Things are turning soggy for Key

00:31, Oct 11 2012

Anyone tempted to pick the turning point for the John Key Government should start by giving themselves a good talking-to. 

Whenever the press gallery has picked up on what, in any other circumstances, would look like woeful political management, National and Key have sailed through unharmed.

But this time it feels for real.

The appalling handling of the Christchurch schools closures, the water rights and asset sales issue and the confidence-sapping farce of the Dotcom affair have provided the headlines. But in the end it is economic prospects that fatally undermine a government's prospects for re-election.

It's not so much the unemployment numbers, which are remarkably resilient. Nor is it the GDP forecasts - because, let's face it, by international standards they are relatively robust.

But it is a sense you pick up when you are travelling around the country; that people are just getting tired of the same recipe, the same string of headlines about job losses, the hard hits to some regions. 

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Yesterday's Roy Morgan poll extended the trend in recent polls that confirmed things are turning soggy for Key. The combined Green-Labour vote was well north of National's - 47 to 41.5 - and NZ First was looking strong at 6.5 per cent.

But it was significant that National-aligned blogger and pollster David Farrar took the results seriously - ''sober news'' for National - and proposed his own suite of solutions that included a commission of inquiry into the GCSB, a significant change to the Christchurch schools debacle, deal with the child poverty and paint the opposition as the one that will load costs on struggling households.

It's hard to disagree with David's recipe as the immediate tactical response, but there is a bigger strategic game in town, too, that will much be less palatable to the Government. 

It increasingly looks as if Key will need to turn common ground with Winston Peters on superannuation and dislike of Green policies into a 2014 deal - if he hopes to be re-elected.

With Peters I think it is a line call which he will enjoy more; kicking Key out of office, or forcing him to deal - as he did with Jim Bolger in 1996 - to stay in office.

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