National is trying to eliminate some differences with Labour so it can better compete. It is also trying to sharpen some differences with Labour so it can better compete.
Divergence, it seems, is the better part of valour.
Nowhere is divergence more evident than in National’s muddle over Maori. Jenny Shipley, political child of placid mid-century provincialism, intoned slogans to her party’s conference on Saturday of the sort likely to whip white unease into a froth of ethnic resentment. Bill English, not long out of short pants when the Treaty of Waitangi renaissance began and seeking centrist reconciliation, says National must have Maori support to win long term and is heading out to marae and Maori “nation-building” hui.