Are the cracks showing?

One of the best signs of a really good summer holiday is the inability to remember your password when it is time to switch the work computer back on.

That is the scenario we think may have been playing out in the Beehive and Bowen House over the past week or so. For it feels to many of us as if the Government has been on a very long vacation indeed.

Everyone of course is entitled to a holiday and some time to put the feet up and enjoy a spell of rest and relaxation.

Government ministers and officials who have been working hard on the Covid-19 response throughout last year are no less entitled to a decent break; in fact, most would not begrudge them a longer holiday than normal because of the constant pressures on them in the past nearly two years.

But there is somehow a sense that nobody has been at home behind those doors since before Christmas. Even though that is unlikely to be the case, the fact that perception exists is bad enough and should be concerning for the Government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, if they are still interested in what the public thinks.

It is hard to explain this invisibility when there will have been duty ministers appointed for the summer break. But other than Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins appearing out of the bushes for a brief appearance, the rest of Cabinet became an endangered species.

None of this would be of such importance if we were living in "normal" times. But in the middle of a pandemic, and especially as the Omicron wave is about to come crashing down on our shores, it would have been comforting for many to know someone was at home.

It does seem like the Government has been asleep at the wheel ahead of the arrival of the highly infectious variant and that its plan for dealing with Omicron is being made up as we go along.

It probably comes as little surprise then to find support for the Government has waned in recent weeks, although some descriptions calling it a slump are exaggerated. Nevertheless, in the 1News Kantar poll out this week — the successor of the Colmar Brunton poll — support for Labour has dropped one percentage point to 40% from the last poll in November, while National has risen four points to 32%. Support for the Act party is down three points to 11% while the Green Party’s popularity is unchanged at 9%.

When it comes to Ms Ardern’s personal popularity as preferred prime minister, that has slipped by four points to 35%, while National leader Christopher Luxon’s is up 13 points to 17%.

The poll of 1000 eligible voters took place by phone and online between January 22 and 26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Amidst the growing criticism of the Government’s handling of this phase of the pandemic, one voice has been more strident than others.

Act leader David Seymour has written a piece in the British Daily Mail – admittedly a jingoistic paper of the "THESE PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN YOUR STREET!" kind – lambasting" How lockdown-loving lefties have turned my glorious New Zealand into a hermit kingdom".

Mr Seymour makes some very good points about the Government’s approach to isolation and quarantine, and says it is "desperately sad to watch the confident, free society I have always loved give way to this closeted, insular one, bound by what feels like ever-more authoritarian measures with no end in sight".

While it is too soon to suggest, based on this poll, the Government’s or Ms Ardern’s days are numbered, these results will be encouraging for Mr Luxon and his party.

Perhaps Labour will read Mr Seymour’s piece, note the mood of the country and lift its game.

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