• We Have Failed the Government

    We must now accept that our national response to the Delta variant has not been as successful as our initial effort last year when the coronavirus first made an appearance. This, we can assume, is partly because the Delta variant is a more formidable opponent but also partly because our “team of five million” has fractured and has failed to work together.

    That split has been brought about by the emergence of an unofficial body of dissenters who have refused to work with the rest of us and have, in many cases, tried to undermine the efforts we are making to beat the virus. Those dissenters are partly made up of dedicated political opponents of the government, who would resist and oppose any initiative of the government – on the virus or anything else – simply because it comes from the government; their goal is to prevent Jacinda Ardern from winning a further term – for them, to defeat the virus is to concede the next election.

    But this group of party political opponents has been supplemented by a hitherto unrecognised and subterranean body of far-right, “libertarian” activists who oppose anything that comes from government (of whatever colour or persuasion) and whose antipathy towards authority or experts or science leads them into the ranks of “cranks” on issues like vaccination and lockdowns and conspiracy theories more generally. These innocents have then been exploited by those with other agendas of their own.

    And, supporting these two sometimes disparate groups, has been NZME and the Herald. Their position has at times been somewhat ambivalent; they have been active supporters of vaccination, but have on other issues maintained their traditional stance of offering their column inches to any critic of the government.

    So, we have had constant sniping in the pages of the Herald from such as Mike Hosking and Barry Soper (and their spouses), and from in-house contributors like Fran O’Sullvan and former right-wing politicians like Richard Prebble and Steven Joyce. As a result, the Herald has at times been caught in a kind of no-man’s-land – supporting vaccination but doing what it can to undermine a government that is pinning its hopes on vaccination as the centre-piece of its own strategy to beat the pandemic.

    A couple of conclusions might be drawn from this sad picture. It is not the government that has, as Judith Collins proclaims, divided us into two classes – the dissenters and anti-vaxxers have done that all by themselves. And, it is not the government that has failed us; we have failed the government. The team spirit that worked for us last year has failed us this year.

    Bryan Gould
    27 October 2021

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