03 September 2020
There is no room for a General Election
General Elections are usually lively, shifting, multifarious events, filled with theatre, point-scoring and attempts to nail hot-button issues with the voters.
Not this time. Shifting out the date of the general election to Saturday 17 October will make no difference to what it is about: Covid-19.
Politicians and voters will be in almost exactly the same position they would have been in the lead up to the 19 September date; distracted, obsessed, and disputing operational detail about the response.
Lobbying and public affairs has been difficult since Covid-19 arrived, because it has taken up all the oxygen. No one has anything spare to talk about anything else.
By way of example, it took all our cajoling powers to get MPs to an event in South Auckland recently on a major health problem disproportionately affecting Maori and Pacific Islanders. All but one turned up but did not commit until the last minute. In years past, they would have agreed instantly and made a lot of the opportunity to meet and greet on a touchstone issue.
The ‘Covid Election’ will be a strange time. No party wants to campaign. No party feels there is any voter appetite for campaigning, on Covid19 or any other matter. Labour is happy to let the public vote to keep it in and managing the current course; National is happy to let the course run until it crashes after the election; and the Green’s and NZ First aren’t sure enough of their votes, so hope to keep the status quo. Even ACT, while steadily rising with the small number of people unhappy about the response, would rather let that run for as long as possible, than cement it in too early with an election.
So, what are the opportunities and risks during this strange election?
Aside from the above, keep your head down. Prepare for post-election contact with politicians when you send those with portfolios and select committee positions briefings on yourself and your sector. The times are too unpredictable to take risks, but the next government and opposition knows that the period until the end of 2021 is make or break for them and the nation.