Bill English seems supremely confident he has not inflicted an electoral wound on his party by grasping the nettle on superannuation.

That may be not just because he has not grasped it very hard. Not only has he suggested lifting the age of entitlement by only two years and not starting until 20 years hence, but he has already conceded the policy on post-election negotiations with Winston Peters, if he needs him.

That could be the smartest move of all. Peters has already responded exactly as National knew he would, making the status quo another "bottom line" condition of his support for any party that wants to form a government.

Labour's leader, meanwhile, has vowed to make no change to the age if he is in power. So the voters are left with little option if they want to address the age of entitlement. National is the only party doing so, unless you count Act, which wants to raise the age sooner.

Advertisement

Increasing life expectancy and the fiscal cost of the demographic reaching retirement age is causing other countries to raise the age but it is possible New Zealand voters will not be convinced.

In that event Peters will do well enough to figure in the next government and the negotiation, with National at least, could be straightforward. He will get his way on super, the subject that has sustained his career.

Peters does not like to be this predictable. He will look for other ways to keep his intentions mysterious. But he is boxed in. No wonder English is smiling.