You know John Key's feeling uncomfortable when there's that audible suck of breath through his teeth or when his laugh is over exaggerated. This, in psychological terms, is known as the "hidden intentional" - where a person shows the opposite behaviour to how they actually feel.

Key was probably exhibiting both symptoms when he spoke to the Dipton drawler Bill English after his pre-Budget speech last week.

English had just told us that tax cuts are off the table this year and unlikely to be back on it next year either as the Government prioritises paying back the debt it's racked up since coming to office. English said when the elusive surpluses are sustainable, in other words when they're assured, then they'll turn their attention to giving us back some of our hard-earned dosh.

However it now seems he's had a conversion on his way to the boss' office on the Beehive's ninth floor.


Rob Muldoon used to say, "Put some money in their hip pocket and they'll put the right vote into the ballot box." And it would seem nothing's changed because tax cuts are very much back on the agenda now, with Key talking about a three billion buck sweetener next year - which is, of course, election time.

Key says it's likely to be done in one of two ways: a Budget announcement about this time next year or campaigning for the fourth term dangling the tax cut carrot. Either way the cuts won't take place until April 2018 at the earliest, by which time the election will be done and dusted.

Labour of course is condemning the possible cuts as reckless and irresponsible, accusing Key of plucking a figure out of thin air at a time when people are living in cars and garages. But in the next breath they want a higher living wage which would push earners into a higher tax bracket.

READ MORE: John Key hints he'll fight election on $3 billion package tax cuts

Even National's closest ally, Act's David Seymour, sees the folly in that, even if he does argue from a different perspective. Seymour reckons earners have already lost more than two billion dollars by being bumped into a higher tax bracket since the last round of tax reforms.

He's in effect saying by cutting taxes the Beehive's simply giving back what they've already taken by stealth. Seymour says they should move the tax brackets in line with inflation, which given the current inflation rate, they'd virtually stay where they are.

So the pork barrel looks set to be rolled out, which at least gives Labour enough time to come up with its own hip-pocket policy.

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