Memo to Prime Minister Bill English: when your campaign platform is one of certainty and stability, it doesn't pay to torpedo it by hurling in a great dollop on uncertainty.

English will be now be starting to realise just why former Prime Minister John Key made such a black and white promise on the retirement age: to resign if he changed it.

After saying he was not bound by the same promise, English said on the Nation on Saturday he was looking at a "reset" of superannuation policy.

His mistake was in stopping there and leaving it hanging rather than explaining what he meant.


The ''reset'' comment was antagonised by a cryptic tweet from English's account, later deleted.

English has denied any knowledge of that, citing problems transferring to a new phone and lack of access to his own Twitter account.

The tweet stated National was "committed to making the right decisions to make sure New Zealand's prosperity is sustainable for the long-term."

It included a photo of English with a quote: "We're not here to shy away from the hard issues."

Cue a morning in which English tried to shy from the hard issues on his regular media slots.

He was asked about superannuation policy on Newstalk ZB, on RNZ, on Newshub, and One News.

All he would clarify was that he would not change the level of entitlement: the payments seniors have in their hands.

Everything else earned the stock reply of "you'll have to wait and see".


It was the line he had used year after year about the Budget as Finance Minister.

On Mike Hoskings Breakfast, English was asked why he'd raised the issue of a ''reset'' at all if he was only going to leave it hanging.

English insisted superannuation was "affordable" on its current settings, simultaneously arguing that the longer-term arguments for change were well known.

He said one of the reasons it was affordable was because many seniors were working past 65 years of age and that helped them pay for their own Super by contributing to the economy and taxes.

By now English, too, was surely coming to understand one of the longer-term arguments about Super is that tinkering with it can result in a shorter term in power.​

Retirement policy is one of the most vulnerable to uncertainty, thanks partly to vigorous, vigilant seniors' lobby groups.

Key made his promise not to touch superannuation for one reason: to win an election.

The only politically survivable way to make changes to retirement policy is with bipartisan consensus or in the first term of a popular government. National had six years to do that when it was part of Labour policy for the past two elections.

National has only itself to blame for missing that boat and now Labour leader Andrew Little realised what Key had realised all those years ago: You don't get into Government by promising to change the retirement age.

Give NZ First Winston Peters an inch and he takes a mile. So straight after English mentioned the "reset" a suspicious rumbling sound emanated from the direction of NZ First leader Winston Peters.

It was the howl of glee as Peters realised what English had given him.

Even in the past when National was firmly ruling out any changes to super, Peters was insisting to public meetings far and wide that a sinister plot was afoot.

This time he had actual evidence.

That uncertainty will now inevitably be answered sooner rather than later, English himself appeared to have realised what an own goal he'd created, saying on ZB and Breakfast that all questions would be answered shortly: ''Because we don't want people to be uncertain."

It seems at least Key managed to get through on English's new phone.