Has Nelson gone full-Trump?

Tahunanui became a sea of blue bromance last Tuesday as the National roadshow rolled into town, with Bill English and ...
Braden Fastier/Stuff

Tahunanui became a sea of blue bromance last Tuesday as the National roadshow rolled into town, with Bill English and Simon Bridges joining Nick Smith in announcing their plans for the Southern Link.

On Tuesday this week, the political spotlight was turned on Nelson.  The PM made another high profile visit and was speaking to party faithful and the masses via television.  The national news caught our region on a sunny day.  What did it reveal?

"In Nelson, English had to shout down his own supporters as they tried to drown out reporters asking questions about the latest on NZ First leader Winston Peter's allegations," wrote Tracy Watkins in Stuff.

The lolly scramble was in full flight.  Up and down the country politicians of all flavours were throwing sweeties left, right and centre.  Voters didn't know what to grab – would it be the chocolate fish or the pineapple lumps?  Or was it all just a giant batch of hokey-pokey?

The buttons on the taxpayer ATM were running hot as all sides jostled for control, eager to plug in their numbers.

Back in Nelson:  "Build the road! Build the road! Build the road!" they chanted," reported Isaac Davison in the Herald.

"They started up the chant again minutes later during a press conference in a bid to drown out reporters pesky questions about whether the National Party leaked Winston Peters pension details."

Reading these reports from Tuesday's Tahunanui beach gathering, it sounds like a hearty round of "lock them up"s weren't far away if anyone dared mention National Party political opponents.

Tracy Watkins: "This is important" English pleaded as he waved his arms to silence the chanting locals."

Isaac Davison: "…[English] telling supporters to quieten down.  "The media have a job to do."

Has Nelson has gone full-Trump?  Luckily there just so happened to be another National Party MP on hand to put the Herald reporter right: "Nelson - It's like Tauranga but with more lefties," Transport Minister and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges noted."

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Bridges was standing with his feet in the sand alongside Nick Smith and Bill English, glowing under the early spring Nelson sunshine.  Over their shoulder the Nelson traffic wound its way around the waterfront.  

Overhead the latest Winston Peters scandal was gathering in the air, ready to dump on the politicians' parade.

Audrey Young in the Herald was reporting:  "National's past form has come back to haunt them."

Cameron 'Whale Oil' Slater was, without any hint of irony, blogging:  "The rot has set in and it has started at the top.  National is rotten from the top down and now there needs to be some serious investigations into how a government can use private tax matters to attempt to silence political opponents." 

Meanwhile, scandal smeared on Winston Peters continues to be used in the same way Popeye uses spinach.  Will the voting public swoon like Olive Oil, or vomit like Whale Oil?

The latest scandal shows the 'No-Surprises' policy demanded of public servants by government is a tumour that has grown on New Zealand's democracy.  

Alongside the techniques used to delay Official Information requests, it has led to a corrupting and politicization of public service.

That it has taken so long to come to a head reflects badly on everyone – successive governments, political opposition, the media and voters.  It shouldn't take scandals like this latest one to show what can happen when democratic power is abused. 

When all political energy is spent on massaging the message, little gets achieved.  The focus gets lost.  Real issues get buried.  Housing crisis anyone?  Climate change?  And just what is in that NZTA report on the Southern Link?  

Suddenly the National Party is promising $135 million be spent on this particular piece of road.  Of the long delayed report, Nick Smith says, "I have not seen it."

It's a brave person that wades into the Southern Link debate.  Will it solve Nelson's roading problems or simply shift it?  Will it resolve traffic congestion or simply progress it to the next stage of inadequate local roading?  

People seem pretty convinced either way.

We've been talking about the road for decades – longer even than Nick Smith has been the local MP.  Today there's congestion problems at all ends of the roads in and out of our regions towns.  

What exactly does the Southern Link, link to?  As with Auckland, Nelson's port remains in a geographically challenging position for city growth.

Yet any time central government say they are going to throw money at your region are you brave enough to turn it down?  

What if people who are wavering over voting for Nick Smith hold their nose and do it anyway and the National Party aren't re-elected?  

It's classic wedge politics expertly timed.  It is politics as performance art by an expert with 30 years experience.

The final word on another gripping week of campaign trail politics has to go to the spaghetti and pineapple pizza PM himself.  

In a tweet with corresponding picture sent at 7.35pm on Tuesday night:  "I'm a big fan of fruit cake but the slice I had at Abbeyfield retirement village in Nelson today was some of the best I've ever eaten!"

As far as bad political slogans go, it seems to sum us up nicely.

 - Stuff


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