Rating the performance of this Government in its first year of operation is not an easy thing to do.
This of course goes back to the way in which the New Zealand voters played the spread of cards. Ultimately they did not give the National Party a mandate to govern — nor the support parties who had provided the numbers for National to govern for nine long years. In fact, anyone associated with the National Party in the course of its previous reign was left totally decimated.
This has a lot to do with poor strategic positioning, management and resource spread on behalf of those who led the National Party strategy into Election 2017. The writing was on the wall three months out from the election that unless National bolstered support partners, it was going to be in great difficulty.
For some unfathomable reason, National did not get this message. It thought that in the event it posted a majority-minority vote, New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters would feel obliged to form a government with it.
This is not how politics works. It works on getting simple numbers. You need 61 votes in the House.
Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First were able to cobble together the numbers to deliver a majority government. At no time leading into the election was there a cohesive strategy, apart from a Memorandum of Understanding, entered into by the Andrew Little-led Labour Party and the James Shaw-led Green Party.
Once the constituency dealt the cards and the Right Honourable Winston Peters chose to go with a Labour-Greens coalition government, it was all over Rover for the next three years for the Nats.
What I found bizarre was the incredulous way in which National Party folk wrung their wrists and hands on the incredible outcome of Winston not ordaining them a fourth term. This smacked of arrogance and entitlement.
The New Zealand voter, since the election of our first government in 1854, has been deeply reluctant to provide four terms to any government. Three terms allows one government to make all of the appointments across all organs of state and state-appointed boards. This level of political patronage and largesse can, and is, dangerous because it leads to a control mechanism operating out of the office of the prime minister and/or his or her kitchen cabinet.
We all knew that New Zealand First, the Greens and Labour would have to swallow a few rats in order for a government to be formed. The reality is, and always will be with this government, that Winston Peters was the Kingmaker. I have already opined on the massive largesse he has received for his party in regards to being in a significant leveraged position he was granted by the electorate.
It is difficult in any party that has strong opinion being expressed on the spectrum of that party to settle on a cohesive policy. The fact that we had three parties endeavouring to negotiate a way forward following the 2017 election was a superb display of Mixed Member Proportional representation in play.
The majority-minority party no longer asserted its mana regardless as had happened in the John Key administration and prior to that the Helen Clark administration. We had in effect 18 years of a phony MMP government because at all times, the majority party asserted total dominance.
Accordingly it is a credit to the new government that it has set a new course underwritten by a new values system.
So 34 years after the election of the David Lange-led Labour Party and the Rogernomics revolution that was visited on this country, we now have across the globe, including New Zealand, a refreshing look as to the unintended consequences and perverse results of the application of supply side economics at all costs.
The emperor is now seen to be without his clothes and we have an unusual form of so called market-led economics in New Zealand.
The consequence of this sees New Zealand win out of the most dramatic increase in inequality in the OECD. The so called contestable market place has become a market full of oligarchs, duopolists and cartels. Have a look at the banks, electricity companies, DIY supply stores to construction, food retailers and the further embedding of the petrol company cartels.
It will be refreshing to see how the true compass of this nation has changed with the announcement of a budget based on wellbeing frameworks and measured against the humanity of government delivery and services, rather than continuing to pick winners and losers.
Government must be for the many, not the few.
It is difficult to pick out the big names in this government outside those who populate the inner kitchen cabinet. The office of the prime minister delivers the holder of that office significant gravitas with the nation.
For example, Helen Clark, some would say, had the charisma of a rock but on obtaining the premiership, her prime ministerial numbers, while not flash, held strong and continued following her election.
Jacinda Ardern is not only personable and likeable but worked the New Zealand constituency from the time of her arrival into politics and prior to her appointment as leader of the Labour Party, had a strong recognition factor and a strong network across a number of voting cohorts. Without doubt she has been the face of the first year of this administration closely followed by the Rt Honourable Winston Peters, who as expected fulfilled the role of caretaker Prime Minister more than adequately.
You have to add Finance Minister Grant Robertson into the mix along with New Zealand First's Shane Jones, and David Parker and Andrew Little.
Phil Twyford has two very difficult ministerial positions in housing and transport. He is yet to fulfil his promise in either one, but no one can build 100,000 homes in one year. The fact that we have a housing crisis and something is being done about it, at least is one accolade.
Apart from Iain Lees-Galloway, who has to get the message: when in doubt, kick them out Iain.
There is a gaping silence from the Māori caucus of the Labour Party and it is very difficult to rate any one of them — apart from the Minister of Employment Willie Jackson who for reasons unbeknown to him, is one of the most successful Employment Ministers of the past two decades.
The National Party is full of highly talented people but they will not sit idle as a consequence and separate factions have already organised themselves for life once they re-seize the treasury benches.
It is always difficult to take the leadership following nine years of rule and for one to be successful, you require the government to make some truly horrible decisions in its first term. That is unlikely to happen and that's why Simon Bridges is facing some difficulty — not because he is a poor operator but because he has some outstanding talent in his caucus and with plenty of time up their sleeves, a number of them will think they can do a better job. That's the nature of politics.
And that's the regretful reason as to why factionalism in the National Party can never be resisted.
The Jami-Lee Ross saga exposed the true underbelly of politics — both from a party frame and from a parliamentary frame. Most people vow to protect the party brand. Jami-Lee Ross chose not to, and disclosed what a good time some MPs have with one another in Wellington.
Sometimes I pine for the absolute brutality and honesty of Australian politics. Here in New Zealand it is deemed that there is no graft, no corruption, no sordid little affairs and we all live in love and harmony in our parties and we all have a moral compass as good as the great JC.
If you believe that, you still believe in Santa Claus.