Watkins on National’s popularity

Tracy Watkins gives five reasons for why is still polling in the mid to high 40s after five years in office.

  1. Steering a course through the global financial crisis
  2. Softly, softly government
  3. Tragedy and disaster
  4. Raising the bar for ministerial performance

With the second point, Watkins notes:

Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office.

Previous National governments would have worn the scorched-earth label as a badge of honour, and Key’s government came under pressure from some quarters to hack into government spending under cover of the crisis. That National resisted doing so – and even increased spending on welfare initiatives at the height of the GFC – has earned Key a reservoir of goodwill with voters and neutralised Labour’s attacks on him as a Right-wing wolf in sheep’s clothing.

National is on track to get the books back into surplus, without “slash and burn”. The challenge when we get back into surpluses is to have a balanced policy where some of the surplus goes on debt reduction, some on extra spending and some on tax reductions. I believe NZers support a balanced approach. Labour only does tax reductions at the point of a gun – they believes surpluses mean just spend as much extra money as possible.

Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year.

I’m not certain of the timing, but it could be more frequent than annually. But he certainly does take a CEO approach to the Government, and regularly gives feedback on where things are going well and not so well.

He shocked many when he dumped Cabinet ministers Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson at the start of this year for under-performance, an unheard-of occurrence.

And there may be another reshuffle next year. Not because any Ministers need to go, but because it is important to rejuvenate the team.

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