National Party Deputy Leader Bill English is suggesting, in a grovelling apology, that his “off the record” comments re selling Kiwibank and “sorting out” Working for Families have caused “confusion and concern”, and that the National Party will be true to its word to retain Working for Families and retain Kiwibank in public ownership.
John Key stood cheerfully grinning by English’s side, as his Deputy ate humble pie, despite English having seriously questioned Key’s (and Don Brash’s) grasp of the economy. Yes, it all looked like National Party Happy Families, with English acknowledging and apologising for “loose talk”.
I’m afraid that I have a far more sinister take on it. Nicky Hager revealed in The Hollow Men that the National Party was in 2005 still running a hidden agenda. Bill English’s revelations remind me of the darkest days of FPP, when both Labour and National implemented hidden agendas that were far from what they had campaigned on. Maybe he thinks that National’s polling in recent months around the 50% mark means they can get away with running hidden agendas even today. Well, that didn’t work for Labour in 2002 when they were polling similarly – as we roll on to election day and policies come under increased voter scrutiny, polling advantages of that magnitude rapidly erode. National will inevitably require the support of other Parties in Parliament after the election if it is to form a Government.
Whatever English thinks, his “foot in mouth” is cause for voters to have serious concerns about how much National can be trusted. Do they want to sell Kiwibank, or don’t they? Will they cut Working for Families entitlements or won’t they? Does English really think Key is economically illiterate, and if so, what are the implications of this for a future National-led government (Douglas thought that of Lange, was proved correct, and look at the damage that caused)?
Now as for us in the Greens, we have not yet made a decision about what Parties we may want to have a formal relationship with after the next election. That will be based on party policies and programme. The Green Door is still ajar for National, but their bumbling efforts over the weekend are, at least for me, rapidly closing it. And for the Greens, any deal on confidence and supply has to be endorsed by a Special General Meeting of the Green Party. So offering MPs the baubles of power won’t cut it, as it did with Labour and Winston, not that the Green MPs would run with that anyway! The Green membership won’t want any sort of relationship with a duplicitous Party that campaigns on one thing, but has a hidden agenda to do the opposite.