 2020

      Alan, if so, Jacinda will never reach the peace grade: “I no longer call you my servant.”
      But it is not so b/c you cannot be a servant of an ideology. You’re a slave.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th August 2020

        I think she would say and believes that she serves the people. But what her ideology means by that is that she controls the people.

        Reply
  4. karitane1

     /  8th August 2020

    The ODT editorial today is onto the Labour ruse

    Reply
  5. duperez

     /  8th August 2020

    NZ in the USA news:

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  8th August 2020

      Any chance blame Trump journalism.

      Reply
      • Griff.

         /  9th August 2020

        6:10 in the video proves your TDS.
        Trumps lack of leadership is a problem.
        They go on to say the systematic failures in the USA means it would still have been a problem no matter who was in the white house.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  9th August 2020

          Any chance blame Trump. Gets very boring. I don’t watch videos so if you want to make a case write it.

          Reply
          • Griff.

             /  9th August 2020

            Walk and chew gum?
            I had the vid playing in the background as I read something else .
            Just to confirm you were showing your Cult of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
            Unsurprisingly I was right .
            FWIW
            I also rarely watch Vids.. To slow.. I read far faster than people speak plus can quickly skim boring content and still have high comprehension.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  10th August 2020

              Repeating your assertion is not making a case.

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