As described in Hager’s Dirty Politics, the Nats run a very successful “two tier” communications strategy. Key is Mr nice and blokey, Key’s people run the vicious dirty politics stuff. It’s a stunningly successful formula.
Key ditching responsibility for the GCSB and SIS, and adopting the newly created title of Minister for National Security and Intelligence, is another example of the two tier strategy. Key continues to take the limelight whenever he wants it, while foisting the responsibility, parliamentary questions and so on, on the topics that actually matter to Kiwis (like, say, who is spying on us and why) on to an underling. All the follow up questions to the Greenwald / Snowden exposé (and it’s possible that Key knows that there is more in the pipeline) are no longer Key’s responsibility.
Speaking of the limelight, Key is soon going to be giving a “major speech on terror threat”. The Americans have long known that you can justify anything in the name protection from terrorism, so look to Key’s increasing use of that strategy also during the next 3 years.
Update: Gordon Campbell said it better.