Little needs traction and housing issues could provide it

EDITORIAL

Andrew Little could be on to a potential winner with his focus on housing at Labour’s congress, but will it give him the boost the party needs going into the business end of the election campaign?

Labour clearly sees housing as the Achilles Heel of the Government. While primarily centred on Auckland, the issues are spreading through the country — including Gisborne, as our Saturday front-page story showed.

Little used the party’s final pre-election congress to announce a policy that would remove tax breaks for property investors, emphasising statistics showing one in five houses in Auckland were bought by people who owned more than five properties.

He has been forced to defend the policy overnight against comments from the Property Institute that the move would lead to a shortage of rental properties.

Little’s response is that he is only targeting the large-scale property investors, not the mums and dads who buy a second property to augment their income or retirement savings.

He says the Government has miscalculated the depth of feeling about the housing situation. Its recent Cabinet reshuffle seems to indicate National is aware of the risk and is moving to improve its policy and public responses.

Housing was always going to be a major focus for Labour, which took its Kiwibuild programme to build 100,000 homes in 10 years into the last election as well.

There is no doubt Little needs a boost. His speech at the party’s annual conference in December was excellent, but he seems to have lost some ground since.

Issues like the fiasco around Labour’s list announcement, with the petulance from Willie Jackson, spoiled the image of a united front. It was a defeat for Little at the hands of his own party, something that Helen Clark would never have allowed to happen. That only served to make the congress speech more important.

In modern politics a party’s fortunes rise and fall with how its leader is perceived by the public.

The pressure is mounting. To use an analogy from a famous western movie, it is high noon for Andrew Little.

Andrew Little could be on to a potential winner with his focus on housing at Labour’s congress, but will it give him the boost the party needs going into the business end of the election campaign?

Labour clearly sees housing as the Achilles Heel of the Government. While primarily centred on Auckland, the issues are spreading through the country — including Gisborne, as our Saturday front-page story showed.

Little used the party’s final pre-election congress to announce a policy that would remove tax breaks for property investors, emphasising statistics showing one in five houses in Auckland were bought by people who owned more than five properties.

He has been forced to defend the policy overnight against comments from the Property Institute that the move would lead to a shortage of rental properties.

Little’s response is that he is only targeting the large-scale property investors, not the mums and dads who buy a second property to augment their income or retirement savings.

He says the Government has miscalculated the depth of feeling about the housing situation. Its recent Cabinet reshuffle seems to indicate National is aware of the risk and is moving to improve its policy and public responses.

Housing was always going to be a major focus for Labour, which took its Kiwibuild programme to build 100,000 homes in 10 years into the last election as well.

There is no doubt Little needs a boost. His speech at the party’s annual conference in December was excellent, but he seems to have lost some ground since.

Issues like the fiasco around Labour’s list announcement, with the petulance from Willie Jackson, spoiled the image of a united front. It was a defeat for Little at the hands of his own party, something that Helen Clark would never have allowed to happen. That only served to make the congress speech more important.

In modern politics a party’s fortunes rise and fall with how its leader is perceived by the public.

The pressure is mounting. To use an analogy from a famous western movie, it is high noon for Andrew Little.

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