Life after Key

Stuff reports:

Is Paula Bennett the real deal? Given the polls, fretting about John Key’s succession plan might seem overly anxious. But third terms are the time when people start wondering openly about what comes after defeat slaps a once popular leader in the face. And Bennett’s name increasingly crops up as the woman who might step into Key’s shoes when that day comes.

Certainly, business leaders think she might be the real deal  –  Bennett topped the list of mentions in a mood of the boardroom survey by the New Zealand Herald canvassing Key’s likely successor.

That is no coincidence. Some of those surveyed worried about Key’s lack of succession planning. But they clearly haven’t been watching closely enough.

When Key announced his new lineup after the election Bennett was elevated to a cluster of portfolios that thrust her directly into the engine room of the Government’s reform programme both in social housing, and infrastructure. An associate finance role also puts her in an understudy role to Finance Minister Bill English and gives her CV the extra gloss of fiscal credibility. Short of bellowing “Paula for prime minister” through a megaphone, Key probably couldn’t do much more to announce the fact that he has anointed Bennett as his successor.

I’d also take note of the fact he has promoted Amy Adams, Simon Bridges and Jonathan Coleman to the front bench. They’re all seen as having the potential to take up senior leadership roles.

Clark’s big mistake was his her third term cabinet looks very much like her first term cabinet – especially the front bench.

While the top four in remain basically unchanged, most of the Cabinet is new blood. The years each entered is:

  • 1990s or earlier – 5
  • 2002 – 2005: 4
  • 2008: 10
  • 2011: 1

So over half the Cabinet were not even MPs until 2008. Key has always focused on renewal – both in Cabinet and caucus.

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