Labour believed it could puncture the Govt’s poll ratings by focusing on cost-of-living issues, underlining its portrayal of John Key as being “out-of-touch,” reinforced by headlines of unrest drummed up by unions going on strike.
But it all fell apart in the wake of union bully-boy tactics, conjuring up memories of the era when NZ was ruled by industrial strife. Instead of a new face, Labour has reverted to its old unreconstructed image. The Govt meanwhile can claim it has been successful in cushioning the impact of the recession, not only on households, but on business and labour.
In particular latest indicators on wage movements, with private sector pay rates moving up 0.6% in the September quarter, suggest there is less slack in the labour market than might have been expected at this point in the cycle. The impact of the commodity boom will start to be increasingly felt as NZ moves into 2011.
The Govt is convinced its policy to transform structural elements of the economy, essentially a 3-to-5-year programme, is well understood by the public. What is unusual about the Key-led coalition is the community sector, which has agitated against the policies of previous National Govts, is constructively engaged with this administration, and, as one sector leader put it, “has never been so settled.”