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www.mccully.co.nz - 9 May 2008

www.mccully.co.nz - 9 May 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

Six Months to Go

The 15th of November is, under our constitutional arrangements, the last possible date upon which the 2008 general election could be held. But waiting until the last possible date would look desperate. So the most probable scenario involves a general election some time in October. Which means that we are now around six months away from polling day, with the battle-lines becoming more clearly drawn as each day passes.

Having been blessed with the luckiest run of economic conditions of any government in our recent history, the Clark Government now finds itself in unaccustomed and altogether less comfortable conditions. In the very short term, there is little doubt that our economy will undergo some painful adjustments. Made worse by the fact that the Clark Government is in total denial.

The insane spectacle of Labour Cabinet Ministers singing silly anti-John Key ditties at the Labour Conference (repeated on TV again this week thank you very much) was not just foolish; it was deeply symbolic. These people really have lost the plot.

When Police Minister Annette King blamed the summer sun and the full moon for the spate of lawlessness earlier this year, it was clear that something very very unusual had been slipped into the Cabinet water cooler. Now we have Welfare Minister Ruth Dyson arguing that the sharp rise in unemployment numbers is not bad news for our economy (“I don’t think that this is bad news at all actually.”).

And to top it all off, the Prime Minister’s response to Prime Minister Rudd’s announcement of $31 billion of tax cuts in Australia (in effect that he had only done it because he had foolishly allowed himself to be goaded into such rash promises, and was now slashing public services to pay for them) suggests that she is the only New Zealander unconcerned about 45,000 of their countrymen leaving to cross the Tasman each year.

Meanwhile, the Clark/Cullen spin machine is in overdrive, attempting to reduce both the expected size of any tax cuts on offer in the Budget, and the date upon which New Zealanders might be the grateful recipients of same, while increasing numbers of New Zealanders look apprehensively at the rising cost of the mortgage, a tank full of gas, or even a block of cheese. It’s almost like they are living on a different planet.

$250 million Hit from Rail Purchase

Having told New Zealanders there was no room for decent tax cuts, and that such tax cuts as New Zealanders were lucky enough to receive would be later, not earlier, Dr Cullen proceeded immediately to announce the $665 million purchase of the railways. And to foreshadow many more tens of millions to be invested in upgrades.

All of this raises a truly interesting question: if the rail assets were of such vital strategic interest, why did Dr Cullen not buy them back in 2003, when they were going for a song (well, $231 million actually).

And as to who won and who lost out of the deal, there cannot be a better arbiter than the sharemarket itself, where those making the assessment are backing their judgment with cold hard cash. The fact that the Toll share price surged by $250 million immediately after the sale (where it has stayed ever since) tells us in the clearest possible terms both who won out of the deal, and by how much.

The Preferred Prime Minister Polls

The release of monthly statistics by the public pollsters has become an occasion for much pontificating over movements in the preferred Prime Minister polls. For the most part, John Key has established a small lead, but each monthly movement up or down is now the subject of microscopic scrutiny. Which is to miss the really significant point:

In each of the last “big change” elections (1990 and 1999) popular myth would have it that Jim Bolger and Helen Clark (the ultimate victors in each case) established a clear dominance over their opponents. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The public opinion polls in 1990 recorded monthly numbers for Geoffrey Palmer (before he was persuaded to stand aside) from January, thus: 29%, 28%, 24%, 19%, 17%, 15%, 16%, 10%. So Jim Bolger must have been a close second, right? Wrong actually. Second throughout 1990 was Winston Peters whose monthly numbers ran: 16%, 14%, 17%, 18%, 16%, 15%, 15%, 16%, 17%, 15%, 11%.

Jim Bolger, who was elected Prime Minister in November 1990, ran third in the preferred Prime Minister polls right through 1990: 12%, 10%, 10%, 12%, 11%, 12%, 12%, 13%, 14%, 16%, 13%.

In 1999, despite the fact that Clark achieved a decisive victory at the end of the year, she trailed Jenny Shipley in the preferred PM stakes throughout. Shipley’s numbers for the calendar year: 29%, 29%, 27%, 27%, 29%, 25%, 21%, 23%, 31%, 30%.

By contrast Clark numbers were: 19%, 21%, 21%, 22%, 21%, 22%, 21%, 21%, 21%, 23%, 24%.

So while a microscopic inspection of the monthly numbers between Clark and Key might be interesting, the real point here is that Key is out-performing, by a very large margin, the previous occupants of his office who have gone on to lead long-term governments. Which puts things in a very interesting perspective.

ENDS

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