Finally National has unveiled the details of its $14.6 billion recipe to woo the so-called “squeezed middle”, the silver bullet that it hopes - and clearly expects - will win it the election.
That came in the form of tax cuts and a wee boost to Working for Families, which would be paid for by a combo of cuts and new tax measures, including a tax on some foreign buyers, cuts in the public service (but not the key front-line departments), cuts to contractors and consultants, and using Emissions Trading Scheme dividends.
On top of that, National would scrap a range of Labour’s taxes - cutting off a further $6b of revenue for itself.
National’s Nicola Willis tried to pre-empt some of the questions that would arise, claiming it would not be inflationary because it was fully funded: in short, the Government will spend less so you can spend more.
Labour’s other argument has been that National would have to cut into crucial public services such as health and education to pay for its tax cuts. Willis tried to pre-empt that too, by saying health and education - and a range of others, from police to Kāinga Ora - would be exempt from the razor gangs.
The two parties will now happily bicker for weeks about whether the tax cuts are affordable, whether they are warranted, whether they will be inflationary and what will have to be forsaken to pay for them.
Labour will do everything in its power to try to discredit it, to paint National as irresponsible and persuade people that it is doing enough on the hip-pocket front through its various measures.
That could be difficult.
Tax cuts have always been a very effective political ploy. The benefit of them as an election promise is that they are simple and easy to understand.
National knows that, which is why its policy was called the “Back Pocket Boost”.
It leaves money in people’s back pockets to spend or save as they wish.
No need to apply or find out whether you’re eligible or prove your age or use a card to get something cheaper. Everybody wins, or at least workers.
People can see at a glance what they will have. Put your salary into the tax calculator and lo! Money in the bank. Everybody gets something, or at least everybody who gets a salary.
By comparison, Labour’s offerings on the hip pocket front are a knot of targeted promises, which people may or may not qualify for, and a fair few do not qualify for anything. It is difficult to see at a glance what you may or may not get.
National’s approach lets people decide what they want to spend their money on. Labour picks things that it thinks people should or will be spending money on and makes them cheaper: from prescriptions to public transport, Working for Families changes to parental leave.
It highlights the ideological differences between the two parties. You can take the money (National’s tax cuts) or the bag (Labour’s more convoluted approach of subsidies and targeting).
They are playing to different audiences. Labour has been playing to the lower- to middle-income households - especially those with families.
National’s “squeezed middle” plays to an audience who feel they have missed out so far in the targeted cost-of-living incentives put up by Labour - including recent increases to benefits, super and Working for Families - and that they are paying more than their fair share.
In the presentation, National’s leader Christopher Luxon blatantly pitched at blue-collar and middle-income earners, speaking of those who had to do more than one job or take on extra shifts to make ends meet.
He has been using his public meeting encounters to collect anecdotes and the one he rolled out to highlight the plight of the squeezed middle was a young boy whose parents could not afford to get him braces because they had had to refix their mortgage from a 2.7 per cent interest rate to 6 per cent.
National is betting that when voters get to the quiet of the ballot box, they will not be shedding tears for the public servants, the contractors and consultants and the foreign buyers.
It is betting that the arguments about whether or not it is affordable will be white noise and those voters will take the money instead of the bag.