John Armstrong: Smart politics, but is it enough?

Not half a packet. Nearer to 40 packets a week, in fact, for someone earning $45,000.

Using the Winston Peters' chewing-gum measure of the generosity of a tax cut, National has given voters more than enough to chew on.

This was National's most crucial pitch of the campaign. It had to get it right. And it did.

The package satisfies the expectations National had raised, particularly for those in the $45,000 to $60,000 band who will get between $32 and $46 a week extra once the cuts are fully implemented - thus making a nonsense of Michael Cullen's predictions.

Will it swing the election National's way? Perhaps - had this election been just about tax cuts. But it isn't.

And there is still plenty of ammunition left for Labour in its warnings of consequent cuts to social services and hikes in mortgage interest rates.

Then there is Mr Peters. The man National needs to get on board before it can govern is saying his party has other priorities when it comes to cutting tax.

He is not ruling out personal tax cuts. But he also has a list of things he wants to spend money on first.

The risk for National is that voters will assume its package will be watered down during post-election haggling, thus colouring their attitude to it beforehand. But National cannot do much about that.

What was essential yesterday was that the policy have the "wow" factor. The cuts had to be substantial, especially for earners in the $45,000-plus category, where the competition for votes is most intense.

John Key, the architect of the package, has delivered cuts starting at $28 a week at that level, rising to $92 a week for those on $100,000.

Those sums are big enticements for single people and couples without children who miss out on Labour's "family tax relief".

They come at a price - a delay in cutting company tax. But the politics are smart.

While rewarding core supporters, for example, National avoids the charge it is lining the pockets of the well-off by limiting their tax cut to a maximum $92 a week.

Perhaps the smartest move is the tweaking of superannuation entitlements so that married couples will get an extra $6 a week a year earlier than they should have done.

But Labour has been lucky.

The windfall in extra tax revenue enabled last week's extension by Labour of income top-ups to more middle-income families, thereby making the choices far more complicated for them.

Some families would be better off under National's package next year, but worse off the following year.

That may be crucial. It is another reason National's package may not be the king-hit it hopes.

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