Tracy Watkins has identified five reasons for National’s continuing popularity:
– John Key. As the world plunged towards doom and gloom in 2008, Key seemed like a leader for the times – cheerful, optimistic and a tonic for voters ready for a change after nine years under Labour.
He has also been National’s first genuinely charismatic leader in a long time. . .
Middle New Zealand also instinctively trusts Key as someone who understands hard times. But it is also a case of “what you see is what you get”.
I first met John when he had been an MP for only a few months. He hasn’t changed. He’s comfortable in his skin and doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t.
– Steering a course through the global financial crisis. In his speech to the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce this week, Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office.
Previous National governments would have worn the scorched-earth label as a badge of honour, and Key’s government came under pressure from some quarters to hack into government spending under cover of the crisis. That National resisted doing so – and even increased spending on welfare initiatives at the height of the GFC – has earned Key a reservoir of goodwill with voters and neutralised Labour’s attacks on him as a Right-wing wolf in sheep’s clothing. . .
The focus has been on getting more for less, and it’s working.
– Softly, softly government. Change may not be fast under this government, but the cumulative effect of many of its decisions will be far-reaching.
Small movements on the tiller can result in big changes of direction over time, taking people with you.
– Tragedy and disaster. National might have thought it had enough on its plate when it won power in the midst of a world wide economic crisis and the domino-like collapse of finance companies, including South Canterbury Finance, which required a $1.7 billion bailout. But it has also been tested by a succession of New Zealand’s worst tragedies and disasters, including the Pike River mining disaster, killing 29 men, and the Canterbury earthquakes, which cost 185 lives and left a repair bill of billions of dollars.
It has been a staggering run of bad luck, but electorally it did National little harm since the events were beyond its control and enhanced its credentials as a safe pair of hands.
– Raising the bar for ministerial performance. Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year. . .
Ministers know they are there to make a positive difference, not as of right, and there are other capable and talented people in caucus ready to step up.
#gigatownoamaru understands you have to work to meet targets.