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National’s Magnificent Seven

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, April 8th, 2010 - 49 comments
Categories: leadership, national, Politics - Tags:

A while ago at a barbeque a couple of friends were discussing the “Seven Good Pairs of Hands Theory”, namely, that a good government only needs seven very good people at its core to run effectively. Indeed, more than seven can often be problematic because of competition issues, but that isn’t usually a problem in New Zealand politics because finding seven really competent politicians in one party isn’t often that easy.

We thought the Clark administration just managed to scrape together a core of seven highly competent politicians (and ok, ‘magnificent’ is definitely poetic license), but we couldn’t for the life of us think of seven names for Key Corp – a few, for sure. But not seven.

So could some Rightie, or generous spirited Leftie, please tell me who National’s Magnificent Seven might be? 

49 comments on “National’s Magnificent Seven ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    Who were the Labour seven? Clark, Cullen, King, Goff, Hodgson, Mallard and Maharey? I chose those names simply because of some article that said there was a tight five namely Clark, Cullen, King, Goff and Hodgson while Mallard and Maharey were sometimes included in that group?

    Anyway National. Key, English, Joyce, Ryall, Nick Smith, Power and Brownlee.

    • Bright Red 1.1

      Do Nothing Key,
      Member for Karori English,
      All-hype Joyce,
      Slash and burn Ryall,
      As a marchhare Smith
      Sexy coal Brownlee

      Power, I’ll give you Power. Make that man leader. National needs one.

  2. Lew 2

    The question wasn’t about who you think is doing good work, it’s who’s competent. The people who are driving the government along are Key, English, Ryall, Power and Finlayson. Of these, English’s competence is under a real shadow. For the same reason Brownlee is a liability. Smith has been dealt the worst hand in the government and is struggling to play it. McCully is MIA and Joyce isn’t even blooded yet. But Power and Ryall are carrying on their agendas strongly, Finlayson is doing excellent work, and Key is doing precisely what his leadership style demands — staying above the fray as much as possible and setting the direction. That’s four.

    They’re doing well. I disagree with a lot of what they’re doing, but they’re doing it, and in such a way as to not yet endanger their electoral fortunes.


  3. Bored 4

    We cant do this on quality, so its quantity….

    Brownlee is the entire Magnificent Seven on account of his weight and ego being the equal of any other 6 Nacts combined lightweight status.

  4. gobsmacked 5

    Unfortunately (for those of us blokes who like to try and impress women by emphasising our right-on Helen Reddy-singalong glass-ceiling-smashing totally-non-sexist credentials), National have not got a single female Minister who’s up to the mark. Judith Collins (much as I loathe her politics) is probably their best media performer, but that’s not saying much.

    Bennett – a joke. Wong – worse. Wilkinson – irrelevant. Tolley – there to make all the others look good.

    All we need now is Heather Roy to become leader of ACT, and Kate Sheppard’s grave-spinning could supply all the electricity we need.

    • B 5.1

      Gotta agree with you there. The women in National give us women a bad name. Did Key purposely choose these women as examples of how women can’t be trusted to think so he could then screw over sole mothers and scrap pay equity with impunity? Or are women with any competence simply too intelligent to ever want to be in the National party?

  5. gingercrush 6

    But that scenario is stupid Lew. Mallard caused major problems for Labour in a number of provincial electorates due to his closing of schools etc not to mention his ability to get himself on the news continuously and not in a good way. Hodgson managed to turn Health from a non-issue (I still think King was Labour’s best cabinet minister) back to an issue again. Clark in the end proved to be Labour’s best and worse selling point. For years she carried that government and carried it well. She could make mistakes but continue to do well despite numerous controversies. In the end though her decisions such as the EFA, Winston Peters, illegal spending etc did her government in. Cullen too drove the Labour party on policy with him having the influence to do many of the things such as WFF, Cullen Fund, Kiwibank (even though that was actually Anderton), the decision not to do sizable tax cuts before the 2005 election etc.

