THEY USED to mock Anne Tolley. They used to laugh at her rambling, head-scratching monologues and wonder at how she had made it to such an important job. They used to say she was not up to it and that she would surely get the flick from her boss, John Key.
But the joke is not so funny any more. Anne Tolley has turned in to this government’s great survivor.
She has seen off four Labour Party pretenders to her job and, after two years of battening down the hatches, the minister of education is finally on the front foot.
Besides dispatching Chris Carter, Trevor Mallard, Darren Hughes and the short-term acting spokesman, David Shearer, Tolley has also witnessed the backs of arch union leader critics Kate Gainsford and Frances Nelson.
She has stared down endless and noisy criticism of her flagship national standards to the point that she is confident enough to show up at this weekend’s meeting of the Principals’ Federation and tell them all about a controversial new policy she’s pushing to fast-track teachers into the job. …
Once she has managed to consistently avoid gaffes that make her look stupid, Tolley’s ordinariness becomes an asset. The barbs from the intelligentsia then start to rebound and become political assets to Tolley. National Party voters like nothing better than straight-up sheilas sticking it up the namby-pamby commentariat.
That’s why they reckon Tolley is such a hit in the airport lounges. Her supporters say she often gets parents walking up to her without hesitation to talk about her national standards and to puzzle with her about why people hate on her so much.
The campaign against Tolley was so nasty and personal, that having endured it she got sympathy. You had union leaders on television sneering at her, and making it clear they would rather destroy her than work with her, and the average punter didn’t like that.