The journos don’t seem to have been very impressed by Key now that he has returned to take up the reins of government.
Several journos criticised his performance at his first post-Cabinet press conference. There is growing criticism of Key’s response to the situation in Thailand. Certainly both both his lack of urgency and his loose lips regarding contingency plans he had planned to keep confidential haven’t instilled confidence.
Tracey Watkins reckons that, by dithering on the financial crisis, National is risking its honeymoon ending sooner, rather than later:
The rest of the world, in other words, has decided to “go defcon” while on our side of the globe, despite the “whatever it takes” promises from Prime Minister John Key and Mr English, there has only been cautious talk about bringing forward small infrastructure projects, and a whiff of “awaiting developments” in the air. Even the much- touted December economic stimulus package has had to borrow heavily from Labour’s October 1 tax cuts, which have already been banked, to arrive at the $7 billion figure that is being tossed around as a sign of willing on the Government’s part to join the “fiscal stimulation” party…
But National’s talk so far of curbing government spending has been cautious and while it seems increasingly likely that some hard decisions will have to be made in light of the deteriorating position, it has ruled out the sort of upheaval that a harsh prescription like ACT’s would incur. The other option, to throw a far bigger package at the recession than the one National entered the election campaign with, would be in line with the current international fashion but it comes with no guarantee of success either.
With Mr Key out of the country for Apec in his first week on the job, today when he leads his first Cabinet meeting is the first real day of the new Government getting down to business.
Events on the international stage, including the Air New Zealand disaster, may overshadow it and the report card for the new Government, to date, on its response to those disasters in its first week is mixed. After a slow response earlier in the week to events in India (again, we can blame the fact that ministers’ offices are still only on skeleton staff) it had stepped up a gear by the end of the week in responding to the Air New Zealand disaster.
But those are matters beyond the Government’s control; it is on how it responds over the next few weeks to the more pressing matters within its control that will decide whether the honeymoon is a long one or cut short prematurely.
Colin James is also critical of Key’s continued unwillingness to be firm on anything, although his concern is more that National should try to sneak things through while the honeymoon is on:
if John Key is to make good his vaunted “ambition” and enrich us, he must improve infrastructure and hone institutional settings.
Key has promised additions to Labour’s infrastructure and human capital programmes. But on institutional settings he was bland pre-election and post-election. He has taken to not ruling things out, even a carbon tax. Prime ministers have to rule things out – and in. A good time to start is on the honeymoon, when voters are still smoochy. A bad time to start is in a second term when electoral leeway is tighter.
I guess we are all used to the Prime Minister being firm and clear but, in fact, that was Helen Clark’s personality and abilities, not a consequence of the position. I think, now, what we’re discovering is that people don’t change just because their job changes. In opposition, Key was unwilling to say anything that might offend, was vacillating, and had a tendency to mis-speak. Now he is PM, he is still indecisive and vague, and he seems to lack a sense of the gravity of the decisions he must make.