- About us
- Join Unite
- Your employer
- Burger King
- Call Centres
- Language Schools
- Maori TV
- Pizza Hut
- Restaurant Brands Call Centre
- SkyCity Hotels & Casinos
- Know Your Rights
- Health and Safety
- 2010-11 Christmas & New Year holidays
- Delegate's Charter
- Having a baby? Parental Leave
- New law for shifties
- Redundancy rebates for workers
- Starting a new job
- Working for Families
- Create content
Matt McCarten: Key's stroke of genius gives him strong hand in one-party state
Herald on Sunday
I have to admit John Key made a superb job putting a Government together. It was a seamless operation.
Wisdom suggests business types don't make good politicians because they're used to getting their own way. If an employee doesn't do what they want, sacking ends the problem.
MPs can't be removed that way. Any constituent MP who builds a strong local power base can never be sacked, no matter what grief they cause the party leader.
Conversely, a leader holds the job only by keeping a majority of the caucus on side. If the leader steps on enough of his or her MPs, they conspire to sack the boss.
Key's predecessors were all rolled in coups by disgruntled underlings. This fear among incumbent National leaders bred a culture of promoting allies and potential troublemakers ahead of talent and ability.
Key, whose Cabinet has thrown this expediency out the window, often refers to himself as a change agent. Opposition leaders will say this during a campaign but Key's action indicates he intends matching his rhetoric. Bringing Act and United Future on board was predictable. But adding the Maori Party was a stroke of genius.
It serves several strategic goals: Key neutralises Act's influence; he significantly expands his governing authority in Parliament: and, if he can keep the Maori Party on side, he will probably win the next election, even if the centre-right vote diminishes.
Key knows the Maori Party is not a direct competitor and therefore a long-term benefit for him.
Somehow, he got his supporting parties to hold their ministerial posts outside of Cabinet. No doubt they were convinced this makes it possible to disagree with National.
But the enormous advantage to Key is the main Cabinet only has members of his party in it. They can discuss governing and political strategy away from the other parties.
This was the case under first-past-the-post but never under MMP. Effectively, it's a return to one-party rule, giving Key unfettered control of the Government. To promote any conservative legislation Key can turn to the five Act MPs and use the Maori Party for any moderate legislation.
The real indicator of his management style was clear during the week. We've been told Parliament is a ruthless bear pit. But Key's former employer, Merrill Lynch, clearly honed his survival skills, which are superior to his colleagues'.
The quiet and efficient dispatching of a lot of the dead wood, even in his senior ranks, was a masterful operation. In any other National government, you would have expected Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson to hold senior portfolios. They slipped up during the campaign and were unceremoniously cut. But instead of banishing them to the back benches, where they could cause mischief, Key cleverly put Smith into the Speaker's chair and gave Williamson a junior minister's job outside Cabinet.
But here's where he's starting to pick up a reputation as a smiling assassin. When asked whether Williamson could earn his way back into cabinet, Key bluntly replied he had no chance. When did we last hear that sort of public put down by a party leader against one of their own? Another interesting point about the Speaker's role is that it was well known Key had promised Richard Worth the job in return for not fighting Rodney Hide too hard in the Epsom seat.
Not only is there a pragmatic ruthlessness about these decisions they indicate Key has a supreme confidence in being able to make and break promises to individuals as the situation requires. He obviously doesn't feel beholden to any particular faction or individual.
There is a general acceptance Key has promoted talent into Cabinet over internal politics, or personal feelings. Leaving Tau Henare out of any role and excluding senior players like John Carter and Worth from Cabinet reinforces this view.
Unlike previous government formations, we haven't heard a squeak from the losers. This shows the enormous authority Key commands.
Key has never pretended to put personal feelings above political management decisions. When ousting former leader Don Brash, he wouldn't consent to Brash's request to remain with the financial portfolio.
Brash doubled the number of National MPs and came within a seat of becoming Prime Minister at the previous election and would have expected the request to be accepted. Any other new leader would have let him hang around. Instead, Key got Brash to resign from parliament without a whimper. How ruthless was that?
But it doesn't seem personal with Key. It appears his decisions are based on objective criteria, so it follows he will also take this general approach with policy, which is reassuring.
Roger Douglas' exclusion from anywhere near his economic team reveals plenty and we've seen none of the ideological zeal and dogma the Shipley and Richardson types imposed.
We may have a moderate National administration, as opposed to the right-wing lunatics we've endured under previous regimes.
Key has shown himself to be moderate, intelligent and pragmatically ruthless not unlike the last Prime Minister. How strangely comforting.