Mike Moore: Talking good manners, civility and respect for the law

Can John Key make it? I hope he's never double-parked, or touched himself in the shower. The blowtorch will go on him.

His is an interesting narrative, a state-house boy from my old electorate who's made a few million dollars.

He needs to broaden himself and reach out to middle New Zealand. I understand he has studied the strategies of David Cameron, the new Conservative leader in Britain, who has the media and the Conservative Party in raptures when he exclaims, "I quite like trees."

Cameron has even praised public servants and public health. UK Conservatives have set up policy commissions on all sorts of subjects and invited opponents, like Bob Geldof, to join. Hell, they even invited me to be a member.

This has given them space and a process to convince the centre they are born again and reflect the modern world. Labour was successful when we became business-friendly and convinced the centre we could be trusted with their money.

National has to convince the people they can be trusted with our social assets, the environment, education, public health, and our generous social safety net.

There are good reasons why Labour should be returned, it's been financially prudent except when behind in the polls, but they are risk and reform averse, probably the most conservative government since the long-term Holyoake Government.

They are capable of savage reversal depending on the political wind. Look at how the carbon tax was dropped like a hot brick.

Remember how students had their interest payments abolished, a promise to end Treaty claims within a set period, and to stop programmes that were race-based. All this printed on a plastic pledge card, all of this in contradiction of earlier promises, done within six weeks of an election.

What would be good for New Zealand and good politics is if they promised to individualise the Cullen fund for retirement, topped up each account with a portion of the surplus, then abolished many of the Family Support schemes where the bureaucratic costs are so high, and offered major tax cuts for each child regardless of race or income.

This would put a right hook under John Key's vulnerable chin and leave him gasping, as he will be painted as a proponent of tax cuts for the rich, not children. By the way, this policy also makes economic and social sense, which I hope still matters.

This Government is getting a reputation for arrogance and bad manners.

The graceless comments by its leader when Don Brash announced his retirement, were only matched by the refusal to congratulate Jenny Shipley, who became the first woman Prime Minister. Civility and grace were once respected attributes of leadership; they reflected the natural humility, honour and humour of New Zealanders.

Now we have a Prime Minister who rings local body politicians to get the numbers for their stadium vision in Auckland. To sit idle for a couple of years, and then to give Auckland two weeks to agree, is a scandal in itself.

* Mike Moore is a former Labour Prime Minister.

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