The Soap Box: National gasping for air

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Friday, 15 December 2017, 5:35a.m.
Bill English had little to say on Labour's half yearly fiscal update. (Photo / Getty)
Bill English had little to say on Labour's half yearly fiscal update. (Photo / Getty)

It's fair to say National was a bit like a fish just landed and gulping for air. No matter how vigorously it flapped its tail, the water got no closer, and the protest was finally lost.

The worst the former Finance Minister, and more recently party leader Bill English could say about the Government's opening of the books, taking into account Labour's big ticket policies, was that they inherited a healthy economy.

The dead cat left on the election table by the man standing alongside him Steven Joyce, in the form of that $11.7 billion hole in Labour's sums, has finally been forgotten even if the stench does remain. The worst they could say about that was that things are going to be tight.

And it seems they're no longer interested in talking to their former advisors from Treasury, whose officials were left for 45 minutes waiting outside their office corridor. They were there to talk to them about the books, to do the courtesy of briefing them. The officials finally gave up, with a Beehive jester assuming the Nats were probably having a Christmas lunch.

In fact, the only one dining out on National's discomfort was the man who Joyce said is the economy's biggest fiscal risk, Grant Robertson, who of course is now in the position where he'd love to be.

Bill English struggled to take the gloss off the economy, simply observing the Government's got no excuse for not maintaining its strength but saying its approach to sharing the benefits of it was pretty messy.

Yeah, but National was itself finally converted on the road to the ballot box this year by also offering a families package which they're now accusing Labour of stealing. The Labour plan, also announced before the election, will see 384,000 families with kids better off by an average of $75 a week while National's Budget offer in May was lifting the income of 365,000 families by $39 a week.

So it all comes down to whether the smoko room or the boardroom carries more influence.

And while they're bickering over the figures, and who's prepared to be more generous, perhaps the impotent National opposition should reflect on an observation once made by Helen Clark when she declared she was a victim of her own success.

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