One of the (many) things that National do better than Labour is to invent or recycle slogans and neologisms to attack their opponents. Helengrad. The Nanny State. Catchy little phrases that have an emotional impact that supersedes rational debate. Last week the term ‘New York branch of the Labour Party‘ popped up on NBR and all the right-wing blogs, more-or-less simultaneously, and so yesterday TV3′s political editor Duncan Garner faithfully regurgitated the talking point:
Judith Tizard, told the country Goff was effectively a crap leader and could never win. If that wasn’t a message to the caucus from New York – then I don’t know what is.
Actually there’s an abiding enmity between Tizard and Goff, but Garner is far more gullible to this sort of manipulation than most journalists. Anyway, this is how these terms filter out into the public sphere, and they can play a powerful role in politics and election campaigns, especially because they’re based on wit and emotion, and can’t be rationally refuted.
Labour has used this sort of technique in the past – if they didn’t coin the term ‘Ruthinasia’ they certainly hammered it repeatedly during the nineties. What do they have today? They refer to John Key as ‘smile and wave’ which is not a term setting the country afire with its esprit and deft insight. They have no term for English’s economic agenda. (I coined the term ‘the English disease’, as in ‘the economy suffers from’ as I was writing this sentence. That sort of thing.)
Sure, they also need policy, and for their criticism of the government to be substantive – but we live in an age of marketing and sound-bytes. A good slogan can be worth just as much as a credible economic platform.