Politically Correct: Labour's big backdown video

They were copping flack for their hazy tax plans, but today Labour made a U-turn.
FIONA GOODALL/GETTY IMAGES

They were copping flack for their hazy tax plans, but today Labour made a U-turn.

Another day, another poll - and today's paints a wildly different picture to one released just two days ago. 

The 1News-Colmar Brunton poll released today had Labour at 44 per cent, National at 40 per cent, Greens on 7 per cent and NZ First on 6 per cent. 

On these numbers, Labour and the Greens could govern alone. And, NZ First leader Winston Peters could be stripped of his kingmaker status after dropping three points. 

But just two days ago, a Newshub poll had National leading Labour by 10 points, suggesting they could govern alone. Labour's dip in the polls was blamed on their hazy stance on tax. And today, they backed down. 

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So what's this backdown of Labour's?

National leader Bill English is up one point in the preferred prime minister stakes in a new poll released today.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

National leader Bill English is up one point in the preferred prime minister stakes in a new poll released today.

When Jacinda Ardern became leader of the Labour Party one of the first things she did was essentially rule in a capital gains tax before the next election. She indicated that whatever the tax working group Labour would set up to tackle the housing crisis wanted, she would start implementing as soon as possible. 

Then over subsequent weeks and sustained questions from National and the media she ruled out the group doing a number of things - charging a capital gains tax (CGT) on the family home, charging a land tax on the land under the family home, raising income taxes, and then an inheritance tax.

This morning, as the attack ads rolled on and presumably private polling told them the tax issue was still hurting them, Labour made an about-face: actually, any of the recommendations from the tax working group wouldn't hit until 2021, after the 2020 general election, so voters would have a chance to make their feelings known on them.

Why wait so long?

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Good question. Vernon Small wonders whether it might be not too little - but a bit too late. After all, more than 150,000 people had already voted by this morning. 

Ardern's said it was a "captain's call" to bring the CGT monster back onto the table this election and then another one to put it back away. She's had something of a dream run as leader so far, but it looks like this dithering over taxes has been her one big mistake.

Winston Peters traded blows with RNZ host Guyon Espiner today.
STUFF

Winston Peters traded blows with RNZ host Guyon Espiner today.

So is this National's best weapon taken away?

To a point, but the ever-nimble Steven Joyce has already switched tack to claim that Labour is still going to raise income taxes. This is an interesting rhetorical ploy: Labour have ruled out raising income taxes from where they are now, but National have passed a bill which would cut taxes from April 1 next year. Labour have promised to scrap those tax cuts and thus repeal that bill, so in very technical terms they will be raising the taxes back up - but since they are doing it before they had actually been dropped, it's hard to really see that as a tax hike.

Labour will be wanting to move the conversation as far away from taxes as possible. They want to be talking about health, education, and housing, but the tax stuff has been drowning that out. We'll have to wait and see whether they can manage that.

What else happened today?

Oh boy, plenty. National announced it will direct Landcorp to sell off government-owned farms to young farmers under lease-to-buy schemes. In a elongated and frequently tense (and hilarious) interview with RNZ Winston Peters changed the price and intention of his GST-off-food policy - or at least admitted that the policy on the NZ First website was wrong. A minimum wage worker in Gisborne challenged English's record on pay.  The Property Investors Federation released a survey of landlords who mostly said they would put up rents if Labour won, but their critics pointed out the questionnaire was self-selecting and unscientific. It's all on.

What's coming up in the campaign?

Expect two new polls next week, as well as the final leaders debate on Wednesday night. Also expect plenty of mud slinging, and talk about tax.

* This column first appeared in our email newsletter, Politically Correct. Sign up to get it in your inbox.

 - Stuff

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