Rejuvenation

March 3rd, 2011 at 10:22 am by David Farrar

Had an interesting chat to Mike Hosking on radio this morning about Simon’s decision to retire. Hosking said that it may be partly an age thing – just as younger workers routinely swap jobs every five years or so, you also have younger MPs who don’t want to spend their life in Parliament. They want to do 12 – 15 years and then go onto other things. The thought of doing a Phil Goff and joining a political party at age 15, standing for Parliament at age 28 and still being there when you are close to 60 is exactly what they don’t want to do.

Power became an MP at age 29 and is leaving at age 41. A big contrast.

Hosking asked me if anyone other MP has got out when they so obviously had a Ministerial acreer ahead of them, and my answer was Katherine Rich – a close friend of Simon’s. And it is quite possible that Simon has observed how absolutely happy Katherine has been since she left Parliament – a theory shared by Duncan Garner.

But there is one upside to Simon’s decision – it does make rejuvenation easier for , and indeed the decisions of both Simon and Wayne Mapp should serve as a wake-up call for other Ministers that no-one is there for ever.

Soon after National won the 2008 election, I pondered what National needs to do to have a lengthy Government – three or even four terms. There’s a lot of factors which are situational – policies, economy, issues, response to scandals etc. But there are also some factors which tend to be almost always true – that the public are loath to keep re-electing the same old people into Government.

So a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for a long-term Government is to rejuvenate. And this has to happen not just in your third term, but throughout. Helen Clark did some useful rejuvenbation in her third term, but by then it was too little too late.

National has 23 Ministers at present. For the sake of easy maths, we’ll pretend they have 24. To maximise chances of a third or even the holy grail of a fourth term, one has to go into your third election with half your Ministry being new, and to get a fourth term, almost your entire Government needs to be new – including arguably the Prime Minister.

So in the rejuvenation plan I sketched in my head, one would have the following rejuvenations:

  1. Six Ministers retire at end of 1st term (2011), and new Ministers appointed at beginning of 2nd term
  2. Six Ministers retire around a year before end of 2nd term (2013), and six new Ministers appointed prior to general election
  3. Six Ministers (including most of the senior leadership) around halfway through the third term (2015), and six new Ministers appointed, plus more junior Ministers step up into the senior portfolios

Helen Clark found out the hard way that NZers are reluctant to give a PM and an almost unchanged frontbench a fourth term. Likewise John Howard made the mistake of going for a fifth term, when he could have retired with greatness after four.

It is important to stress that Ministers should retire and allow rejuvenation not because they are bad Ministers, or because their replacements will be necessairly better than them. Often a new Minister will take time to come up to speed. But without rejuvenation you burn off public support (and you end up with frustrated backbenchers).

So far in this term, we’ve had two Ministers resign (Worth and Wong) and three Ministers announce their retirement (J Carter, Mapp and Power). I think there is a reasonable chance of one more retirement before the election, so by coincidence the number will be six. Of course two of the spots have already been claimed by Nathan Guy and Hekia Parata.

Winning a second term doesn’t tend to be about rejuvenation – more about the performance of the Government (and Opposition) only. So that is why you tend to keep Ministers in office until the election and have their sucessors become Ministers after the election (if you win).

In the second term, it is different. You want to go into that election for a third term with actual new faces – around half the Ministers should be different from the beginning of the first term. So one would expect the PM to do a significant reshuffle around a year before the 2014 election. Leaving it until after the election is too late.

What this means, is that most (that is not the same as saying all) of the Ministers who were also Ministers in the former National Government of the 1990s should be thinking seriously about retiring at the 2014 election, with a step down from the Ministry at the end of 2013. You will have had five years as a Minister and of course your previous ministerial experience. Your experience has been invaluable to stabilising this Government, but rejuvenation will be essential to maximise chances of a third term or beyond.

And if National does manage to win a second and thrd term, then I do think that John Key could do what no other Prime Minister in NZ’s history has done – and get out while on top. I don’t think he wants to set a record for longest serving PM in power as Clark did. I think he will feel that 7.5 to 8 years as PM and 9 – 10 years as National Leader is a pretty good run, and he’ll let new leadership emerge for that elusive chase of the 4th term. And if people see the National Government seeking a 4th term as a very different beast to the National Government that came into power in 2008, it may be possible.

