Hard News by Russell Brown

National forcibly marries lesbians!

It is not only godless co-habiters like myself and my ladyfriend who have been "married" in the course of National's nationwide letter-drop. I can exclusively reveal that at least four lesbian couples have found themselves united under one surname, and one chap has found himself hitched to his flatmate. And in an unmistakable sign of the creeping feminist takeover, one Public Address reader has found himself addressed under his wife's maiden name. Horrors! And not a little ironic ...

On more serious matters: Ouch. As No Right Turn points out today, it was quite conventional for Labour to decline to release Treasury's initial advice on student loan costs until told to by the Ombudsman. It just wasn't very wise. Labour could have dealt with the argument over the numbers, which rest on conflicting assumptions about uptake, weeks ago. Everyone knew roughly what they were anyway.

And as Keith points out, the assumptions behind Labour's original claims for its interest-free loans scheme could hardly have been more optimistic. You're cruising for a bruising when you present policy that way.

Of course, you might still think that even the worst-case scenario is money well spent: and that after 14 years of compound GDP growth, a $984 million annual cost in 2019 won't look as daunting as it does now. After all, most of this isn't a new cost to the economy, but a redistribution of the burden. And by any estimate, the cost of the loans policy is substantially less than the income National is forgoing in tax cuts. But you'd still think that case should have been made to you before now.

On the other hand, John Key has an advantage that Michael Cullen doesn't: his costings aren't discoverable under the official information process, and he doesn't have to - and won't - release them. Yet there's reason to believe that some extremely fond assumptions have been made about the cost of key policies such as law and order, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. You just have to believe John and Tony when they assure you they've got it covered. (As Gareth Morgan pointed out, the private costing done by Infometrics did no more than confirm that National could use a calculator.)

FightingTalk's Hamish McKenzie has a highly amusing roundup of the blogosphere as if we were the candidates. As the "old campaigner" I got the most seats. I should note that after a week or two of escalating snippiness, I think the left and right bloggers are becoming a bit more collegial again. Except for Sir Humphreys, who are all nasty, all the time.

Sunday Star Times editor Cate Brett has been in touch to say that the paper's use of a Friday night Fairfax snap poll while political editor Helen Bain's column referred to a full poll that wasn't published was "cock-up. Not conspiracy … For mechanical production reasons the Political editor's column was processed before the second poll was taken and so carried a reference to the earlier poll. It should have been updated." Orders didn't come from "on high". Fair enough, I guess. But it would have been better if the paper had simply said what had happened in the first place.

Meanwhile hat-tip to Tim Selwyn for spotting Bren's report on a poll hardly anyone has noticed, by the Otago Daily Times. It has National ahead of Labour, but, with New Zealand First failing to make the threshold, a photo finish on who can assemble a majority.

PS: Do read David Haywood's assessment of the various parties' Energy policies. It's informed and informative, and the kind of thing that I wish the mainstream media had done right across the policy spectrum.

PPS: This just in from Stephen Judd: Bush asks Condi for a bathroom break. Seriously.