We’ve all been subjected to mainstream journalists gushing over Key’s ‘strong leadership’ but now it’s being put to the test and we’re seeing weakness, not strength.
Look at how he has dealt with Richard Worth compared to how Clark dealt with ministers.
When Helen Clark was Prime Minister, especially in her early days, she had the political capital and the authority to sack ministers for the slightest transgressions. She set such a high bar that David Parker resigned from his portfolios merely because he wasn’t sure he hadn’t inadvertently done something wrong. Clark refused to let her government’s agenda be derailed by ministerial scandals.
Key, on the other hand, has given Worth chance after chance after chance. I think it’s now four strikes and still not out.
Key’s response to the Worth issue has been weak. Giving him a ‘bollocking’, which was not enforced, was the bare minimum. His response could only have been weaker if he had curled up in a ball and cried.
If Key was a strong leader he would sack Worth rather than bear the cost having his government tainted with corruption and embarrassed whenever Worth opens his mouth. By allowing Worth to stay in his position, Key has allowed his government to be put on the back foot and for no good reason.
If you can’t sack a minister whose own colleagues privately call Worthless, who can you sack?
Then there’s Key’s control over his government’s policies. It’s become a running gag by now that every week or so Key hears about some new idea, excitedly announces it as government policy, only for English to kill it a week later. Key can’t open his mouth on any topic without there being a fair chance English will contradict him. His flagship idea from his much-vaunted jobs summit has become a joke.
If you can’t even get money for a relatively cheap pet project like the John Key memorial cycleway, what of your policies can you get done?
Just look at how weakly he has dealt with his government’s priority, the economic crisis. There has been no policy of any significance whatsoever. Everything Key has mentioned has been killed by English.
Whereas Key (correctly) said the government needs to counter-cyclically and spend more in a recession to inject demand into the economy what is actually happening is a repeat of English’s failed policies for the Asian Crisis – no economic assistance, and spending cuts.
He can’t control his ministers, he can’t control his government’s policy. Key is looking more and more like David Lange, a likeable character but a weak and ultimately failed prime minister.
[update: rOb has helpfully pointed out this list of the ministers Clark sacked and why. First to go was Dover Samuals because he could not be effective while “allegations, controversy and public debate swirl around him”. Tha’ts pretty tough. So much for Key setting a new standard]