Editorial: Back to the drawing board

Last updated 05:00 23/04/2011

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OPINION: It was inevitable, of course. The only real surprise is that it has taken almost three weeks for Labour's latest attention-grabbing bid to crash and burn.

The "Stop asset sales vote Labour" campaign, launched in Auckland on April 4, effectively died of scornful, mocking laughter on Thursday.

It should not be lamented, even by the most ardent of Labour supporters.

In itself, there was nothing wrong with the concept and a great deal to recommend it. National's publicly announced plans to begin selling off state assets if (when) it wins the next general election have found so little favour with the electorate that even prominent business leaders have voiced their opposition.

Handled with skill, finesse and a little luck Labour's campaign could have been, if not a winner, at least a long poll with which to poke the borax. It could even have become long enough to lever the party back up the popularity ladder. Few will look back with favour on the raft of sales of some of our most valuable state assets in the 80s and 90s by successive Labour and National governments.

So the concept was good. The only parts missing were the skill, finesse and luck.

Whoever came up with the concept of plastering the message on imitation road stop signs should be led away to a disused shed out the back somewhere, put under 24-hour guard and released only after the next general election is over.

Whoever then came up with the idea of selling these signs to the party faithful at $10 a pop should be made to share the shed.

But a desert island, a really remote desert island, should be reserved for the genius who came up with the idea of putting the signs, signs with the same shape and colouring of real road stop signs, along the median strip of a road in the Hutt Valley this week.

The Land Transport Safety Authority takes a dim view of any roadside signs that could distract drivers. The regulations are pretty clear: "A person must not install on a road, or in or on a place visible from a road, a sign, device or object that is not a traffic control device, but that may be mistaken for a traffic control device."

You'd think that even if someone was a sheep short in the top paddock he or she would realise that slapping big stop signs along a busy road might have caused a few problems for motorists, but no.

Up they went. And within an hour, down they came again, courtesy of the Hutt City Council, responsible for controlling the roads in the area. The signs, the council noted in a press release, did not meet any road signage requirements and following a complaint from the public they were removed.

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Unfortunately, the Labour Party still didn't get it. General secretary Chris Flatt huffed that it was all a dastardly plot by National Party bloggers and right-wing groups to ruin the campaign. "Any reasonable person would see that the nature of the writing and the `vote Labour' on there indicates they're not traffic control devices," he insisted, and vowed party supporters would continue using the signs, though they had been told to be more cautious near roads.

We have some advice for Mr Flatt: throw the signs in the shed, or ship them off to the island. Consult Marketing, 101. Get rid of the negative Stop the asset sales. Be positive. Try something like Save our assets. On a sign that does not look like a road stop sign, or a give way, or even a pedestrian crossing. Do not erect the new signs anywhere near roads. Let's try to keep the road toll down.

- The Southland Times

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