    In many respects they weren’t very competent because they caused electoral problems for Labour. But were they part of a core seven? Absolutely. For instance Hodgson managed to cause serous problems for Labour when he was given the health portfolio. For years King managed to make Health a non issue despite doing many things that were detrimental for instance dramatically cutting waiting lists so that technically they looked good but that’s because many were never on the list. On one hand that is entirely incompetent on the other it made for sheer brilliance in that National were not able to get any in-roads on Labour in regards to health.

    Hodgson when he took the reins enabled the opposition to start attacking Labour on the health. That is incompetence right there. While Hodgson was useless fronting the media and useless answering questions in the house and questionable in regards to driving policy. He remained one of the inner-core inside the Labour Party. It was he who was behind much strategy in each three elections and in how they Labour would handle policy publicy.

    Meanwhile, in many respects Power looks like an effective and core member of the National government. But you go talking to the legal fraternity and there isn’t a lot of love for Power there. In fact my guess is that many in the legal fraternity don’t see Power as competent period. I’m also quite sure that Rex W wouldn’t see Power as competent either.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that competency how you’re using it is useless. As it is perhaps for The Sprout and how he interprets it too. The inner-seven are likely to contain some people that will cause major problems for your government. They’ll put you in the media in a serious negative way. i.e. Hodgson, Mallard and Cullen for Labour and English, Brownlee and Smith for National. Yet in the end all six people I’ve just mentioned were critical in helping to run those governments. How different would Labour have been if it didn’t have its fix-its in Mallard and Cullen to help run Clark’s government.

    Where would Labour be if they didn’t have the strategy Hodgson delivered behind the scenes. Without the parliament knowledge English has how much more difficult would it be for Key’s government to function? Without English you would lose that not to mention its him driving many of the changes this government is doing economically. Its him driving the tax cuts discussion. Its him driving changes in depreciation and closing the loopholes for tax avoidance etc. This government without English wouldn’t be this government. Brownlee while absolutely stumbling at the moment runs the house. Its a critical role in government. Its him who puts the bills up etc. Its him who is driving the electricity reforms. Its him who is right now trying to sell mining (and admittedly doing an awful job in the process). Its him who will stand up in parliament to defend his ministers to the speaker. Those are critical jobs. Its also him who has been the face of Housing insulation etc. Smith looks absolutely wretched. Both ACC and the ETS have been disasters for National and are likely to continue to be problematic in the future. That makes him look well incompetent. But in the end he plays a crucial part in this government.


    So I go back to what The Sprout asked and I guess how I’ve interpreted. You need seven people to run government. I’ll put aside competency because I don’t think you actually need competency. By default the core seven will contain the Prime Minister, the deputy Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. The PM leads the party and therefore the government. The Deputy PM and Finance is typically the same person. Deputy PM tends to be a fixer. As Cullen proved to be for Labour as Palmer did during Lange’s time and as English is currently. The Finance Minister is crucual to policy. How different would the Muldoon government, 4th Labour Government and the 4th National government be without the Finance Minister leading most of the policy changes in that government.? You need a strategist. That is why I included Hodgson for Labour. The other members of the seven need to be strong members of Cabinet. They’ll hold big portfolios and be on the inside with the leadership of that government. They tend to be big policy drivers even though some of it is highly controversial.

    Hence for Clark’s government. The members were clearly Clark (leader), Cullen (Fixer, Deputy PM and Finance Minister), Hodgson (strategist, held bigger portfolios), King (Health and Police and one of the finest Cabinet Ministers of all time), Mallard (fixer, holds numerous portfolios) and Miharey (big portfolio,policy driver).

    Hence for National.Key (leader), English (deputy pm, fixer and finance), Joyce (strategist, in with the leadership, fixer), Power (policy driver holds big portfolios good in the house and on the inside), Brownlee (policy driver, leader of the house, in with the leadership), Ryall (policy driver also on the inside) and Smith (fall guy, pushes through controversial changes but unlike Bennett or Tolley its him driving the policy).

    See Collins is far more competent than either Smith or Brownlee. But is she on the inside of the National leadership? Finlayson? Well he’s a brilliant politician and one of the best lawyers Parliament has seen and is driving the Foreshore and Seabed changes. But as we don’t yet have a solution to the foreshore and seabed. As he doesn’t appear to be on the inside within National and as National is continuously pushing through laws that are contrary to the Attorney General. He just isn’t a member of the seven.

