Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Bill English's offer of offal tomorrow for pudding today plan

Prime Minister Bill English contemplates the nutritional value of his election year diet. Photo / Dean Purcell
Prime Minister Bill English contemplates the nutritional value of his election year diet. Photo / Dean Purcell

It was, to paraphrase Pink Floyd, the week Prime Minister Bill English told voters not to expect any pudding if they did not eat their meat.

There it was, a great fat plate of steaming offal to digest in the form of English's plan to increase the age of super to 67 for those aged 45 or younger.

At first blush the super policy seemed like a kamikaze dive by a repressed former Finance Minister forced for years to look at that big ballooning forecast cost of super and do nothing about it.

But some precise mathematics had been applied.

First, it would only affect those aged under 45. That is a leaner and less influential body of voters than the Baby Boomers and few of them have even registered that old age is something that will happen to them.

Almost 60 per cent of enrolled voters are over 45.

Secondly, nothing will actually happen for 20 years.

Former Prime Minister John Key's golden rule was not to take money away from people who were already getting it.

In 2008, Key agreed to keep Working for Families and interest-free student loans for that reason.

People were getting those tax credits and interest write offs. Demolishing the schemes would have seen people lose money.

That would also have seen National lose votes.

English's super policy meets those rules, but he is relying on voters agreeing that raising the age of super is for the good of New Zealand and that he will get points for being very responsible indeed.

English seems to forget that when people are asked about such things they say what they think they should - not what they actually think.

It is the same when you ask what issues are important in an election year.

People say 'health' and 'education' when they mean 'more money for me.'

When it comes to the privacy of the ballot box people are a lot less altruistic.

Enter the pudding.

When Finance Minister Steven Joyce was asked if he had come up with a slogan for the super policy, he replied: "not today."

National may as well apply the Not Today slogan to their entire campaign.

Utopia awaits in 2040 - when we will be be working longer, but free of weeds, stoats and possums and Aucklanders buying houses cheap as chips, and children frolicking in clean rivers.

Long-term vision is what English likes to call it, though others might call it passing the buck.

But it pays to leave voters with a sweet and immediate taste fresh in their mouths as they head to the booths.

So the tax cuts will be the exception to the Not Today philosophy.

Yes - the same taxes that could have been put aside to pay for Gen X to have jam tomorrow will instead be used to provide jam today.

The tax cuts will be National's self-saucing pudding and they will be hoping voters have forgotten all about the plate of offal by the election day.

Some of that pudding may come in the Budget. National has hinted at 'family packages' aimed at lower and middle income familes.

We may see further changes to Working for Families and benefits targeting struggling families - changes that will also effectively bind Labour because it could hardly unravel them having declared poverty and struggling Auckland families as its own priority.

But Middle New Zealand may not be sated until a bit later if National opts to hold its main tax cuts programme over for the election campaign.

English was not the only one seemingly competing for the Most Unpopular Politician Award this week.

There was also Labour's new deputy Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern was chosen as deputy because she is considered popular. But that way also lies dragons.

Through no ambition of her own, Ardern has found herself being dragged against her will up the charts as preferred Prime Minister.

Admittedly she is still at the bottom of the ladder on four per cent.

The problem is that so is the man she daren't overtake, leader Andrew Little.

Little was on seven per cent in the latest Colmar Brunton poll.

Faced with questions about the possibility of overtaking Little, Ardern simply insisted it would not happen.

It will not happen, she said time and time again. I will not be popular.

King Canute would be proud.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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