Case of his­tory re­peat­ing it­self?

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the He­len Clark and John Key gov­ern­ments con­tinue to un­fold.

In both cases, af­ter nine years of the pre­vi­ous Gov­ern­ment, a land­slide vic­tory gave Clark and Key first terms in which they could do no wrong, and a hap­less new leader of the Op­po­si­tion who could do noth­ing right.

Then, in the sec­ond term al­most ev­ery­thing sud­denly be­gan to go wrong and the Op­po­si­tion changed its leader.

In both cases, the Op­po­si­tion brought in a like­able fel­low who ev­ery­one said was a nice guy, but no politi­cian. It re­mains to be seen whether David Shearer can do what Don Brash just failed to man­age and top­ple the Gov­ern­ment at the end of its sec­ond term.

Even with hind­sight, it is dif­fi­cult to see the tip­ping point for the Clark ad­min­is­tra­tion, where hard-edged com­pe­tence came to be seen as cold ar­ro­gance.

Sim­i­larly with Key, fu­ture his­to­ri­ans may strug­gle to pin­point just when the public be­gan to re­gard his easy-go­ing man­ner as a mask for an in­ner, empty com­pla­cency.

As yet, the polls do not in­di­cate a mass re­jec­tion of ei­ther the Gov- ern­ment or its leader but the sec­ond term blues have cer­tainly hit the cur­rent Gov­ern­ment with a vengeance.

Since the Par­lia­men­tary year be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, there has barely been a week with­out a self­in­flicted cri­sis, whether it be in ACC, the For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry or with the Gov­ern­ment’s hap­less coali­tion part­ner, ACT.

Mean­while, up to 75 per cent of the public con­tinue to op­pose as­set sales, which the Gov­ern­ment has made the sig­na­ture pol­icy of its sec­ond term.

A sense of com­pe­tence is an elu­sive thing in pol­i­tics.

New Zealan­ders can cope with a fair level of ar­ro­gance so long as they feel there is a safe pair of hands mind­ing the store.

It was not as if Robert Mul­doon for in­stance, got any more or less like­able over the years – it was only when the myth of his com­pe­tence be­came se­ri­ously in ques­tion that his ad­min­is­tra­tion started to un­ravel.

So far, only the usual sus­pects on the Left and the hard­lin­ers on the Right are ques­tion­ing Key’s ap­par­ent lack of any co­her­ent plan for eco­nomic growth.

If and when that dis­quiet spreads fur­ther, Key could well find him­self fac­ing the same trou­ble as his po­lit­i­cal dop­pel­ganger, David Cameron, now faces in Bri­tain.

‘‘It is one thing to be heart­less,’’ as Bri­tish Labour leader Ed Mil­liband re­cently put it, ‘‘but if you are heart­less and hope­less, you are in trou­ble.’’

Ex­actly. For most of the first term of the Key Gov­ern­ment, the Op­po­si­tion tried to por­tray Key as be­ing heart­less – a charge that patently didn’t fit the easy-go­ing, ever-re­spon­sive Prime Min­is­ter.

Yet as mem­o­ries of its own record in of­fice fade, Labour and its new leader have far more chance of mak­ing the ‘‘hope­less’’ part of the ac­cu­sa­tion stick.

But is Shearer the man to drive home that harsh ‘‘heart­less/hope­less’’ ver­dict? Pos­si­bly not. In which case, the un­canny par­al­lels could con­tinue.

Af­ter all, the re­place­ment for the ‘‘nice try, but not good enough’’ Brash was Key, his lieu­tenant on eco­nomic pol­icy.

Sim­i­larly, Shearer’s lieu­tenant on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is David Cun­liffe, who looks more than ca­pa­ble right now of nail­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s al­leged sins of in­com­pe­tence.

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