What those who label Key as “Teflon John” or “Lucky John” can’t fathom is the leadership skills the PM brings to the job. These include an ability to communicate unmatched by previous PMs, and an unerring instinct connecting with the issues of the day, allied to a systemic cheerfulness. Key’s own personal chemistry has blunted the inherent rivalry visible in previous administrations where Ministers jostled for advancement. The result is a sense of teamwork between the PM and his senior Ministers unrivalled in NZ’s political history …
Key exploits the architecture of Govt, with cabinet committee agendas deeper and more challenging than in previous eras. Ministers who demonstrate they know what they are doing are given their head to do what needs to be done in their portfolios (witness Hekia Parata in Education). But then it is Key who delivers the surprises, as in the decision to raise benefits for the first time in 43 years. Some commentators say the Govt hasn’t done enough in reform, ignoring the welfare, education and social policy developments (which have totally de-fanged Labour), and dismissing the $40bn cost of the Christchurch rebuild as an inconsequential bagatelle. What may prove even more disconcerting to Key’s opponent is his determination to win a fourth term.
I’m going to do some posts next week looking at what reforms National has managed, that would appeal to centre-right people, but also what policies they have implemented that appeal more to centre-left.
People say Key operates from the centre, but this is not quite right. His overall policy programme is centrist, but he actually does do a fair amount of centre-right policies – it just he also does some stuff that usually you expect from a left Government. Overall by darting to the left on some issues, it allows him to advance policies on the right also.