But that’s still nearly two years away and Key is focused more immediately on the year that’s been – it was a year that started with Andrew Little still new in the job as Labour leader, and making a decent enough fist of it that Key might have been worried. But he’s not.
“With the greatest respect, all they’ve done is stopped arguing with each other,” he says.
“Okay so that’s a positive I suppose. But they haven’t really done a lot, their numbers are not moving. …and as I said to our guys [our] numbers are good, we’re advancing our agenda for 2016, we didn’t lose a minister [to scandal] this year, so broadly speaking it’s been a very solid year for us and across the things that we would care about.”
By that he means National got the books back into surplus – “and that’s a big tick for us, very few Westernised countries have managed that”.
He ticks off the other plusses – National is advancing its agenda in areas like welfare, education and health, it got the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement over the line, and – one for the greenies – it made the Kermadecs an ocean sanctuary.
It’s good steady progress and that’s why the needle hasn’t budged on National’s support, he maintains.
“If you think about why our numbers aren’t moving it’s because no one expects perfection from the Government because I don’t think any government can achieve that.
“But across all the indicators the voters care most about – the economy, law and order, health and education – we’re delivering.”
No surprise that I agree, but the PM is right. People care about things that affect their lives.
And it has been a year where the Government didn’t just manage to balance the books, but gave beneficiaries the first real increase in 43 years, did the biggest marine sanctuary in the world, saw crime continue to drop and good progress towards health and education targets.
Ponytail-gate was the big political story of the year.
Waitress Amanda Bailey complained Key repeatedly pulled her hair, even after she pleaded with his minders to make him stop.
It seemed shockingly strange behaviour for a prime minister. It polarised public opinion. And Key’s opponents made a meal of it.
It was a chance to chip away at Key’s personal mana.
So was he diminished by it?
Not at all, says Key. Those Opposition attacks just did not resonate with people. He knows that because of the polls. And as we all know, it is an article of faith with Key that the polls don’t lie.
“[My numbers] didn’t move when they polled right around it, they polled immediately after it, we poll every week and and it never did anything. In fact, to be honest, my numbers went up.”
It was a story that had the potential to harm Key. But the media and opposition went so over the top with the story, that people then started to feel sorry for Key, an his numbers did go up. If there had been a less frenzied response to it, then it may have ended differently, but once again the opposition are their worst own enemies.
The thing is they never seem to learn.