Why the rugby won't help John Key

19:45, Oct 24 2011

John Key and Phil Goff will be terrified by the outcome of the World Cup: everyone is now saying "Stephen Donald for PM."

Nah, I don't really believe the election outcome will be influenced by the rugby result. To think it does, you have to believe that tens of thousands of us watched Thierry Dusautoir pushing his formidable pack even further in that last 10 minutes, watched the black wall fighting back desperately, and then as the air finally rushed back into our blood and the relief and joy filled our eyes we said to ourselves: "That's it! That's why we need to sell our assets!"

The Government will get a feel-good credit because the event went off so well, despite the best efforts of Murray McCully to butcher the opening night.

John Key's image won't be hurt by the pictures of him enjoying the moment with the victorious ABs the way most of us would like to. And yet those pictures underline the emerging consensus about our prime minister - he might be a good neighbour to have a beer with at the football, but if your house is burning down you don't really need a mate necking a brewski on the lawn. 

The house isn't quite burning down just yet, but how many warnings do we need? If the All Blacks played the final the way the Government handled the Rena grounding they would turn up at Eden Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Early last week the Government was hammered over Rena and its response to the double downgrade of the economy - but then those stories lost momentum because Sunday night was more important. The main benefit of the Cup for the Government has been the suppression of other news.

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There will be a hangover. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Cup. The economic pulse from promotional events and stadium upgrades is over. Hope you enjoyed the salad days.

There was a lift in spending by overseas visitors, but even then, beware the numbers. While campervan rental companies and some hotels had a good spring, a lot of visits were brought forward and so we might expect a quieter than usual summer.

Meanwhile all those full stadiums represented spending on tickets instead of in local businesses. My family spent  $300 on tickets to a pool game, and my wife bought me a quarterfinal ticket for $400. That money won't be spent on cafe dinners, or new curtains. Multiply that around New Zealand and those full stadiums will suck some demand out of unrelated businesses.

It was worth it, but the Government won't count on an economic boom to get it re-elected. Yet that was one of the big factors, they told us in this year's budget, that was going to save us.

After World War II, UK voters said thanks to Winston Churchill - and then threw him out because, having climbed to the impossible mountaintop, they began to think about how to make the future better. If winning a war doesn't make an election a sure thing for a prime minister, the Rugby World Cup might not seal the deal either. 

Before Sunday's final so many commentators said the ABs just had to turn up to win. It was a foregone conclusion, just like this year's general election. 

Well, we did win. Just.

But we had a leader defined by his steel. Depth on the bench. A sense of direction. And a coaching team who learned a lot from defeat last time round.

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