Joe Hendren

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Where is Labour's big idea?

In recent discussions with friends I am often left wondering when Labour will announce their 'big idea' for the election campaign. A big idea is seen as essential to their election chances.

Did Michael Cullen's tax cuts in April leave no money for big ideas? Perhaps, to give Michael some credit, this formed the reason for Cullen's reluctance to give in to tax cuts in the first place. Could tax cuts end up costing Labour the election?

Perhaps an historical example will help illustrate my point. Many have wondered why Winston Churchill was voted out of office so soon after leading Britain through World War Two. Part of the answer lies in the significant policy progress UK Labour made while part of the wartime coalition government. In the eyes of the British people Labour's ideas became more mainstream during this period, leading to the election of the progressive Attlee government in 1945.

Will Labour's tax cuts give encouragement for people to vote for National's irresponsible borrowing for bigger tax cuts? Me-too-ism could have a cost. I actually hope I am wrong here.

What if Labour had announced a plan to significantly improve public heath, education or housing affordability? Would this have quarantined the call for tax cuts to the struggling folk of Remuera? The new BMW would have had to wait.

In terms of big ideas - how about a housing affordability measure on the scale of the State Advances Scheme? While I do not entirely buy the argument that housing affordability measures will necessarily increase prices, perhaps the recent fall in house prices presents an opportune time to help young New Zealanders into their first home. Not only will the working class of South Auckland love such a policy, it could also ease the fears of middle class property owners who fear the paper value of their major asset will decline further.

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