Those in the news media undertaking scrutiny of the New Zealand coalition government’s unpopular* state-owned asset sales/partial privatisation (your choice) programme will, naturally, look for ‘fish hooks and broken glass’ and clauses like this … and write headlines like Vernon Small’s Loophole allows sale of over 49pc

A democracy depends on it.

*I say ‘unpopular’ based on opinion polls like this which shows 60% plus opposition to the proposed asset sales, although that may be falling.

One can only speculate what the effect on public opinion might be if the much-vaunted 49% ‘private ownership’ cap were to … slide … or appear to, as today’s Dominion Post front page story seems to suggest.

This sort of development can be seen as more grist to an electorate (partisan elements aside) which is being provoked, surely, to wonder if all may not be quite as it seems with their current crop of politicians.

On this issue, so far we’ve had the Finance Minister admit to a ‘guess’ of proceeds of sale, the ‘We’ll put it into schools and hospitals’ justification, we’ve had the hurriedly painted-back-in Treaty of Waitangi SOE clauses, the PM’s ‘Trust me’ response to questions about limiting ownership to Kiwi mum and dad investors, and the 10% cap on ownership … now today’s ‘loopholes’ story on the front page of the capital’s newspaper.

At what point does National’s partial privatisation policy stand naked and exposed as ideologically-driven — a lurch to the right … as opposed to centrist, mainstream, sensible-fiscal-management-by-blokes-you-wouldn’t-mind-having-a-beer-with’?

Any day now?