  6. Lew 7

    GC, the problem is that you’re defining the seven as “whoever’s in charge regardless of how good they are”, whereas I’m requiring that they be in charge AND doing well — both in policy terms and in electoral terms (because re-election is the fundamental test of a politician’s competence).


    • gingercrush 7.1

      But that is problematic. On the face of it Power is doing very well but as I’ve said. You go talk to members of the Legal Fraternity and they don’t like many of the things Power is doing. Both Mallard and Cullen and even Clark in the end became electoral poison yet you can’t deny that they were all in that core seven.

      • MollyByGolly 7.1.1

        Who are the seven safe pairs of hands – this will change with time. Clark and Cullen weren’t electoral poison for most of their term, only near the end. So what is the date you are referring to?

        Likewise Key and Joyce are looking okay now but may not stay that way – they don’t have a lot of experience in the political arena and this lack of depth may become a liability once their mistakes start to accumulate.

      • Lew 7.1.2

        GC, Molly has pretty much made my argument. As at today, that’s how things stack up as I see them. English may yet be rehabilitated with a strong budget or just some time. Joyce may show his chops. Brownlee may be able to square the circle of Sch. 4 mining with our 100% pure brand. Key may yet come to be scorned for doing nothing. But none of those are so at present.

        Lockwood Smith is another who is performing very well — but not in a policy leadership position. Otherwise he would be in my list as well, much though I’ve thought poorly of him in the past.


        • MollyByGolly

          Does the Speaker count in this list? Technically, is the speaker part of the government? He certainly doesn’t front on any govt policies.

          • Lew

            Nah, I reckon not — hence leaving Lockwood out (and also Wilson, though she was A-G too for a while).


  7. I’m sure there is a magnificent seven, it’s just that they are not in the visible government except for John Key because, trust me, he is magnificent in his own sleazy way.

    He is magnificently callous, indifferent, greedy, ruthless and manipulative.

    I would go for Cosby, Textor, de Crispigny, the entire CIS board including Ruth Richardson (all extremely competent and successful)

    Perhaps the guy who runs the JB Morgan Chase bank which was registered in October 2007 and which is specialised in mining financing and loves open cast and mountain top mining.

    No, no problem finding a magnificent seven there, the rorter, the fatso, the bitches and the hothead loose cannon to name a few are just window dressing and something to feed the lions when the shit hits the fan.

  8. MollyByGolly 9

    Okay, is this 7 competent ministers or 7 key drivers of the government? They’re not the same.

    I took Sprout to mean safe pairs of hands – people you can give a portfolio to and they get on and do it. They have to be able to handle to policy bits and also the politics and the public relations. They don’t do major screw-ups.

    My list:

    Not Nick Smith – he has a good grasp of policy detail but is easily unhinged and emotionally volatile. So, not a trustworthy pair of hands.

    Not Brownlee. He may try to bulldoze through policy but he doesn’t handle public relations side of his policies well. And he doesn’t give the impression that he is on top of policy detail. Hasn’t managed being leader of the House well. He may be in the inner sanctum and have sway there, but I wouldn’t call him competent OR a trustworthy pair of hands.

    Key? At the moment, yes. (I expect that to change)

    Joyce? At the moment, yes.

    So my list is: Key, English, Joyce, Ryall, Power and Finlayson. (Same as Lew but with English)

    One short of the requisite seven…

    • gingercrush 9.1

      Well couldn’t you add Collins? Deflects Cosgrove? Absolutely. Safe pair of hands? She’s proven it so far. Handles policy etc. Easy done.

      Btw The Sprout who were Labour’s magnificent seven for you? and who were the National people you said qualified?

    • You are all missing the clues .The brains behind all the sleazy stuff like mining shares ,covert privatization, and the Super City( the key to water privatizatin) ) is the shady figure who stands apart from the perceived leaders. His name Groser . Far Right- Wing friend of big business bosses .
      Cold and calculating makes even the “Smilling Assassin” Key soundlike a Plunket Nurse. Crosby /Textor not far behind him either .Just observe people and start to see how often his shadowy presence is there ,silently watching and observing.
      And the reason behind it all ,Big Business, Power . and money !money !money!

