Female looks and male ‘beer test’ competing with substance in 2019 politics

Political PR presents politicians in ways they think will appeal to voters, but ultimately substance should be a primary focus in 2019 in New Zealand.

Too much fluff and illusion can eventually backfire if the PM, Ministers and the Opposition don’t deliver.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff):  No amount of photoshop will paste over broken promises or scandal in 2019

Problems arise though, when the photoshopping – both metaphorical and literal – is carried out with a bit too much gusto.

Just ask Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who found himself the butt of ridicule when his staff botched an unnecessary photoshop job, by pasting hip new sneakers over his tired old kicks.

(Funny – see Scott Morrison Photoshopped shoes)

More seriously, the gaffe served to highlight the level of detail a leader’s army of press secretaries will go to, to control their image.

New Zealand’s politicians are no different in that regard.

Whether it’s Clark Gayford breaking a month-long Instagram hiatus to poke self-depracating fun at his “christmas belly”, National leader Simon Bridges guzzling a beer in a floral shirt, or Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signing on for a round of soft media in the gossip mags.

None of this PR appeals to me (and I successfully avoided “christmas belly”, I have no desire to have a beer with Bridges, and my recent experiences at The Standard and Kiwiblog cannot be described anything like soft social media).

Sadly, in the case of women, it’s more closely aligned to the subject’s looks. But as it applies to male political leaders, it could perhaps be more accurately described as the “beer test”, as in “he seems like a good guy to have a beer with”.

Hence the beer gut, the drinking shot, and myriad softly-lit photo shoots.

But that only gets a politician so far and this is the year where the rubber hits the road for the leaders of both major parties.

The matey drinky PR spin does nothing for me. Simon Bridges will probably be battling to keep his job as National leader this year. He has to smarten up his media image, and come up with some policies and positions that will appeal to mainstream voters.

So far he has tended towards more conservative (and less popular) stances on current issues like drug law reform, euthanasia and abortion – all of which could be included in referendums alongside the general election next year.

This is the year that Jacinda Ardern and her Government will have to come up with some substantive progress on pressing issues.

The Government’s stalled as long as it can with sundry working groups. The trouble with appointing experts to these things is that they’re incredibly earnest in their responsibilities to come up with solutions.

Solutions which cost money, of which the Government has plenty but still not enough to fulfil the promises it’s made.

Kiwibuild will have to look like thousands of houses that wouldn’t otherwise have been built (without Government investment) are at least in progress.

An actual plan for progress on climate change will be needed to show that James Shaw and the Greens can go beyond vague targets and ideals (Shaw doesn’t seem to do the PR poncing though).

Health, mental health, education reform, justice reform, public service pay, climate change and tax issues are all crying out for bold decisions and tankers of cash.

They were crying out for that a year ago.

A lot will depend on the budget in May – a number of Ministers seemed to be stalling, waiting for a commitment of money from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who was prudent last year, but will have more pressure on him this year.