English opens can of worms

Nick Lindo
Nick Lindo

John Key’s adamantine promise never to change the age of the pension entitlement while he was in office, has been speedily broken by his successor.

Bill English has solemnly decided to raise that age, citing all sorts of “good reasons”, foremost among them that we are all now living so much longer.

However, he seems to be in no rush to bring in this significant change in National policy, talking of the distant year, 2037, as being his favoured start date.

Thereafter, there will be incremental age rises towards 67-year-old target.

Such a decision is certainly a major rock thrown into this year’s election pool, destined to cause waves of controversy rather than ripples of mere bewilderment.

Winston Peters, having declared only 24 hours earlier, that on no account would he countenance any suggestion of raising the age and it’s being a non-negotiable element in NZ First policy, the PM is tampering with this positively holy grail.

Thus, what had seemed a likely link between National and NZ First in the next parliament, to the mutual advantage of both, is, apparently, no more.

National will have to look seriously and swiftly for another coalition partner from a very small field of possible candidates.

The chances of it winning an overall majority is as unlikely as ever, especially with vote-winner, John Key, gone.

The Maori Party, which has obligingly propped up National these past few years – significantly tweaking its tail in the process – may well find itself no longer in an electoral position to do so, post September 23.

Labour is about to make a serious attempt to get “its” seats back, so carelessly lost to the Maori Party over recent times.

Now that  “high-flying” and telegenic Jacinda Ardern is so firmly on board, her electoral appeal may be irresistible. So if not the Maori Party, who?

Long-term supporter, the one-man, United Future Party, Peter Dunne, may be lost to National if he loses in Ohariu, although Act one-man band, David Seymour, may well do what he can to help the Nats.

The “arrangement” in Epsom will be re-activated as usual. Labour and Greens, meanwhile, will be busy setting up a coalition of their own.

In other words, National may find itself exposed, lonely and shattered on that same morning.

With NZ First and Labour so utterly wedded to keeping the current age of pension entitlement where it now is, one has to wonder why Mr English has taken this remarkable step, maybe snatching defeat from the assumed jaws of victory.

Political pundits everywhere are scratching their furrowed brows to find an explanation for this table-turning event.

Why has champion shearer, Mr English, decided to cut off his nose to spite his face?

Is it something to do with that political standby of our times, sustainability?

Is the PM somehow showing his concern for the environment and its cost to sustain and implying the needs of pensioners are likely to be less pressing as we move into a robot-driven future?

As public-spirited as such an argument might seem, it is unlikely to cut much ice with those of the “right” age now, who are going to be unavoidably affected by any change in pension legislation even at as far distant a date as 2037.

No, Mr English seems to have succumbed to pressures unknown which have convinced him that 65 – whatever the generation affected – is unsustainable and we need to get used to it.

The self-chosen demise of National’s most popular leader ever, John Key, and now the bleak prospect – as many will see it – of delayed pensions, may well have National fighting to keep afloat in six months’ time.

On top of all that, there is now the potent “Jacinda” factor at work.

How long will it be before Jacinda and Andrew swap places on the “most preferred prime minister” chart?

Meanwhile, in America, Donald Trump has only about 40 of his much-trumpeted (sorry) “first 100 days” left.

Many of his promised decisions in that time remain to be gazetted, not least his threat/promise to take the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change, agreed to by over 200 nations 18 months ago.

His minister involved, Scott Pruitt, is a man-made, climate-change denier, despite the opposite being the official policy of the department he now heads.

Another of Mr Trump’s “Alice in Wonderland” appointments, in other words. More such contradictions ahead; sad, so sad.

And now he is to ask the White House media corps – whom he has reviled and insulted for weeks – how best to spend his $578,000/pa salary, which he proposes to make available to charity.

Odd, so odd.

Did Trump really accuse President Obama of tapping his phones or did he actually mean something else?

Curious, so curious.

– By Nick Lindo