Now you may think I’m getting ahead of myself thinking about third and fourth terms, when a second term is yet to be won. Well as I said, the second term doesn’t tend to be an issue of rejuvenation. But rejuvenation is an issue you have to be candid about well in advance. It is unfair on Ministers to have them think they will continue forever, and then after an election they find out they’re a backbencher again. Then you just get a surly backbencher for three years.

It is important to make sure rejuvenation expectations are known well in advance. That way Ministers can announce that they will retire at the next election, before any reshuffle, so that they are seen as retiring, not as being forced out. One should always try to preserve dignity.

So fow now, the level of retirements is about right. But if re-elected, some Ministers should give careful consideration (in my opinion) to retiring in 2014. Not because they are doing a bad job. Not because they are not valued. But because you don’t win if you don’t rejuvenate.

The actions of both Power and Mapp in retiring long before they were due to be pushed, should serve as an example to others.

It’s also an example some Labour MPs could follow.

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33 Responses to “Rejuvenation”

  1. db.. (80 comments) says:

    Heh.. The last line puts the knife in hard.

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  2. Viking2 (11,334 comments) says:

    The one who should go has been reselected.

    The thought of doing a Nick Smith and joining a political party at age 15, standing for Parliament at age 24 and still being there when you are close to 60 is exactly what they don’t want to do.

    I am of course refereing to that nutter of all the National Party ,(no not Hone), but that socialist greenie who joined as a junoir and feels entitled to remaim. The fruit cake from Nelson
    Mr Nick Smith.

    So when is he going to be asked to go?????????

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  3. sweetd (125 comments) says:

    I think a lot of these long time servers in labour are scared about being another Georgina Beyer, that is leaving parliament, not getting any cushy postings to boards or the like, then finding out the hard way they have no employable skills and ending up unemployed. Seriously, how many of the old guard would anyone happily employ in their business?

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  4. Inventory2 (10,245 comments) says:

    My thoughts exactly db (and DPF); Labour has still to rid itself of its time-servers. When 2010 dawned, Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard and Jim Anderton (who is Labour in everything but name) began their FOURTH DECADE in Parliament, all having been elected in the 1980’s, Goff as far back as 1981. From memory, Lockwood Smith is the only member of the Blue Team to share that dubious distinction.

    In that regard, Simon Power should be commended for getting out when he is. And it would seem that the term that DPF used on Hosking’s show of “doing a Goff” has entered the political lexicon!

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  5. m@tt (619 comments) says:

    So you have
    1. People that become an MP as part of their career path, before moving on to bigger and better things in private.
    2. People that become an MP in order to serve their country as long serving MPs.

    Hmmmmmm. I know which group I have more respect for.

    Hint – It’s not the ones that are out to further their own private careers.

    [DPF: Yeah Matt how dare people work in the private sector generating all the tax that funds the public sector. Shoot them all.]

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  6. KevinH (1,191 comments) says:

    Simon Powers resignation is as equally bizarre as that of Katherine Rich. When you are on the cusp of a significant victory and decide to throw the towel in only one word accurately describes it..(…).
    In the past year we have witnessed several M.P.’s from across the political spectrum hanging on by their toes ie Chris Carter, Heather Roy, and of course Hone Harawira, conversely Simons’ resignation doesn’t make sense in the current political climate. The blogosphere may speculate on the real reason for Simons’ departure but possibly we will have to wait for a memoir to discover what that reason was.

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  7. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    Just so I am clear, highly competent, well respected ministers leaving while in their prime is a good thing?

    Surely ‘rejuvenation’ is all about replacing people who are passed their use by date or have never risen up the ranks, Simon Powers is neither of these things.

    If someone like Powers had left Labour it would be ‘rats leaving a sinking ship’ if they leave National it’s all good and called ‘rejuvenation’.

    [DPF: God you are such a hopeless partisan. Seriously it's just sad.

    I said "But there is one upside to Simon’s decision". Only a moron could interpret that as meaning me saying Simon leaving is a good thing. It is obvious I regard it as a bad thing - but that there is a small silver lining to it.

    As for your comparison with Labour, well the party that is trailing by 25% in the polls tends to be the sinking one. But as it happens I have consistently called for rejuvenation amongst both National and Labour.

    What a pity I do a long detailed post about rejuvenation, and in fact call for National to do something that won't win me a lot of friends in the Government (I actually called for Ministers to stand down next term), and all you can see with your partisan blinkers is a cheap shot.

    Couldn't you even manage one sentence of useful contribution on the actual topic of rejuvenation? Do you agree or disagree that more National Ministers should retire next term?]

