• Stick to Our Guns

    As we begin to emerge out of lockdown, we can reflect that the coronavirus pandemic has been a once-in-a-generation crisis on a global scale – and, for New Zealand as well, it has meant a crisis of almost unparalleled proportions.

    To grapple with such a crisis, we have needed a government that is up to the task – and that has meant a government that has been willing to listen to advice, but has also been clear-headed and strong-willed enough to take its own counsel and do what it thinks is necessary.

    We have been fortunate that our government has stuck to its guns; but, just as victory over the virus is in sight, there has been a chorus of voices, prematurely urging that we should not have waited until we could be confident that a return to level one is safe, that we should have been ready to risk all that we have achieved.  The government has been told, as though there is a short-cut to protecting the economy without first defeating the virus, that we should prioritise the economy’s interests before we bother to put the virus to bed, once and for all.

    The reasons for this, and the motivations of those urging a relaxation of our efforts, are in most cases painfully clear.  In one case, it is the need felt by a new leader of the Opposition to overcome a shaky start and to make the claim that only he has the interests of small businesses at heart and that the decision go to level one was the result of his urging.

    In another case, it is the imperative felt by another party leader, as an election approaches, to differentiate himself and his party from his senior coalition partner, and to boost his poll ratings.  It is disappointing, in both of these cases, that the national interest has been subordinated to those of political parties.  

    And then there are the commentators, particularly those of notoriously clear political allegiance, who think that they owe it to their own views and prejudices to chip away at the government wherever possible.  What is surprisingly common to all of these dissident voices, both politicians and commentators alike, is their inability to grasp that the cause they have chosen to champion, the protection of the economy from the effects of the pandemic, is best – indeed, only – served by the strategy we have successfully followed so far.

    It is clearly too much for some of these lame brains to understand that, if we had relaxed before we could be confident that the virus was under control, the risk we would have taken would not have been just to lives, but to jobs, businesses and output as well.

    The emergence of just one further case, unconnected to any other case, would have been enough to put us back into lockdown, would have sacrificed all the gains we have made so far and would accordingly have done further untold damage to the economy.  The simple truth is what it has always been – there is not a choice to be made between combatting the health effects of the virus and limiting its impact on the economy. 

    The only way we can limit the economic damage is by ensuring that the virus is stopped in its tracks.  Any advice to the effect that we should jeopardise that objective is a snare and a delusion, and can lead only to further economic harm.

    We are lucky that we have had a government that is strong enough to resist such blandishments and has been able to recognise the political posturing and jockeying for position for what it is.  

    Politicians often get a bad report, and sometimes they deserve it.  But when we are lucky enough to discover that at least some of our politicians have had the strength of will and intellect to do what is needed, that is something to be celebrated.  Not everyone is so lucky.  

    Bryan Gould

    10 June 2020