Julie-Anne Genter's remark that the Green Party's wealth tax proposal is a "bottom line" landed like a thud this week.
Labour shut it down immediately, with revenue spokesperson Stuart Nash saying a wealth tax is "off the table". The Greens scrambled their own jets, sending co-leader James Shaw out to use any line of defence he could think of on the spot: it's been a long campaign, she was tired, she was pressed, the journalist got over-excited, the Greens don't do bottom lines.
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Shaw seemed to say yes to every media outlet asking him to comment. That isn't always the case with Shaw. He likes hiding sometimes. And what that might indicate is that the party understood the risk.
To put it in perspective, the risk is less of a live grenade, and more of a stone in the shoe. That shoe is on the foot of the voter. The stone might be little more than a niggle now, but there's always a risk it becomes a massive problem.
Shaw must've hated having to hose the story down. Yet again he's the Compromise Guy, bending and flexing Green Party principles for electoral gain. He did that with the Green School, breaching party policy so he could get an electoral win. That led to him being labelled too mainstream for the true believers in the party. Now he's out there again, sending the message that the Greens care about inequality, but not enough to actually make their solution to inequality - a wealth tax - a bottom line.
Labour party strategists must've said a few swear words as well. This isn't helpful to them either. It was helpful at the start, when the Greens first mooted the wealth tax. At that point, there was a good chance the Greens' fruity ideas would upset conservative/ centre voters so much they would strategically vote en masse for a Labour majority government to keep the Greens away.
But Genter might've upset that balance. She's introduced an element of distrust to tax this election.
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Was her comment a mistake? Or was it really a confession? Are the Greens being completely straight up with voters about what they're planning to demand post-election?
Bottom lines have the potential to change voter strategy. Because, even if Labour rules a wealth tax out right now, can you trust that will be the case after the election if they need the Greens to form government? Is it a risk worth taking, especially given Labour has demonstrated for three years that it is quite happy to do a u-turn and then blame coalition partners for forcing it?
This has the potential to get tricky for Labour if the polls start showing that they need the Greens post-election. And based on current polls, Labour's not far off that. They've fallen 5 per cent between Colmar Brunton polls, down to 48 per cent. At that polling, Labour only needs to drop a couple more points to introduce a Green coalition as a possibility. How does that change voter strategy?
National will, of course, be thrilled. Tax always has been the only policy they had that could change voters' minds this election. Nothing else will cut through the Covid fog. In fact, that fog is so thick, there's a chance that even tax might not. That's certainly how it was looking after National announced its tax cut policy last week. The announcement got attention, then faded, and didn't create a lift in the poll we saw this week. National still sat at 31 per cent.
But, as long we're talking about tax, National has a chance to drum that policy home. It can keep hammering that message and increase the chances that it lands favourably with voters.
They can thank Julie-Anne Genter for a massive helping hand this week.
• Heather du Plessis-Allan hosts Drive on Newstalk ZB, weekdays, 4pm-7pm