Way back in August the National Business Review ran a well researched (but off-line) story by Matt Nippert titled Panic station: policy quashing on the ninth floor of the Beehive
And I must say it’s an interesting view into the strange bunker of spin that is the Prime Minister’s office – an office in which it seems the spin doctors are firmly in charge of government policy:
Every morning of almost every weekday at 8am, Captain Panic Pants, Hansel and Gretel, John Key and Wayne Eagleson attend a strategy meeting where risk aversion flatlines good ideas.
“Captain Panic Pants” is also known as Kevin Taylor, Mr Key’s chief press secretary.
Hansel and Gretel are the little-known but high-powered duo of Phil de Joux and Sarah Boyle who hold, respectively the position of deputy chief of staff and senior adviser.
All three, along with chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, work on the ninth floor of the Beehive in the opaque but politically dominant Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
But these so-called “good ideas” seem to be the kind of ideas that would make Roger Douglas proud:
The scaled-down – and then jettisoned – plan to expand mining, the shelved proposal to part-float state-owned enterprises and the wholesale rejection of any policies contained in the 2025 Taskforce are among the examples cited by sources of well-grounded policies that met their end at the hands of the PMO.
As an anonymous Auckland businessman tells it:
The people who are reading your paper are the sort of people who feel they should be able to pick up a phone and call someone and get something gone. And they can’t do that at present.
I’ve heard similar things from business contacts – they’re not happy that they aren’t getting what they want from Key (although the attack on work rights has helped a little). They also know there’s not a lot of depth of support for him in his own caucus.
But Key knows he’s all that National has got going for them which probably goes some way to explaining why he is so careful to manage his image. After all if he’s not delivering the shock and awe policy that business is demanding he better be providing votes and a hope it will come soon.
Right now Key’s tied to the need for a second term. But if he’s not going to stick around after that (and more than a few National party insiders say he won’t) there’s not a lot to hold back all those “good ideas”.