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.

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