If I was a greedy, grasping, socialist, I would be totally underwhelmed by Labour leader Andrew Little promising free "post-school" education.

When I give my vote, I want my money. Immediately. I don't want it on promise.

That's why Little has left me so underwhelmed. My vote for him is just a down payment. He wants it again and again before I get my money.

The policy-on-promise wasn't in his speech. You have to go to the policy detail for that.


It shows Little's policy not fully kicking in until 2025 - three elections away.

I vote for Little in 2017, I get a year free post-school education. I vote for him again in 2020, I get another year. I vote for him a third time in 2023 and I get my third year. That's a lot of voting for not much, a long way off.

Little takes seven Budgets to deliver his promise.

That's not how Helen Clark did it. When students (and their parents) voted for free student loans, she gave it to them. In her next Budget. She didn't deliver on her promise in dribs and drabs.

But that's what Little is doing.

The difference is easy to see.

Little is too squeamish. Clark wasn't.

Little won't tax the rich. Clark did. She increased tax on top earners to pay for her promise to students.


Little is relying on economic growth to bolster Government coffers. That means he must spread his spending increase over 10 years.

In making his case, Little undermines his own slow roll out. "There is a tsunami of change headed our way" and "there is no better investment than our people and their futures".

If that's true, he should do it. First Budget. He is instead giving John Key's spending decisions priority over his own policy, including leaving the well-heeled with National's tax cuts.

It shouldn't have taken Labour two years and a panel of experts to produce such policy. Laila Harre and Hone Harawira and internet Mana promised "free tertiary education" at the last election.

They didn't need Labour's "Future of Work Commission" with its "sleeves rolled up" to get to it. They just promised it. And it was for immediate implementation. They believed in their policy.

Jim Anderton's old Alliance party also promised free tertiary education. And the Greens still do to this day.

I suspect Labour's promise of free "post-school" education will have worn a little thin by next year's election. And even thinner by election 2023.

I miss Clark. She knew how to bribe voters.

Each election was a fresh and exciting promise with other people's money. You did your voting, and you got your money. It seemed somehow more honest.