If Labour had announced a policy to hand out free money to house buyers, it would be accused of being fiscally stupid and economically ignorant. They would have been accused of throwing around money we don't have.
Handing out money without increasing the supply of housing will simply put up prices even more. The economics of National's plan don't stack up.
In Auckland an average working family can't afford to buy the average house. National is coming face to face with the reality of its own philosophy. It operates the economy for absent landlords, not for working people or families. Its belief in the market has collided with market failure.
We are seeing the beginning of the end of the affair with John Key. Chucking around a couple of hundred million dollars over five years won't make Auckland housing more affordable, but it will make him look even more like just another politician.
Writer Maya Angelou wrote that you don't remember what someone said or even what they did, but you do remember how they made you feel. As never before, John Key is making us feel he can't be trusted.
He can't be trusted to run the economy.
He can't be trusted to tell the truth about how the SIS was used, three years ago, to attack Phil Goff.
He can't be trusted to be the nice guy, when his office was giving preferential treatment to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater to smear National's rivals.
Mr Key's flimsy defence is that things done by his office were not known to him. But his defence is also that things told to his office were told to him. His office is him when it suits and not him when it doesn't suit.
Then, just as his trustworthiness evaporates, the Government comes up with a housing policy built on far-fetched economics and cheap cynicism.
Trust and credibility have been Mr Key's advantages until now but they are suddenly slipping away.
People will base their opinions on what they feel, no matter what the facts are.
Rusted-on National supporters will continue to see the Dirty Politics book as a left-wing conspiracy. But even if the details of Beehive blogger conspiracies are murky to many, the rising feeling that they're not playing straight could be the start of death by a thousand scratches.
Josie Pagani is a centre-left political commentator and former Labour Party candidate.
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