Paul Holmes on New Zealand
Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: Election means a grey Budget, not a black one

Expect something austere but not offensive or Nordmeyer stupid Maggie Barry is a shoo-in to win North Shore. Photo / Dean Purcell
Expect something austere but not offensive or Nordmeyer stupid Maggie Barry is a shoo-in to win North Shore. Photo / Dean Purcell

I have to confess something no current affairs man should ever admit to. I can recall no Budget more boring to anticipate than that coming next week.

I also accept that I am less likely to be hit by what's been touted as being in the Budget than many other people. And don't get me wrong - I'll be an enthusiastic Budget anticipator on Q+A tomorrow morning and if you haven't read this, you won't notice a thing.

But there is an overwhelming inevitability about this year's Budget. It's like Waiting for Godot. Nothing is going to happen. There is an inevitability and a certainty to its nothingness. No offence to the minister, but what can he do? We're broke. The deficit is frightening. I suppose that makes things a bit exciting.

It'll be austere but not offensive or Arnold Nordmeyer stupid. Yet the Government has a fair amount of political capital to spend, meaning even though an election is just over six months away, they can take some risks.

But the Budget won't be entirely black. There's an election to win.

And in fact they're capital rich, the Government. You have to feel for Labour and Phil Goff. Anyone who's been there will tell you how miserable it is to be in opposition against a popular Government, trying to come up with stuff which connects with people and turns people against their rulers.

Nothing Labour does seems to wound or to stick. Take that callow youth no one's ever seen before who got up in the House and made some smear about the Bob McMillan BMW donation to the National Party just days after the Government placed its order for the new BMWs. That could seem suspicious and inappropriate but if you've been round Auckland for a long time you know that Bob is generous if there's a cause he wants to help.

I think the donation was innocent enough. It was too stupid to be dodgy, if you know what I mean.

And of course, instead of attention being on the Labour leader lately, it's been trying to wag dogs, Don Brash and Hone Harawira. As my friend, political scientist Jon Johansson says, he can't wait for that first poll to see what kind of a bump Brash has given Act, being that things could still be all on in November.

I still don't think people know how clever Key has been. I don't know if it was a deliberate strategy right from the start because I've never talked to him about it. He made the National Party likeable again. I think that one day we'll see that is what these three years have been about. It is no accident that John Key says Keith Holyoake is the Prime Minister he's most admired.

There is a story he's telling at the moment. Renee Wright told it to me in the makeup room at TVNZ. Rene had been to the opening of a new Ronald MacDonald House in Auckland. John Key was there. He spoke about taking Prince William to the paediatric ward at Wellington Hospital earlier this year.

They came into the ward together and were met by a young Down syndrome boy of 10 or 11, name of Ollie. Ollie asked John Key, "Are you a policeman?" Key replied, "No, I'm the Prime Minister."

"I don't really care about Prime Ministers," said the lad. The boy then clocked Prince William.

"Is he a policeman?"

"No," said the Prime Minister in triumph, "this is a real live prince."

The boy replied, "I was hoping for a policeman."

"Well," said the Prime Minister helpfully, "There are two policemen behind us."

Young Ollie's face lit up and it was photos all round with the boy and the two protection officers behind him.

I feel terrible stealing the Prime Minister's material but it's a slow week.

And Maggie Barry won selection this week for the ultra-safe National seat of North Shore. A 14,000 majority. Unless Maggie dons fatigues and fires an AK47 down Hurstmere Rd she's a shoo-in. I've known her for a long time. She's been a broadcaster of consummate professionalism for many years. She is smooth as silk, and I don't mean that disrespectfully.

She has a good, wry sense of humour, an Irish joy at the foibles of people and she likes a good gossip. The people she counts as friends have been friends for a very long time.

She is entrepreneurial, sunny and go-getting. She set out to get a selection and eventually she got there, one of the best available.

I once offended Maggie badly by criticising her garden. I was appalled she had plants with variegated leaves. We can be a bit precious, we gardeners. And it's not the kind of thing that will damage her on the North Shore.

- NZ Herald

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