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  8. david (2,565 comments) says:

    m@tt There is a third group you should not overlook. A small and exclusive club made up of those whose career path consisted of being successful in an unrelated field of endeavour and who, having been successful, can devote a period in their prime of life to the betterment of the country. Probably the least idealogical and the most effective politicians we have.

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  9. sweetd (125 comments) says:

    YesWeDid, the difference is the labour ship is taking on water, going around in circles and has a captain that his crew does not respect.

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  10. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @sweetd – that might be true but DPF has the spin set to 11 on this one.

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  11. Nigel (517 comments) says:

    YesWeDid has a point regarding ‘rats leaving a sinking ship’, though who knows what is really going on in the Beehive.

    My take is National have a huge job post Chch to restore the NZ economy & maybe Power’s exit reflects his take on how hard it’ll be.

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  12. dime (9,787 comments) says:

    lmao rats leaving a sinking ship??? sure, if National were polling at Labour levels it would be called that.

    small difference between national and labour mps – the national guys have options in the private sector.

    who the hell is going to pay king or mallard 200k a year??

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  13. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    And it would seem that the term that DPF used on Hosking’s show of “doing a Goff” has entered the political lexicon!

    I’d suggest you try that again when non-political-opponents of Goff start using it.

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  14. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    Inventory2>When 2010 dawned, Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard and Jim Anderton (who is Labour in everything but name) began their FOURTH DECADE in Parliament, all having been elected in the 1980′s, Goff as far back as 1981. From memory, Lockwood Smith is the only member of the Blue Team to share that dubious distinction.

    I think McCully and Williamson qualify as well. And both should be moving on this year, IMHO.

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  15. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    m@tt, I think you’re showing that you think private sector to be dirty and public sector good. I have no problem at all with people moving between public and private sector, so long as they’re not moving into related fields (particularly lobby groups or corporates that sell direct to govt). Simon will likely move back into law or into the judiciary, not much room for corruption there I would hazard.

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  16. Nigel (517 comments) says:

    40 years is to much in Parliament, be good to cap it at 30 I reckon, or 32 when we go 4 year term.

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  17. s.russell (1,587 comments) says:

    A wise party always asks itself not what it can do to win the next election, but what it can do to win the one after that. Get the right answers to the second question, and you will almost certainly have the answer to the first question as well.

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  18. Viking2 (11,334 comments) says:

    Mr Key said he was “stunned and flabbergasted” when Mr Power told him of his decision on Sunday evening.

    “We just didn’t see it coming. “I think he’s done an outstanding job as a minister … He’s very bright and extremely hardworking and pays attention to detail. I think he would have made a fine Prime Minister.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10709801

    Well good people don’t stick around when they are overridden and overrulled by the lessor people. E.G. Smith N,Findlayson,scum list etc.
    What else should Key have expected.
    Unfortunatley they have lost their next PM and we are now saddled again with English and Ryall.

    Sorry day for a fellow who had the necessary talent to be PM.

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  19. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    If someone like Powers had left Labour it would be ‘rats leaving a sinking ship’ if they leave National it’s all good and called ‘rejuvenation’.

    Thats because Labour’s polling has plummeted to the low 30’s (sometimes even dropping into the high 20’s), while National’s polling has been sitting pretty above 50%.

    Therefore to remark that a Labour MP leaving is a ‘rat leaving a sinking ship’, but Power leaving is a sign of rejuvenation is highly accurate.

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  20. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    Well, the public certainly didn’t like a 4th term of a tired Labour front bench, but it wasn’t that fussed on a 4th term of a renewed National front bench in 1999.

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  21. Paulus (2,586 comments) says:

    Sorry he is going, but did he really have Leadership potential.

    Good Managers are not necessarily Leaders.

    Leaders are invariable born to lead, others, see Goff, are not.

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  22. labrator (1,889 comments) says:

    40 years is to much in Parliament, be good to cap it at 30 I reckon, or 32 when we go 4 year term.

    20 years, 5 x 4 year terms is plenty enough…

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  23. flipper (3,908 comments) says:

    Putting aside ALL politics, a REAL NZ business leader told me some 20 years ago that his “REAL LIFE SPAN IN ANY PARTICULAR JOB” was 8 to 10 years. Thereafter he would be time serving.
    That individual is worth more than $1,000,000,000 (and rising!).
    He was, and continues to be, a caring New Zealander.

