To put lipstick on a pig – phrase, to make superficial changes to something generally regarded with dislike or disfavour in a futile attempt to make it more appealing.

Maybe there were other phrases Gareth Morgan could have used – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, changing the badge on a Skoda, etc. – they all mean the same thing. But if we take the literal meaning of his colloquialism, then we have to agree – he got it wrong. Because the Labour Party, by putting lipstick (Jacinda) on a pig (the ailing political party) has very obviously been successful in changing their fortunes – so, perhaps not so much a futile exercise! So is Jacinda just lipstick – decorative, but not actually capable of making a change?

There have been huge changes in the political landscape in the last twenty years – gone are the days when we voted one party all our lives, or because our father did.  Gone also is the long held, but rather simplistic concept that you voted Labour if you were an employee or a beneficiary, and National if you were an employer, landholder or wealthy, as they were more likely to have policies to protect your assets. Both parties have moved across towards the centre in their policies, and their core goals are more similar than most of us realise. So, does it really matter who we vote for, or is the old saying true – “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.”

For any voter wavering, or unsure how their political views fit into the policies and strategies of the parties running in this election, there is an excellent website they should visit. Vote Compass (www.votecompass.tvnz.co.nz) has been designed by political scientists to calculate how a person’s political views line up with the current parties, and after a short series of multi-choice questions you are presented with a graph showing just where you and your beliefs fit into the political landscape.

These days voters, when seeking a potential leader, look for more than intelligence, integrity, and honour – they want Charisma and Change with a capital C!  And there is no doubt who wins in the charm and personality stakes in this election – Jacinda has leapt ahead in the polls as preferred Prime Minister, and is now neck and neck with Bill English. It seems New Zealand voters may prefer the style of political campaigning that is prevalent in America – where personality prevails over policy. Around the world people who have worked hard all their lives, have played by the rules and voted conservatively are now looking for change – and they are looking for personality to drive that change. Charisma – is this the new x-factor in politics?

National seem to be getting a bit unnerved by Jacinda, and this is showing in their attempts to make Bill more likeable, more appealing to the youth vote. He has been photographed without a jacket and tie, relaxing on the couch at home, and fooling around in Paeroa in front of their iconic drink bottle, in an effort to make him relate to the voting public, and what appears to be an attempt to re create some of the “John Key” magic.

But is Jacinda’s likeability enough to push Labour  first past the winning post in the coming election? Polls show that support for National is softening, and they are slowly drifting south of the magic 47% mark which would allow them to govern alone – but they are still the strongest party, sitting currently at 44%. The opposition are still slowly but steadily creeping up, and their current 37% share is easily within striking distance of National.

And then there is the ‘Winston Factor.’ New Zealand First has overtaken the Greens to become the third biggest political party – and Winston won’t answer questions about which of the major parties his support will go to. Apparently he likes National policies, but Labour politicians – so he could conceivably be the ‘kingmaker’ that determines our government for the next three years. All we can predict is that it will be a close election, and anything could happen!

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