Labour announced that it will spend $400 million on schools; they will fast track some of its infrastructure projects and they will borrow to do it, thus loosening the Budget Responsibility Rules that they have adhered to so tightly up until now.
In other words, the 2020 election campaign has just started.
There is no doubt that we need the infrastructure spending. Many great projects were started under the last government (although some of them have been shelved by the current government) but there is no doubt that, with a continually growing population, we need more houses, roads, schools and hospitals, and we need them now. So a big tick to the government for that, even though we have heard it all before.
Rousing the crowd towards the end of her speech at the Labour Party annual conference, Jacinda Ardern said: “We can win in 2020. So bring it on, and let’s keep doing this”.
So that is to be the slogan for their 2020 election campaign. “Let’s Keep Doing This.” You have to ask, however – keep doing what? What exactly have they done so far that they should keep doing?
I could list out all of their spectacular failures, but it has been done many times. Suffice it to say, it is a slogan that the opposition could have a lot of fun with if they were so inclined.
As a political strategy, it is probably quite a smart one. It makes promises about a future in which we all live a little better than we do now. The problem is that we heard all this in 2017 when they were going to build 100,000 houses, fix the hospitals, put money into education, build a light rail system in Auckland, fix child poverty, and so on, ad nauseam. They didn’t do any of those things, so why should we believe them now?
If the government thinks that this will be the focal point of conversations over the Christmas dinner table, or by the campfire, I have my doubts. There is nothing to get excited about with a government that promises the earth but fails spectacularly to deliver
Targeting schools for their first big spend up may appeal to a lot of people, but $400 million is a drop in a bucket. Each school will receive some funding, but in most cases, it will not be enough to do more than paper over a few cracks. It sounds good, but it will achieve very little. I assume this is the start of a drip-feed of announcements to be made over the next 10 months or so, designed to make voters feel excited about all the wonderful infrastructure projects this government is going to complete.
Well, quite a few voters were excited about 100,000 new houses to be built in 2017. What exactly happened to them?
The indication that the government is prepared to relax its approach to the Budget Responsibility Rules is a sop to its critics, probably mostly on the left of the party, and also the Greens, but it is almost certainly completely unnecessary. All the problems that they clearly had no idea about when they made their extravagant promises in 2017, are still there. There are no builders, or infrastructure workers. Projects that were scrapped by Labour will presumably have to go back through the consenting process, and that will take time. Nothing is going to happen soon, but it is the promise – the carrot dangling just out of reach – that is intended to entice voters into giving them another go.
It might work. I would be surprised if it enticed many National voters though because this is already clearly a government that makes the terrible mistake of over-promising and chronically under-delivering, so no one will expect much from this. Targeting schools as a first priority might be aimed at soft National voters, but we all know that the education sector is run by hardline militants who would never vote anything but Labour even if Jacinda started eating kittens. National voters already know better than to believe anything this government says, so I am not sure this will make much difference.
Still… brace yourselves. The 2020 election campaign is now on. It really amused me that Jacinda said, in her speech at the Labour Party conference at the weekend, “Let’s keep doing this”. This was supposed to be the year of delivery, remember? So what have they delivered?
The annual conference shows that all they can deliver is more hot air. They promise lots of things but deliver nothing. If they keep doing what they have been doing up until now, that is what you will get. More hot air, but nothing else. More promises, but nothing else.
We deserve better than this, fellow Kiwis. Let’s not keep doing this.