Today is John Key's birthday, and as he turns 51 he'll be reflecting that this has been a good week politically for the Government - something of a rarity this year.

The week started with the two television polls out on Sunday evening showing National up, and Labour and the Greens both down. In one of the polls, National's increase was almost 5%.

Pundits disagree on the reason for the upturn. Some say it is simply that the Government went two or three weeks without having to fire-fight, and instead was concentrating on implementing its programme. The public like it when the Government is focusing on policies, not inquiries or scandals.

Others think it may be linked to the Government's firm rejection of the Maori Council claim that Maori own the water, and their action in the Waitangi Tribunal. Standing up for the common ownership of water is unlikely to be unpopular.


More liberal pundits think it may be Key's support for Louisa Wall's same sex marriage bill. As the second term National Government has been pursuing more controversial policies, Key has become a more polarising figure. His support on an issue which has over-whelming support from those aged under 55, could have had benefits for Key and National, even though ironically the bill is from a Labour MP.

The other theory is that the change is more about a failure from Labour to fire. The drop in support for Shearer as Preferred Prime Minister in one poll, lends weight to that theory.

Key's week would have got better with the revelation by 3 News political editor Duncan Garner that the ill-feeling around the Labour leadership election last year has not gone away, and that at least two senior Labour MPs are briefing against David Cunliffe. A focus on opposition infighting, is what every Government wants,. David Shearer has the bad luck to start his heartland tour, just as the infighting was publicised.

The Government also made two announcements, to near universal acclaim. An increase in maximum penalties for environmental breaches of our economic exclusive zone from six hundred thousand dollars to ten million dollars dramatically reduces the heat around proposed mining and drilling in the zone. A smart move by Environment Minister Amy Adams.

They also announced a national war memorial park, to be open by ANZAC Day 2015, costing $60 million. The Minister of Finance must have been slipped some fiscal laxatives to get that approved, but it has won approval from Labour and the Greens.

Finally, the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal by the Sir Michael Fay led group against the approval for Shanghai Pengxin to buy the Crafar farms, putting that issue to bed. So the Government will look back on the week, and rate it as a good one in the political sense.

However as Aristotle said in 325BC in his Nicomachean Ethics, "one swallow does not make a summer". One good week for the Government, is at best a building block. Their challenge is to turn a good week into a good month, and even a good quarter. That is the challenge for their political management.

Of course, no week should be called a good week, when two servicemen died in combat in Afghanistan, and that also set a sombre tone for the week. As the service by the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan has bi-partisan support, their killings did not have a political impact (hence why I said it has been a good week politically), but I wanted to acknowledge their deaths. New Zealand is a small enough country that any death of a serviceman is felt personally by the country.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team have now been in Afghanistan for nine years. When they return home next year, that will mark a decade of contribution to trying to stabilise and reconstruct Afghanistan - three times as long as the Korean War and two years longer than the New Zealand involvement in the Vietnam War. There is a consensus that ten years marks more than a fair share of the burden. They will be very welcome home, once their current mission ends.