When one points out to would-be National voters all the dead rats John Key is making them swallow, they suck it up, wipe off their chin, and talk with glazed-over enthusiasm about the new age that Flip Flop Boy is going to usher in once the present dishonest corrupt government is replaced with another one of different hue, but similar policy outlook.
The dead rats are worth it, say the strategists. If we don't frighten the horses, then we'll come stampeding home come November. The dead rats are worth it, agree the poll respondents -- just as long as the dishonest corrupt government is our dishonest corrupt government.
As a strategy it's barmy, and just crying out to be sucker punched.
You see, it's not just the dead rats of the past that you and John Boy are going to swallow -- and here I'm talking to those of you dopey enough to swallow this 'appeasement as election strategy' strategy -- you need to think about all the dead rats to come.
Yes, you've sucked up all the dead rats served up so far when you thought you had to, and you've even swallowed on occasions. You've said to yourself, "I can accept this," while holding your nose and swallowing ... but smart Labour Labour strategists will already be drawing up lists to try and see if you'll also swallow this, once John Boy plants his 'me too' kiss upon it.
If you were a smart Labour strategist (and in this context 'smart' only means 'smarter than Murray McCully, so we're not talking rocket scientists here), you wouldn't be complaining that Key's "innoculation" of National's "scarier" policy positions makes it hard to paint them in the privatising, Roundtable-hugging way you'd like to be able to, instead you'd be observing the me-tooing with glee, and looking for a chance to use it.
How? By making nanny state bigger one dead rat at a time.
The smart Labour strategist would already be drawing up a list of election bribes so rat-like in their cunning, so obviously socialist in their aim, that John Boy and his supporters will be left with splinters on both cheeks as they try to perch on both sides of an irreconcilable fence in response.
Labour can't lose here, if they do it right: if John Boy and the Flip Flop Team do keep signing up to the dead rats -- and the latest student election bribe may be just a trial balloon in this respect -- then the election agenda for the next three months and the policy agenda for the next three years will both be set by Labour strategists, with all the growth in nanny government that will ensue, and all the election bribes that implies -- and all the drop in support for the Flip Flop Boys that can be predicted as even the blindest blue-tinged supporter realises that the effect of his party's strategy is that his party's leaders are in reality batting for the other team.
Socialism to the left of me, socialism from the right -- how could a Laborite really lose?
The job of the smart Labour strategist will be to find that 'equilibrium' point at which the dead rats being swallowed by the Blue Team start to choke their blue-tinged support, and then just go a little bit more. 'More,' in this case, meaning more bribes, more nannying, more socialism.
The job of the smart National strategist -- if such a person actually exists in their 'zero from three' strategy team -- should be to realise this now, several weeks before the election, while there's still time to promote a vision in which National actually represents a significant policy alternative.
And the smart National voter? That's another oxymoron. If more bribes, more nannying and more socialism is what you want, then keep right on supporting the Blue Team's 'me too' strategy. As long as you do, they'll keep right on offering it, as indigestible as that will eventually prove to be.
UPDATE: Another dead rat has just washed up on the electoral beach: Liberty Scott reports "Labour has now pledged over $400 million of your taxes (not petrol tax but general tax) to pay for the frightfully expensive Transmission Gully motorway. This doesn't even cover half the cost."
And John Boy's response? "Me too."