Na­tional sur­vives 2013 un­scathed

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

In the sec­ond year of its sec­ond term, any ad­min­is­tra­tion will be show­ing signs of wear and tear, so the Key gov­ern­ment will be happy enough to fin­ish 2013 a bit wounded, but in far from ter­mi­nal con­di­tion.

The re­silience of Na­tional’s poll standings – and of Prime Min­is­ter John Key’s pop­u­lar­ity – prob­a­bly sur­prises even the party lead­er­ship.

The Gov­ern­ment be­gan the year by un­veil­ing its flag­ship as­set sales pro­gramme, which was sup­posed to in­spire or­di­nary in­vestors to flock to buy shares and raise from $5 bil­lion to $7 bil­lion in the process, thereby boost­ing the share­mar­ket.

It didn’t hap­pen. The ‘‘Mum and Dad’’ in­vestors stayed home, the process un­der­shot even the low­est re­turns pre­dicted, shares in the state en­ergy com­pa­nies con­cerned ac­tu­ally did worse than the share­mar­ket av­er­age, and – fi­nally – vot­ers body-slammed the en­tire process in a ref­er­en­dum.

Cu­ri­ously, lit­tle blame for this de­ba­cle seemed to be lev­elled at the politi­cians re­spon­si­ble. Such has been the story of 2013. The Gov­ern­ment re­mains rea­son­ably pop­u­lar, while its pet poli­cies con­tinue to tank.

For con­nois­seurs of po­lit­i­cal train wrecks, 2013 of­fered sev­eral clas­sic mo­ments.

For 15 min­utes or so, Na­tional back­bencher Aaron Gil­more be­came the most well known (and re­viled) politi­cian in the land, be­fore re­sign­ing in disgrace.

Sim­i­larly, David Shearer is prob­a­bly des­tined to join Gil­more as a ques­tion in a fu­ture edi­tion of Triv­ial Pur­suit – who was that guy who be­came Labour leader af­ter the 2011 elec­tion, but got re­placed be­fore the next one?

The Greens have rea­son to re­gret Shearer’s de­par­ture, be­cause the ad­vent of David Cun­liffe ended a dream run for Greens co-leader Rus­sel Nor­man as the de facto leader of the Op­po­si­tion.

In a ‘‘ so far so good’’ per­for­mance, Cun­liffe has re­stored Labour as a cred­i­ble po­lit­i­cal force, but with­out set­ting the elec­torate on fire.

For some, 2013 was an an­nus hor­ri­bilis.

United Fu­ture leader Peter Dunne re­signed from Cab­i­net in the wake of some silly, silly mis­takes over the leak­ing of the Kit­teridge re­port into the GCSB.

By year’s end, Dunne was claim­ing to have been ex­on­er­ated by a sub­se­quent in­quiry. Few peo­ple agreed.

Like some dusty comet, United Fu­ture went from be­ing a barely de­tectable pres­ence to van­ish­ing al­to­gether in midyear – only to reemerge on the far side of the po­lit­i­cal so­lar sys­tem at year’s end, soli­tary and re­mote.

The Maori Party also slipped from po­lit­i­cal rel­e­vance this year, with its founders (Pita Sharples and Tar­i­ana Turia) set for re­tire­ment.

As a perks ma­chine though, the Maori Party still served a pur­pose.

Sharples got to at­tend the Nel­son Man­dela me­mo­rial ser­vice, which he com­plained was too long, while some­one wag­gishly in­vited a supermodel to sit on Sharples’ knee.

It will be all up­hill from here for new Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Ul­ti­mately, ev­ery­thing leads back to Key, and to his en­dur­ing run of pop­u­lar­ity.

Key’s gaffes about Kim Dot­com or over ap­point­ing his chum to head the GCSB caused no dis­cernible im­pact, and nei­ther did his un­der­per­form­ing min­is­ters, such as Hekia Parata and Nick Smith, who sur­vived a scan­dal con­cern­ing the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s amended sub­mis­sion on the Ru­atani­wha dam.

Christchurch, mean­while, sim­mered with anger over the still­tardy re­sponses to the earth­quake.

Dur­ing 2013, trou­ble came in many shapes for the Gov­ern­ment, but Key bobbed along above the waves, ap­par­ently unsink­able, for now at least.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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