    JK seems to exhibit the same qualities.

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  24. flipper (3,908 comments) says:

    Addendum to my 1.27….

    The Billion plus is net cash.

    Never, not even once, did he accept a Government or political appointment of any kind.

    And neither he nor his companies ever had any Government contracts, but they did pay millions in taxes.

    Friedman 10 – Keynes Zip.

    .

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  25. jackp (668 comments) says:

    Rejuvination, my ass. Ferrar is getting ahead of himself. With the economy tanking and Key buying those BMWs and lying his way out of it, I think National is going to loose a lot of votes. Also, people are tired of National and Maori ripping the taxpayers off. To make matters worse petrol is up 2.09 a liter which will raise the price of everything. I don’t think families can sustain the price hike.. When the voters wake up and see what old “bait and switch” John Key has really done for them, think John Key will be the next one resigning.

    [DPF: 1 demerits for off topic rant. Use general debate]

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  26. trout (932 comments) says:

    Good old JackP – the lefties are grasping at straws – with good reason. The labour ship is sinking with no lifeboat in sight. Get used to it. As the election gets closer we are being subjected to more and more hysterical anti government, anti key rubbish. And so much hopeful mindless peculation.

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  27. GJ (329 comments) says:

    Jackp: Get rid of small thinking for goodness sake. From what I understand those BMW’s will cost the Govt zero! It was a great deal done by the Labour Governement (credit where credit is due) and a smart marketing plan by BMW. The Govt pays the dollors for the cars upfront and BMW pays all maintenance over the three year term. After three years BMW buys them back at the same price the Govt purchased them for and supplies another set of new cars on the same basis. It was a six year contract and great PR for BMW with all the exposure the cars get. How can free cars (irrespective of make) not be a great deal!

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  28. nasska (11,065 comments) says:

    As mentioned by “flipper” above, managers definitely have a use by date. It seems that current thinking is that if an individual hasn’t reached the targets they set in say 6-8 years than they probably wouldn’t succeed even given another couple of decades.

    Running NZ Inc needs hard headed business skills, not waffly feel good emotions. The same people who grow industries are the ones with the ability to grow the country & they are also the individuals who will get stuck in, do the job, get bored & go & do something else. What is possibly wrong with that?

    Few in private enterprise can look forward to guaranteed employment with a pension & a gold watch at the end of it regardless of their calling. I reckon we deserve more from our representatives than their CV describing 40 years of seat polishing & baby kissing.

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  29. Ross Miller (1,686 comments) says:

    An electorate MP will go out in one of three ways (1) is defeated at the polls (2) exits on his/her own volition or (3) fails to gain re selection by his Party. As an Electorate Chair I can tell you that one of the hardest things I ever had to do was the wait on my MP (whom I also counted as a friend) and tell him that his time was up. Whether they choose to heed that advice is another matter. Mine didn’t and come selection he lost and I know that hurt … but to be fair he didn’t throw his toys out of the cot as others have.

    I agree that the days of an MP entering Parliament at age late 20 something and exiting feet first are rapidly drawing to a close and a good thing too. Institutionalised MPs are bad for the countries health.

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  30. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Simon Power…that name will form part of a chapter heading in my book…

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  31. nasska (11,065 comments) says:

    David Garrett @ 4.16pm

    Well on that basis you’ve got two books presold. One for me & I reckon Whaleoil will be a starter.

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  32. Nicholas O'Kane (168 comments) says:

    It is nice that National is able to rejuvanate in Rangitekei, but Simon Power is still well short of his use by date. It wil be nice having a new MP for Rangitekei, but it will be difficult to find someone of the same talent of Simon Power. Further even if such a person will be found it will take years fgor them to acquire the same parliamentarey experience to be a senior minister.

    I think that it is really disapointing that Simon is going so soon. I would have been much hapier had he set a 2014 date, and still hope he may change his mind and stay on a bit longer (maybe as a list MP to retire say 2013). I almost feel as if he has been slightly selfish in his descison, as while National has plenty of talented ministers he will leave a big gap to fill.

    I wish him the best in any non-Parliamentary career

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  33. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    [DPF: 1 demerits for off topic rant. Use general debate]

    Good wine tonight, DPF? Forgot a zero?

    Anyway, although like most Kiwis I find JK a likeable guy, I don’t think he has got a long shelf life as PM – just too shallow policywise.

    But I could be wrong.

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