  9. MollyByGolly 10

    I would include Collins if she actually achieved something. She sure does talk big, though. (Tough portfolio, granted)

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 10.1

      I liked her response to the Napier shooting and some of the things that have happened in South Auckland. Also supportive of the police. Sort of belies her tough guy image.

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 11

    Are you talking about competence or influence? National’s problem at the moment is that the most incompetent ministers in the economic portfolios (English, Brownlee, Joyce) are in the position to do the most damage (7.2% unemployment, declining real GDP, declining real wages) whilst some of the support ministers are left with declining budgets to pick up the pieces. Collins, Ryall, Power, Smith, Finlayson et al are actually racking ups some achievements.

    Of course none are in the league of Hide who seems to destroy everthing he touches, but thats another story.

    • felix 11.1

      That’s kinda Hide’s job though wrt local govt – search and destroy.

      I mean I’d prefer he didn’t, and it’s going to be a massive pain in the arse putting it all back together once we get rid of the slimy little fuck, but you can’t say he’s not effective.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 11.1.1

        What, sort like destroy your entire portfolio then move onto the next! Interesting concept.

        • felix

          Depends what your long-term goals are – for Rodney and his cult the game is to reduce govt to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.

          In that context, yeah – destroy his entire portfolio and move on.

  11. Fabregas4 12

    Anne Tolley is doing very well in Education and is seriously leadership potential.
    Not many educational experts, teachers, principals or Boards of Trustees like what she is doing and her National Standards probably won’t make any positive difference to children’s learning but so far she hasn’t been caught over spending her allowances or owning five houses on the taxpayer (which as a Real Estate Agent is pretty good). She would look quite attractive in leather and I am sure dabbles as a dominatrix. Good on her!

  12. eye saw 13

    if i sell you my highway you could connect with your bridge and open a tollway.

  13. MollyByGolly 14

    Okay gc, here’s my pick from 1999-2005, in no particular order – and it’s very similar to your list:

    Clark, Cullen, Anderton (destroying the Alliance aside), Hodgson (until he became Health Minister in 2005), Goff, King, Paul Swain, Maharey (much as it pains me to include him – PBRF sucks and public service broadcasting was destroyed on his watch)

    Mallard? Maybe not. Had too many sideshows going on.

    I’m crediting Anderton with managing the implementation of the Alliance’s policies well (but not managing the Alliance!). Compare that to the Greens 2005-2008 who managed to stuff up the implementation of their policies (solar power, home insulation).

  14. Rich 15

    The last government was just Clark and Cullen, in ministerial roles, anyway.

    Now those two are gone and Labour can’t exploit a wide open NACT goal.

  15. Fabregas4 16

    More seriously, I agree with Rich. Right now we have this list:
    GST Rise,
    tax cuts mainly for the well off,
    mining national parks,
    whaling liberalization,
    upset schools,
    State Services cuts,
    unemployment up,
    a race based (ill conceived) social welfare initiative,
    increased acc levies,
    rising crime.

    And National still lead the polls by a country (a large country) mile.

    Someone is not doing their job well enough.

    • the sprout 16.1

      hard to argue against that

    • gingercrush 16.2

      Some of us don’t see those as a bad things. But to me Labour doesn’t seem to know who they are or what they want. Right now on Red Alert they’re posing a lot of questions and actually have some interesting ideas but those seem to be members who probably don’t have the influence inside the party, therefore won’t be able to push such policies. They’re often opposition for opposition sake and thus a lot of time just look negative. I don’t think you can do that when the government is riding high in the polls. It didn’t work for National from 1999 onwards why expect it to happen now.

      They’re also way too negative on the Maori party. I don’t think it looks to many Maori and its difficult to see why more Maori would vote for Labour. What I mean by that is there are large numbers of Maori on the Maori roll and non-maori roll who do not vote. Labour should be getting more Maori to get out and vote because on the whole Maori tick the Labour Party on the party vote. Negativity is also unlikely to get South Aucklanders and other urban low income people to vote Labour. National isn’t the same party it was in 2005. They’re not as threatening therefore stop going negative and start being positive.

