I think I was the first one to publish a column pointing out that the only thing that could damage Jacinda was a perceived incompetence from public servants accidentally letting the plague back in.
The emotional connection voters feel in this election created by a unique universal experience is a double edged sword. If people feel their sacrifice is respected they are politically grateful, if they feel their sacrifice is squandered, they turn in fury.
We’ve seen that fury after National withheld public safety information to score political points in Parliament last week.
This current fiasco won’t damage Labour chances at the election for a number of reasons:
- It hasn’t led to any community spread (at this stage).
- This was a loophole issue as the system moved from different levels, it wasn’t a systemic issue.
- Tens of thousands have been successfully processed, this is still a huge success.
- This is all happening in the shadow of a mountain of American dead.
That shadow of American dead is very forgiving.
Jacinda bringing the military in immediately doubled the numbers of staff to work the quarantine zones so it brings another level of protection.
However, if the incompetence goes beyond this and we actually see community spread, that is a situation that will erode Labour.
If we want to really blame anyone for these failures we need to look beyond Jacinda, Bloomfield and even the MoH – we need to look at us.
We’ve electorally championed this neoliberal state with agencies barely staffed to do anything more than meagre managership of community contracts to fulfil state obligations.
The 35 year neoliberal experiment has ploughed straight into the iceberg of a pandemic and its foundations have been revealed to be cracked to the core.
We didn’t have enough actual hands to all go on deck when an emergency struck.
Our free market response to everything has meant we have no capacity.
Based on 2017 figures, we have 295 800 State Sector employees, maybe that number needs to be 400 000?
Maybe in a job market that is collapsing and with the need for more state sector jobs, we should be talking about a vast ratcheting up of the State sector with their living wages and real worker rights.
But we aren’t hearing that debate, we aren’t hearing anything along the lines of, ‘we need a significant increase in public servants’. So entrenched is the neoliberal virus that when a real sickness strikes us, we are still too intellectually feverish to see the cause of our malaise.
Jacinda is working with the mess of a public service she inherited, if she doesn’t make fundamental change to it in her second term, she will be doomed, but damning her for its failures today is dishonest.
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