The puzzle remains: how can a second-term government - routinely distracted by its own blunders - continue to poll around the record levels it was elected on over four years ago?

Herald political columnists are the latest to attempt some answers in Opinions on PM's poll showing. Business editor Liam Dann makes the point that, while many may be struggling, National is actually delivering on many economic issues: 'No one wants to say it out loud, but for a big chunk of middle New Zealand - homeowners with some job security - these are relatively benign times'.

John Armstrong elaborates in a separate analysis giving ten reasons for National's continued popularity - most of which depend on John Key's personal popularity and political instincts - see his thoughtful column: How brand National survives the follies. Although there is 'no mood for change' Armstrong notes that the Government still has a major election problem: 'National may still lose next year's election, but only because of an absence of coalition partners. Its real enemy is MMP mathematics. It can't do much about that'.

'Re-election appears improbable' agrees Matthew Hooton in his column, Coherent economic story needed, but 'It would help if its economic ministers could tell a single story about its record and programme as compelling as managed by the IMF' in its recent positive report on New Zealand. The economy may do the talking for them thinks Corin Dann: 'Growth is heading to an annual rate of 3 percent. That will start to flow through to wage increases and Kiwis should crucially start feeling better off. That could be very hard to counter come the election - see: English's luck looks like it may be changing.

Unemployment is the one indicator that continues to worry, however. Bryan Gaynor takes a detailed look at the latest figures which show that despite GDP growth of 2.5%, the economy lost nearly 32,000 jobs last year: 'These figures indicate there has been a material increase in productivity but that is not much consolation for young people looking for stimulating careers at home' - see: Good and bad news in nation's report card. Gaynor also thinks our balance of payments shortfall is a worry and isn't likely to improve any time soon.

While there is some head-scratching involved in trying to account for National's popularity, the reasons behind the Maori Party's political woes abd failure are hanging out for all to see. There are internal leadership divisions that continue to be played out in a very public way - see: Maori Party needs a young face to stay relevant - Flavell. On top of that, their government partner is probably not going to make life any easier thinks Tracy Watkins: 'National has also stopped worrying overly much about ruffling the Maori Party's feathers. The lazy way in which National sprang the controversial appointment of Dame Susan Devoy as race relations commissioner on the party was evidence of that' - see: Maori Party pays high price for power. While Labour's Maori MPs may benefit from the Maori Party's demise, Watkins points out that, counter-intuitively, the outcome most likely to lead to Labour becoming the government is actually for Hone Harawira's Mana to pick up the Maori seats. Watkins also argues that Flavell's leadership ambitions are his 'last roll of the dice at saving his Waiariki seat'.

Devoy's appointment continues to be debated, especially her apparent lack of direct experience or qualifications for the role of Race relations Commissioner. The Timaru Herald thinks it is a positive: 'I like that Dame Susan isn't an academic or lawyer or past public servant' - see: Let's trust her compass. The Herald editorial isn't so sure: 'What is important is her experience, or lack thereof, in race relations. Only on that basis should her appointment be judged - see: Dame Susan's race relations post a puzzle. This is a view shared by the Dominion Post - see: Devoy admirable but ill-suited to job.

A number of former staff of the Human Rights Commission, and friends of Joris de Bres, are coming out publicly against Devoy. Politico, Blaise Drinkwater (@BKDrinkwater) has tweeted in response to say, 'Comments from ex-HRC staff re: RRC are reflecting very poorly on that office'. For example, Marama Davidson, a former adviser, is unimpressed that Devoy got the job despite there being an 'abundance' of people who have 'given their lives to building bridges between groups and who have committed their learning and living to a true understanding of race relations' - see: "Annette Sykes is a stupid person" says Judith Collins. And Tze Ming Mok says Devoy is 'now a national joke' and 'her appointment is a slap in the face to every ethnic minority in the country who has ever experienced racism' - see: Devoy'd of credibility. Devoy herself has answered some of the criticism in an interview with Charles Anderson on Stuff - see: Squashed in court of public opinion. She notes it may be 'her last interview for a while'.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

Wage slaves could have their very own 'Beneficiary slave' via Trademe according to Rodney Hide's latest brainwave - see: Auction the unemployed on Trade Me. Is there anything a market solution can't solve? Rodney Hide also makes a very interesting argument that National has decided to go easy on David Shearer and his banking blunder because they fear him being replaced - see: What $50k offshore account?.

The Greens' transformation from sandals to suits continues, with Metiria Turei now dressing in designer clothes. Seven Sharp has traced the transformation in her image and also evaluates the dress styles of some other politicians - watch the 6-minute video, The Green Party's corporate look. Cameron Slater asks who is paying for the apparently pricey outfits - see: Turei sells out her roots. At what price?.

Brian Edwards has a show-by-show analysis of the state of current affairs on the telly - see: Redefining 'Current Affairs' and why is everybody standing at TV3?. His verdict and analysis is quite fascinating, with high praise for Seven Sharp and other competitors. This leads to an excellent discussion in the comments section, including Chris Trotter's remark, 'This is probably the most disappointing posting I have yet read on this blogsite'.

The Government has funded the Team New Zealand with $36m for its yachting, but there appears to be no transparency and accountability for that money according to research by Simon Plumb and Tony Wall - see: Sailing away with our money.

Has the Tuhoe settlement opened a 'pandora's box' for Maori independence? - see Rob Crawford's A State within a state?.

Selwyn Manning looks in detail at the GCSB and, particularly, John Key's oversight of our spies - see: Rudderless Within The Great Game.

Recently elected, and now retiring, Christchurch City Councillor Peter Beck reflects on his brief experience on the council, saying voters need a clear choice in this year's election - see: Mayoralty bid should be two-horse race.

The Government's actions on housing are 'just political play acting designed to hide the fact that the Government has done nothing about housing affordability over the last four years'. This is Labour MP Phil Twyford's view of the berating that the Auckland Council received from new housing minister Nick Smith - see his blogpost, A lion in Parliament but a mouse when he comes to Auckland. And Smith does seem to be toning down the rhetoric already - see Abby Gillies' Smith appears to offer olive branch ahead of Auckland house talks.

Opposition parties often exaggerate potential bad economic news, but according to a 'Telecom insider' Labour's claims of 1,500 job losses at the company may actually be understating the real numbers by quite a margin - see TVNZ's A third of Telecom staff to lose jobs - insider.

A deal between John Tamihere's Waipareira Trust and a property developer is likely to cost the publicly funded trust more than $1 million - see Matt Nippert's Former MP's property deals turn sour.

Finally, some commentators are letting their imaginations run wild over the David Shearer banking blunder - see Chris Trotter's conspiratorial Lies, Damned Lies and Imagined Conversations, and Steve Braunias's very funny Secret Diary of David Shearer, which comes with cameos from Trotter, Brian Edwards, David Farrar, Susan Devoy John Key.