Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Fair marks in first-term report

Phil Goff is easily as bright and hard-working as John Key but struggles. Photo / APN
Phil Goff is easily as bright and hard-working as John Key but struggles. Photo / APN

Six weeks to the election and I'm still politically agnostic. The National Government has had a poisoned chalice during its first three years - a global recession, the Pike River coal mine disaster, the devastation of the Canterbury quakes and now the Rena grounding.

These events make it hard to judge just how well National has done in terms of delivering on its 2008 election promises. I think the Government has managed the crises well and that John Key has been soothing - don't underestimate the power of a good bedside manner in times of despair.

He may be mocked as Mr Smile and Wave, but doing that and carrying on as normal is not so different to the Keep Calm and Carry On exhortation during World War II.

Besides, his folksy aw-shucks charm is a wonderful cloak for the steely determination and ambition that any leader must have to be effective.

He has managed his caucus effectively, although he dropped the ball when he cited a confidential email from one of his old mates claiming that Standard and Poors would not look kindly on a change of government. He was made to look foolish when Standard and Poors flatly denied they'd said anything of the sort. You don't make tittle-tattle public unless you can back it up. Still, overall, not a bad job.

Phil Goff, on the other hand, has struggled despite the fact that he's easily as bright and hardworking. Maybe it's the fault of Helen Clark that Labour is struggling in the polls. I used to think she was one of the best leaders we'd seen in politics, but a good leader has an effective succession plan and Labour appeared to go into freefall after they were unhitched from the Mother Ship.

With the announcement of its employment policies this week, Labour appears to be appealing to its traditional constituency - low-paid, blue-collar workers. Repealing the 90-day work trial, Monday-ising public holidays that fall on the weekend and raising the minimum wage to $15 is designed to appeal to those Kiwis who are doing it tough.

Although I agree that there are many people in this country who are barely getting by, and for whom any unexpected household expense or medical bill can spell disaster, simply raising the minimum wage won't guarantee long-term financial security. If the minimum wage is raised, some workers will be laid off and prices will go up. End of story.

It's building a thriving economy and encouraging ingenious Kiwis to develop ideas that we can sell offshore, and cheering on our exporters, that will ensure we are all better off as a nation.

Rearranging our priorities will also help so that a person's worth is not measured by their wealth and possessions but by what they contribute to society.

But that's a column for another day.

Our politicians don't have much time. There's only so long that people at the end of their rope can keep tying knots to simply hang on.

John Key's promise to make us the equal of Australia is risible but, given what he's had on his plate, he gets a leave pass - for this term.

If he gets back in he will have to show the sort of innovation and leadership that his supporters believe he is capable of to get a third term.

And as for Labour, throwing money at desperate people from an ever-diminishing number of taxpayers will not save New Zealand. It's vision and innovation and leadership. May the best man win.

- Herald on Sunday

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