Nail-biting days ahead as new govt is formed
National’s Bill English and Steven Joyce’s misleading attack on Labour worked.
I reckon that late last night, at the National Party party, a tiny moment may have passed between Bill English and Steven Joyce, unnoticed by anyone else.
A single thought in a wordless glance: ‘‘It worked.’’
A couple of weeks ago it all looked pretty grim for them. But then, campaign manager Joyce spotted a chink in Labour’s brand-new armour, inserted the tip of his dagger and made a wee space for doubt. Aka, the nowinfamous $11.7 billion ‘‘fiscal hole’’.
Not a single economist agreed there was such a hole. Joyce couldn’t name one. Bill English couldn’t name one. Things might be ‘‘tight’’ in subsequent years, was as far as any would go.
But it was the only useful flow National had struck thus far, so they rode it to the end. In the void created by Ardern’s ‘‘wait and see’’ approach to tax, it gave National fodder for a misleading attack ad – ‘‘Labour will raise income tax!’’ and a line that English could keep seeding and reseeding.
It must have been hard for Bill, a good man no doubt but moreover a good Catholic man, to keep massaging the truth in that final leader’s debate on the telly.
Under the unrelenting studio lights he rejected the eighth commandment, (which forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others), and insisted the fiscal hole was real, and Labour would raise taxes.
A deal with devil might have seemed a better option than disappointing Steven Joyce, whose glowering presence, just off camera, you could almost feel through the telly.
But enough of looking back! National has first dibs on another three years, so it’s time to think about how I’ll spend that tax cut. It’s about $20 a week. I don’t need it, but others do.
There are lots of options. KidsCan could spend it on food for hungry children – despite expanding the number of schools it helps, the waiting list continues to grow.
I could give it to Lifeline, a crucial suicide prevention service whose Government funding was cancelled in 2016.
That $20 a week will do nothing to build more affordable houses, make tertiary education more affordable, force landlords to make their rentals warm and dry so that children don’t develop asthma or worse, fix the ridiculous farce that our hospital waiting lists have become.
We will have a steady-as-shegoes government; one which has the fiscal chops to keep on keeping on in much the way it has for the past decade. English’s admission that poverty has been allowed to run while National built up the surplus will be particularly difficult to swallow for those who are struggling even though they have jobs.
National may well take victory as a mandate to continue on as per. That would not be okay. After all the promises made by English in the past few weeks, those surpluses, finally, had better be spent where it counts. He will have to prove that 50,000 kids will be magically pulled out of poverty next April 1 (a bit more cash does not mean a dry house, better health care or more nutritious food). He will have to show determined progress towards doing the same for 100,000 kids.
He will have to do better than the anaemic total of 7000 houses built in Auckland in the past 12 months, when twice that amount is needed (a ‘‘huge and deeply troubling performance failure’’ according to one housing strategist).
But before any of that is even possible, a government must be stitched together, which means a few days (weeks?) of nail-biting to come.
For those who’re finding today difficult, Lifeline has released some tips. Our political beliefs affect us deeply, it says, and feeling pain and disappointment when your party loses is normal and valid.
Allow yourself your feelings, and understand that what you fear most from an incoming government won’t happen immediately, so don’t waste too much energy grieving for things that haven’t happened – yet.
A government must be stitched together, which means a few days (weeks?) of nailbiting to come.
Paerata School students are staying warm and dry thanks to KidsCan.