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Oh, to be in England - Upton On Line

Life in New Zealand is so much more difficult these days than it is in England. At least that's what our English friend Dr Cullen must be thinking.

Theirs was a simple plan. Just follow what Tony did (Tony Blair that is). Make up a credit card with vacuous but nice sounding promises that you are determined to keep, smile earnestly, and say very little else.

Oh, to be in England. During the British election campaign Tony Blair never had a one on one debate with John Major. The media is managed with an iron rod in England.

It doesn't work so well in New Zealand. Here, the pesky media bowl up to politicians all the time, they debate issues at length live on radio, they have our home telephone numbers!

So Labour is obliged in New Zealand to defend its promises and to explain just how everything is supposed to work. Dr Cullen, finally, said yesterday how he would fund his 'credit card' promises. This $1.9 billion worth of promises is guaranteed. These are the 'key promises'.

$2.4 billion worth of other promises, however, were 'less guaranteed'.

We haven't noticed the distinction on the campaign trail.

upton-on-line asks, since when are some promises true promises and others non-true promises?

Perhaps Labour should consider amending the Fiscal Responsibility Act to include 'guaranteed fiscal risks' and 'open-ended fiscal risks'.

The Blair model doesn't work in New Zealand. Politicians here have to front up more often. And besides, National doesn't generate such quality sex scandals as the Torys did. The other, minor, difference is that Labour in Britain is a modern party of lower taxes, while in New Zealand, Labour is the party of 'tax and spend'. And just in case they lose their nerve and suffer a fit of moderation, the Alliance is there to keep them staunch.

Campaign Diary:

Upton-on-line visited business folk along Auckland's Albert Street and learnt that what this nation needs is some 'leadership' from its politicians.

The Government, the more disaffected thundered, had merely pandered to the base instincts of public opinion and pressure groups. Nowhere was there conviction or leadership.

It seemed to upton-on-line that some were yearning, (though they would never have admitted it) for a Muldoon or Lange, brilliant performers who didn't necessarily deliver stable government. When pressed, the thunderers were not so sure what they wanted.

We all know that a week is a long time in politics. Projects that take decades are on no one's radar screen, it seems. Less sexy things like paying back the nation's public debt, which wins few votes but is the honourable thing to do, somehow doesn't count as conviction-led leadership from politicians.

Some of the greatest beneficiaries of National's decade of the 1990s are our children and grandchildren, who won't have to carry the burden of New Zealand's public debt. It's taken for granted by voters now, yet if we had claimed in 1990 that we'd not only get the government's books into the black but then pay back debt rather than blow it all, we'd have been greeted with incredulity.


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