      Goff has gone off the rails lately. He gave a really good speech when he signaled changes to the Reserve Act. National looked poor in comparison as they just appeared petty opposing it. But since then Goff hasn’t been seen and policies such as Chief Executives having the same pay as the Prime Minister just doesn’t cut it.

      Its not like National has been wonderful lately. Consistently they’ve released policies that haven’t been well received. Cabinet Ministers appear stupid. Yet Labour can’t seem to capitalise on that. They don’t seem to have proper PR measures in place either. I also think its very problematic that the Greens are literally sleeping at the wheel. I honestly think Rod Donald would be appalled at how useless the current Greens are performing. For weeks you don’t even hear from them. That isn’t a good thing. The Greens and Labour too often appear too separate from each other. Yet without each other they’re not going to govern anymore.

      There is also much apathy. Its displayed by many on this blog and Labour MPs themselves show it. They seem to think National are useless (they might be) , they have stupid policies. That the Clark administration was so wonderful eventually before 2011 people will flock back to Labour. Its that apathy that is killing both Labour and the Greens at the moment. The left needs to fight with all they’ve got. Because National and the right want a second term. Governments make some of their most meaningful changes in that second term. Why just sit there and allow National to get their second term. And I can tell you that will happen unless you fight for it. New Zealand is probably a centre-left country therefore it should technically be easier to win than it is for National. Yet right now you will lose and lose rather badly.

      • the sprout 16.2.1

        geez gc, you don’t leave much left to say when you put it as well as that 😉

      • Lew 16.2.2

        Spot on, thanks GC. Keep it coming.


      • outofbed 16.2.3

        . I also think its very problematic that the Greens are literally sleeping at the wheel. I honestly think Rod Donald would be appalled at how useless the current Greens are performing.

        absolute Tosh getting traction in the media is fucking difficult with a key obsessed media at the moment
        The Greens are far from asleep
        Believe the Greens are working just as hard as they did when Rod was around and Rod would be proud of how the party is making the transition from the old leadership team to the new

        For weeks you don’t even hear from them

        And why do you think that is? Its not for want of a lot of hard work

        for an eaxmple, it was from a Green initative that had English on the ropes earlier on
        and more recently Carter has been exposed with the Ecan thing .

        They have been also working very hard on the anti mining stuff and have got the bastards backpedaling.
        For months people have been signing the Greens anti mining petition in droves and activists are getting organised up and down the country. (something Labour has only managed to do in the last couple of weeks)
        I completely reject your notion that the Greens are asleep at wheel as respectfully suggest you are talking out your arse

        • the sprout

          i know what you mean oob, it is always very frustrating when people think how much you’ve been doing is solely evidenced by how much media coverage you get, especially when msm are really only interested giving attention to those who further their corporate interests.

  16. tc 17

    Some excellent analysis but I can’t agree on the choice of Mahreney/Swain as integral, Swain totally f’d up the unbundling local loop issue and Mahreney made a bad decision re-appointing Rick Ellis at TVNZ after his first cockup of apointing Fraser… and then slung his hook off to Massey.

    King was good in so far as she seemed to look competant but those you talk to in the health caper describe her as ‘ a former dental nurse with many axes to grind..’ GP’s no longer participate in birthing anymore thanks to King and then appointing hubby to a health board was asking for trouble.

    Mallard’s was his own worst enemy and far too full of himself but hey that’s pollys for you.

    Anyway it’s all rather subjective but GC has got the opposition nailed…..oh where for art thou Goff and co…….where indeed, the longer it goes the more it looks like labour is hamstrung by it’s own factions and chosen a team that looks like the old team without it’s leaders rather than a fresh approach.

    Another term in opposition awaits if this stays its course…..great thread and better analysis than any msm journo would ever get published, not that they’d ever write such a piece.

  17. Ace 18

    Bring back Winston Peters.
    One of Winston Peters will exceed than the rest of the National Cabinet, and the Maori Party.
    We need a real opposition party, there is nothing much happening at the moment with the lefties.

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