Why is National on 60%?

It is interesting to look at analysis of why National is on 60%. Of course there is a honeymoon factor in there, but let me tell you National in Feb 1991 was not on 60%!

Steve Pierson at The Standard thinks it is because smiles a lot, and it is all because National has such a super smart PR team, that National is at 60%. I mean, hey they even turned his broken arm into a plus.

I think it is because John Key is Labour’s worst nightmare. He is a genuine unpredictable centrist. Now he is a centre-right centrist, but they can’t pigeonhole him as the typical “new right neo-liberal”.

Labour spent over a million dollars on ads last year telling NZers they can not trust John Key. It was the most personally targeted negative campaign we had seen. Why were they so desperate to have people think Key was not a centrist? Because they knew deep down he was, and that that is where elections are won.

Look at what the Gallery are saying. Tracy Watkins blogs:

It’s a new world order. But some people don’t seem to get it yet.

Trying to interpret comments by John Key about Fisher & Paykel in the context of the old arguments about Left and Right is about as useful as comparing a Toyota Camry with an ocean-going liner.

And Colin Espiner also blogs:

John Key just continues to surprise – and I imagine he’s surprising his own party and its backers as much as the public.

Generally when Roger Kerr from the dry-Right Business Roundtable starts writing articles criticising you just a few months into your first term in government, it’s because you’re a centre-Left government.

But in National’s case, it’s because they’ve got a leader and a Prime Minister who has pretty much torn up the rule book governing the political spectrum.

If Helen Clark shifted the paradigm of New Zealand politics during her nine years in power, Key seems to be intent on exploding it altogether.

Espiner also looks at how hands on Key is:

When Key caught wind that banks might be being a little stingy with their credit to businesses, he got on the blower to their chief executives and had a little chat. Imagine Helen Clark or Michael Cullen doing that?

And after Fisher and Paykel Appliances saw its share price plummet 40 percent in a single day yesterday, Key again reached for the telephone and called up chief executive John Bongard.

This is why I semi-jokingly refer to John’s Muldoonist tendencies!

Colin also notes:

Just one other example of Key’s newfound interventionist streak – the impending cricket tour of Zimbabwe by the Black Caps. Remember 2005, when the Labour government refused to intervene to stop NZ Cricket touring? It did stop the return series by declining visas for the Zimbabwe players, and I accept there were few stronger critics of the Mugabwe regime than Clark.

But Labour’s view was that to prevent the cricketers heading to Africa it would have had to revoke their passports, and that was a bridge too far.

Key doesn’t seem to have any such qualms. He pretty much said yesterday, and again on his way into caucus this morning, that the tour wouldn’t be proceeding. Asked if that meant revoking passports, he shrugged and said he was looking at all the options.

There’s a gutsy determination about him at the moment that reminds me very much of Clark in her earlier years, before she became worn down by the endless decision-making and sheer plethora of issues and controversies that enveloped her government.

I think it’s refreshing, as long as it lasts.

And this is why National is at 60%. Not because everyone loves National, but because they do love John Key. Only 4% of NZers thought he was doing a poor or weak job. That is incredibly low.

Labour and its allies need to realise they are dealing with a very different politician with John Key. He is an instinctive rather than ideological politician. Now his instincts are centre-right, but he operates by trusting his instincts and his skills to get good outcomes.

If people think National is at 60% just because John Key smiles a lot, then they are dramatically under-estimating him. Just as they did last year when they all said he would get whipped by Helen in the debates.

Now sure market purists like myself are wincing from time to time, as John does one of his interventions. But the battle for most of the public lies in the centre.

The challenge for Labour is how do they respond?

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