OPINION: Someone should take the temperature of the Government, and maybe order a spell of bed rest, because there are unmistakable signs of early onset second term-itis.
All governments expect to find the going harder in their second three years than in their first.
But the mood change for the Government – yet to be reflected in anything but a small shift in the polls – is almost palpable.
Labour claims the "right track-wrong track" opinion is starting to shift away from the Government in its polling, and that is credible.
The partial asset sales plan, which seemed to sail through the election campaign, has hit troubled waters, and not just because of the Treaty of Waitangi clause.
Yes, the Government has a mandate to sell and a citizen-initiated referendum will not change that.
But Treasury has conceded that savings on interest payments from lower debt will be less than the forgone profits; so essentially the sale will make the Government worse off. That kicks away a major prop from the Government's sales platform.
Nor are the public service cuts running as smoothly as the Government may have hoped. Normally an attack on shiny bottomed bureaucrats, especially when characterised as cutting back on paper shufflers in favour of frontline services, would be an automatic win.
But the cross-hairs are now trained on more contentious targets: police, district health boards and frontline social service staff in housing and social welfare.
An 0800 Government – requiring state tenants and beneficiaries to use the internet, call centres and smartphones to make appointments – is a ticking time bomb of bad news.
Even the planned cuts at foreign affairs – normally a prime target for public scepticism – is going badly. News of Murray McCully's charter flight to Myanmar (based on questionable safety concerns) and the bravery of the Cairo consul could not have come at a worse time.
An extravagant and risk-averse minister versus a brave diplomat justifying her job was not the message Mr Key wanted front and centre.
Of course when you put more than 300 jobs on the line in one of the most sophisticated ministries around, you create the potential for hundreds of leaks. And Labour's spokesman Phil Goff is wallowing in them. Some, he says, are "in triplicate".
How often do you see an Opposition read out a leaked cable in which the Singapore high commissioner criticises planned 40 per cent cuts at his post as "a major reduction in our foreign policy effort"?
Watching the House yesterday was like a blast from the past, circa the Bolger-Shipley government; leaks from public servants, unpopular asset sales, economic woes, and tough cost cutting.
It all adds up to a big test for Mr Key's major speech in the next two weeks, selling the logic of radical changes in the state sector. Right now, he seems to be finding it harder to smile through the barrage of problems than he did just three short months ago.
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