Christopher Luxon is showing us all what many of us already knew: That he is far from the smartest man in the room and certainly isn’t a shadow of John Key. God knows why Key has been promoting Luxon, especially when his policy positions show that he has more flip flops than an Aussie beach.

Yesterday we were met with the headlines that National and Luxon had welched on their tax cut package, under pressure from Labour, friendly fire from Act and the mewling of the Media Party:

National has copped friendly fire from its likely coalition partner, Act, which is arguing that National’s tax plan would stoke inflation by cutting taxes and increasing spending at the same time – sending a wave of cash through the economy.

Act isn’t alone – nearly every party in Parliament has lashed out at National’s bracket indexation policy, which would reduce income tax by raising tax thresholds, for being inflationary.

National disputes the idea that the tax cuts would be inflationary, but its finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis has confirmed the policy was on the bench for now, with the party working up a new tax policy for the next election.

National had pitched it as a suggestion for the Government in Budget 2022, but left the door open to taking the policy, or something similar, to the 2023 election.

Willis confirmed on Tuesday the policy was for Budget 2022 and National would put forward a tax policy for the next election later – this may or may not include something like the current indexation policy.

Indexation as a principle – that is, adjusting tax thresholds to take inflation into account – will be a part of the tax plan, but the form that will take will probably not be the form National put forward earlier this year.

“What we said was in this Budget, the Government had room to add inflation-adjusted tax thresholds. We think that would have been the right thing to do,” Willis said.

NZ Herald

This is just typical of Nicola Willis. She’s one of those school and university debating types that thinks that if they can just talk at you for 15 more minutes they’ll convince you of the tenuous merits of their ideas. They all have two ears and one mouth but bizarrely use them in the reverse of the ratio God intended.

Frankly, if you can’t cogently explain how people spending their own money is far better than having a government steal it first, then wrap expensive civil service processes around it, then grudgingly give it back to you less the substantial costs of doing that, then you have no place either on the front bench or as the finance spokesperson.

These clowns have shown all the spine of a large jellyfish, that also has no ears and verbal dysentery. They were out-played and out-witted by a bunch of dullards who think their billions of cash sloshing around the economy aren’t inflationary, but taking less from you somehow is.

National was marching backwards faster than a French Army, which was impressive as it turns out they were doing it while wearing blue flip-flops. Just hours later they were walking back from their walking backwards yet somehow claiming that they were making progress, when, at best, they were walking backwards in ever decreasing circles.

National has promised even bigger tax cuts in its 2023 election manifesto, if economic conditions allow, but Labour says the party’s flagship tax policy is technically dead.

It came after a bruising morning in Parliament in which Labour claimed National was in disarray after it was not clear whether National would actually implement the tax policy it had unveiled earlier this year.

Senior Labour MP Chris Hipkins said the imbroglio showed National was in “disarray”. Senior National MP Chris Bishop described the attack as “dirty political tricks” from Labour.

NZ Herald

These aren’t somersaults, they are worthy of the offspring of a trapeze artist at a circus that shagged a contortionist. It is facepalming stupidity from the so-called brains trust of National.

Speaking on Thursday, Bishop said National had always said the policy was about the 2022 Budget – a policy that Labour’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson should implement.

“What we said earlier in the year was Grant Robertson has given himself a massive new operating allowance for Budget 2022. Our view is that he should use some of that operating allowance for tax indexation to provide relief for New Zealanders,” Bishop said.

Bishop said National’s tax plan would “of course be different at the election from what we announced in February or March 2022”.

“Of course the tax plan was different because the Government’s fiscal parameters will be different 18 months after we announced the policy,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Willis said National had been “consistent”, and offered to take the policy even further if conditions allowed.

“We remain committed to that plan. In fact, if fiscal and economic conditions permit, we would like to go further to deliver for the squeezed middle because let’s be clear, inflation has roared ahead since we announced our initial tax plan in January, things have got worse,” Willis said.

NZ Herald

Oh great, duelling debaters, both bludgeoning our ears with explanations. These fools simply don’t realise that explaining is losing…and they are doing an awful lot of ‘splainin’.

Little wonder then that the death rattle for Luxon is now being shaken. It always starts with one or two commentators thoughtfully pointing out how the leader is damned, but not quite yet. Yesterday it started with a column from left-wing antagonist Shane Te Pou, who also goes by the name Shane Phillips. If you google Shane Phillips you’ll see why he uses Te Pou. In any case, this is the start of the destabilisation campaign that will ramp up considerably in the coming months.

Once again, as has become his habit, rather than address the question head on, Luxon resorted to talking points, failing to address the crux of the question he was being asked.

In a shorter-form interview, or at a media stand-up, this kind of non-responsive pivot is an effective tactic – so well known that media trainers have a term for it: the “block and bridge”.

But, in ways that Luxon’s advisers must be scrambling to correct, it’s not a technique that works when you have one questioner, and when that questioner has the power to decide how long the interview will go, and on what terms. Pretending not to understand a question in order to answer one you were not asked does not cut it when the interviewer gets as many goes as they want at asking it.

NZ Herald
Sometimes the lesson takes a bit to get through. The BFD. Photoshop by Lushington Brady.

Luxon is infected with the same political disease that afflicts Bishop and Willis: a propensity to fill the silence with inane commentary.

In the months since, the abortion fracas, the Waikiki jaunt, the brittle media performances, have prompted a decline in National’s fortunes that no factor other than his increasingly unsteady leadership can explain.

A Curia poll for the Taxpayers Union in July noted a 5.6 per cent drop in support for Luxon as preferred PM, a perilous trajectory for any new Opposition Leader. And just this week, Roy Morgan reported that National fell by 4 points in its most recent survey to 35 per cent, its lowest since January.

Given the stiff economic and public health headwinds facing the Government, National’s smarter strategists will see cause for far greater concern than these apparently modest shifts indicate. The party should be soaring in these conditionsand surely would be if Luxon was the leader everyone kept saying he was.

The AM interview prompted me once again to ponder this question: at what point will Luxon’s CEO credentials and superficial plausibility give way to the recognition he is just not very good at this?

NZ Herald

Shane Te Pou may well be a stooge for union interests but he isn’t wrong. Only a fool would ignore what he is saying. What will be interesting to see now is where Matthew Hooton sits on this. I’m sure we will find out in just a few short weeks. Then you will know that there is a plan afoot to destabilise Luxon, then decapitate him.

Te Pou though is merely catching up to the position I’ve always had about Luxon. The man is a windsock who swings and blows with the prevailing gusts. But ultimately eventually the wind will die and we will see a deflated and limp leader whose political aspirations were dashed on the reef of incompetence.


As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...