Patrick Gower: Bill English goes with blinder idea rather than bribe

OPINION: Bill English has played a blinder by coming up with a policy to give all Kiwi kids the chance to learn a second language.

Who saw it coming? It is original, it is ambitious, it is symbolic - and at $160 million it doesn't cost that much.

It is not compulsory - kids can learn Te Reo, French or Mandarin if they want under National's policy.

Bill English with Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
Bill English with Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye. Photo credit: Lloyd Burr/Newshub.

It will be very appealing to parents - and as a pitch to those crucial centre  voters, it is a blinder of an idea.

It is there to show that Bill English is not just about the economy and that he is not out of ideas.

It fits with National's brand that it is open to the world.

Coupled with National's other plans to enhance digital learning and improve National Standards it creates a good wedge with Labour, which announced its education policy weeks ago under Andrew Little to little fanfare. Labour is also tied to the unions when it comes to policy and wants to scrap National Standards.

So instead of a bribe it is a blinder of an idea by Bill English.

The weakness is that it may not be the big idea to stop the Ardern effect - it is not National's version of Labour's interest-free loans in 2005 that stopped Don Brash.

The question is whether it will be enough to save the centre ground.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's Political Editor.