English - policy not personality
exceptions became. If anything, as the political centre shifted slightly leftwards, the Key government tended to follow it.
Again, it was Key’s personal popularity that enabled National to claim this new territory.
During election year 2017, Bill English and his team are likely to be pulled leftwards again by the Auckland housing crisis, and by the related need to invest further in social housing.
There will be pressure to boost health funding which has been in decline since 2010. Further spending on charter schools would however seem daft, given that the operational grants to state schools are still on starvation rations.
Historically, tax cuts are the centre-right’s favourite form of election handout.
However, the recent earthquake costs will limit the
During election year, English and his team are likely to be pulled leftwards.
scope for major income tax reductions. Even so, the benign economic outlook gives English plenty of options.
Job creation is accelerating, wages are (belatedly) rising, and unemployment is low. Next year’s election is being tipped to come early, soon after the May Budget, in order to give the English administration its own mandate.
Crucially, Treasury is predicting budget surpluses to reach $8.5 billion by June 2021, which will fuel the political demand for spending on social needs.
In sum, English and his Finance Minister Steven Joyce will find themselves in much the same situation Michael Cullen faced in 2008, during his final hurrah as Finance Minister. Meaning: it is relatively easy for a government to look responsibly frugal.
It is much harder to look as though it is spending wisely.