OPINION: Perhaps the best part of any election campaign are the signs. They add a marvellous dash of colour and cleverness to dull city streets. Look around you. Outside of an ad for nutritional supplements, have you ever seen so many smiling, Photoshopped faces, so many joyously inane slogans?
It is said that people are most likely to vote for the party with the best signs, regardless of their own political preferences. The amount of signs someone can be exposed to in any given day also plays a part. The technical term for the critical sign-voter ratio is known as the "sign-gularity".
Let us envision a hypothetical voter – male, mid-to-late twenties, whose name might rhyme with "Doshua Jrummond" – with, perhaps, some left-wing preference, who lives in a fairly nondescript New Zealand town with an economy heavily based around milksolid production (this time, we shall use Hamilton.) This person is taking a walk and is being subtly influenced by the election signs around him.
The first billboard he comes across is for Labour. There is a badly drawn penis on it. It says "STOP ASSET SALES." Labour has cleverly used a visual pun on the word "stop" by using the well-known imagery of a stop sign.
He agrees with this sign. It is red, the colour of anger and passion, and the thought of asset sales makes him vaguely uneasy. He resolves to vote for Labour and moves on.
Next, he encounters a sign for the ACT party. A balding man with glasses, looking bit like an awkward uncle or patronising grandfather (perhaps both?) smiles at him. For some reason, this man, Dr Don Brash, reminds our hypothetical voter of a heron with teeth. If this sign could make a sound, he thinks, it would be "Gwork!"
The ACT sign, despite its unappealing photograph, and a crudely-drawn penis, has a message that appeals to our voter. It says "IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS, EXPERIENCE COUNTS". This is comforting, he thinks. You don't want to vote for just anyone in an economic crisis. He resolves to vote for ACT and moves on.
Soon, he sees a sign for the Green party. There is a picture of happy people at a wind farm. The sign says "FOR A RICHER NEW ZEALAND, PARTY VOTE GREENS". In the corner of the sign, there is a drawing that looks like a crudely drawn rocket ship.
Our voter likes this sign. Happy families are good, wind farms are cool, he likes the thought of everyone in New Zealand being richer, and is a fan of space travel. He decides to vote for the Greens and continues his walk.
Soon, he encounters a series of signs for National. Some are shaped like STOP/GO signs, in a brilliant parody of the already clever Labour signs. Our voter chuckles. Together, the signs say, they form the "Brighter Future Plan." The signs extol good things, like "CREATING MORE REAL JOBS", "PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT", and "REBUILDING CHRISTCHURCH".
Our voter likes all these signs, despite being slightly disturbed by a smiling John Key's multiple, crudely-drawn penises. The signs make him worry, though. So far, he has liked all the party messages. But what if the other parties have secret agendas contrary to the ones he has just liked so much? Maybe ACT wants more unreal jobs. The Greens might desire to unprotect the environment. Perhaps Labour will try and destroy Christchurch even further, instead of rebuilding it.
What to do? Our voter considers the options. Perhaps, he thinks suddenly, rather than just voting for who has the best signs, he could visit the websites of the various parties, establish where they differ on key policy platforms, and vote for the party that aligns best with his own opinions and morals. He could consider the record of the current Government, whether it has delivered on what it promised at the last election, and whether the Opposition could deliver a better alternative.
At this key moment, a black cat runs across his path, and our voter is startled. Fortunately, he is not superstitious and likes cats. He examines the cat. It makes no demands for votes, nor does it offer pat solutions to large problems. Even better, it features a refreshing lack of crudely-drawn penises.
On election day, at the ballot box, he carefully scribbles out all the other choices and writes "CATS" in a firm but clear hand.
Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer who thinks if everyone voted for cats, Parliament wouldn't look any different.
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