Being compared to Tony Blair isn't a good look

Jacinda Ardern is that new Prime Minister over in New Zealand. You know, the one who was asked whether she was going to have children – to much outrage from the assembled bien pensants – and then started preparing for her maternity leave about the day of the election?

She’s provided for us a useful example of the difference between telling the truth about something and being honorable in what one said or does. Essentially, she made the same sort of pledge Tony Blair did but in reverse. Blair said something along the lines of no rises in the major tax rates – or was that Brown? There then followed a mass introduction of new taxes to feed government’s maw while still keeping that promise.

The reverse move here in New Zealand is that no new taxes were promised. But of course raises in extant tax rates aren’t new taxes, are they?

Labour has done a handbrake turn on its tax plans promising that it will not bring in extra new taxes until after the 2020 election.

The move came after sustained attacks from National on the vagueness of its tax policy and a political poll that showed it falling far behind.

This was a week, 10 days, before the last election. A very tight one at that point and we could assume, and probably should, that this was one of the things which pushed Labour over the line. They’d been promising all sorts of tax rises and changes and this statement seemed to knock those on the head.

Fast forward:

The Prime Minister’s denying she’s breaking pre-election promises over the fuel tax announcement.

The government’s 10-year transport plan proposes a fuel tax increase of between nine and 12 cents per litre.

Jacinda Ardern told Mike Hosking the increase can come in this term.

That’s in spite of Labour earlier committing to not bringing in any new taxes in the first term in Government.

But Ms Ardern says it’s an excise – not a new tax.

“Road excise charges have been in existence for forever and a day and whenever we put these documents out we routinely discuss what we are going to do with it, it is the same with what we do on tobacco excise, we consistently review where they sit.”

The twin problem with this is that it’s true. Fuel duty has been around forever, governments always do monitor the levels of extant taxes. It also runs into that honour question. No, not exactly what was said pre-election but what did the voters hear being said? There’s a decent suspicion that no new taxes was heard as “no increase in taxes.”

As with Tony Blair she’s technically right and probably not in any larger meaning. And as with Tony Blair if you’ve got to parse the meaning of the statement so closely then you’re on the wrong side of that clarity and honour line.

But then we all knew that politics wasn’t an honourable profession, didn’t we?