Roughan on Key

An interesting column by John Roughan on John Key:

Labour, however, staked its whole campaign on opposition to .

The Opposition did far more than Key to ensure the election was a referendum on them.

Mercifully, I wasn’t here to see what happened but it seems to be agreed National was returned despite its programme, not because the nation was reconciled to it.

Labour and the Greens were sufficiently heartened by opinion polls then and since to oppose the sales all the way to the enactment of the necessary legislation this week.

Polls continue to find most people against the idea but the Government has not suffered very much.

Its polled support is down to around 47 per cent, which is high considering the state of the economy and the steps it is taking.

The election result and everything that has happened since can be explained, I think, by Key’s business credibility.

The voters have responded like small shareholders in a large company when a good chief executive proposes to sell some lucrative assets and they know they will lose him if they vote against it.

Shareholders in this situation can quite comfortably accept decisions they don’t much like or barely understand, because they like the chief executive, trust him, respect his judgment and want to keep him.

Leaders can make unpopular decisions, so long as the public believe the leader has a honest belief in their policies. John Howard was a great example of this – winning four terms despite introducing what was an unpopular GST, taking part in Iraq and a refugee policy which at the time was very unpopular.

When someone like Key looks at a profitable state-owned enterprise he doesn’t simply see a stream of future dividends as most people do – and as the Greens did when they calculated the sale of power companies would be a net loss to the public.

Key looks at those properties and thinks of the cost of the capital he is having to borrow for other public purposes.

Because he is running a country, not a company, he thinks the best use of his capital is in public services that cannot operate profitably and attract private capital.

Labour and the Greens think so too – that is why they haven’t undertaken to buy back the assets Key will sell. And not many of us would want them to. It is a curious thing that while there is heavy opposition to privatisation there is no public enthusiasm for nationalisation.

Indeed. But Peters is saying nationalisation will be a bottom line. Of course he once said no baubles of office also.


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