End-of-term reports were a total anathema to me and I feared their arrival in the mail. Nowadays it appears that the teachers don't dare tell "the whole truth and nothing but" about some of the little brats they have to teach. This is purely as a result of their concern that litigious parents will sue them.
My teachers were the opposite and seemed to compete to see who could write the most humorous or sarcastic report about me; I still bear the mental scars and probably should have had counselling. The stand-alone statement that "Michael attended my classes" was probably the most pithy and revealing report on my academic progress.
Therefore I approach giving my end-of-year report on the body politic with some trepidation. It has to be put in the context of a global economic battlefield that appears to be without end. The re-election of Obama will almost ensure that the United States economy will continue to flat line, reflecting in our high exchange rate with their economy; very damaging to exporters. We New Zealanders seem to have come through this worldwide maelstrom in pretty good nick. One reason for that is undoubtedly John Key's innate understanding of the machinations of a world economy. There were no unnecessary knee-jerk decisions; all he appeared to do was to bring forward some of our infrastructure upgrading. He also has, surrounding him in his Cabinet room, five or six people who would grace any large company's board room. This knowledge that his back was covered by his senior ministers gave him the freedom of movement to concentrate on improving our trade prospects (we are a trading country after all) and in keeping a "merchant bankers' eye" on financial events in the rest of the world.
It appears to me that he has one cuckoo in his nest and I refer to Judith Collins. Whilst she has kept a reasonable lid on Corrections and Police, in her role as Minister of Justice she is a loose cannon. Her inability to accept any other view than her own will eventually be a source of grief to Key. Following her personal agenda with Bain's compensation claim is clear evidence of her intractability with such matters. Her term as police minister has obviously convinced her that Bain was guilty and she will be damned if she will approve compensation. Her appointment of Bob Fisher QC, a former High Court judge, who has been overturned by his peers in the Court of Appeal, as a reviewer of one of the world's most eminent jurors' opinion, beggars belief.
All things said, after a very difficult year for the Tories, they are still polling at a level similar to their election-night high, and his caucus can all thank John Key and a weak opposition for that amazing feat.
It's too easy to smack the Labour Party around the ear after an extraordinary lacklustre year. They were coming off a nine-year high led by Helen Clark, and seem, like those little sheep, to have lost their way. The strange appointment of David Shearer as their hapless leader seems to have been driven by the caucus-wide desire to keep David Cunliffe out of the job. In my mind they are right as he shares the same latent political toxicity as Collins. My pick is that, with the unions back in the Labour nest, Andrew Little could be one of the replacements in the top job; if not him I would not be surprised to see Shane Jones make a run for the top; he has done his time, he is tough, articulate and has that killer streak in him. His appointment would also bring Maoridom back into the Labour fold.
The Greens have been the beneficiaries of the Labour Party's weak support base. Their polling of above 10 per cent has given their leader, Dr ("give me back my flag") Russel Norman, an unreal amount of media coverage. He was doing reasonably well until he exposed his real colours. His recent attack on the new Reserve Bank's Governor, Graeme Wheeler, made it clear to political watchers that if he managed to get anywhere near the Finance Minister's job, which he claims would be his price for going with Labour, he would poke the Governor back into his hutch, remove his independent contract to keep inflation to under 3 per cent and personally take over power.
Winston climbs out of his scruffling horse box every now and then; creates as much havoc as possible, forget not that he's had almost 30 years practice at this, and then lights up another ciggy and climbs back inside for a medium-length siesta. It is only the continuance of the MMP system that gives him any resemblance of power or creditability.
I have one concern as we run towards the 2014 elections. It is that Key might decide that he has had enough; of course, he will absolutely deny this, but I'm sure he will have a series of pretty influential head-hunters making their way to his home on Hawaii over Christmas, making him offers he will find hard to turn down.
Now wouldn't it be interesting if, in a couple of years' time, we find Helen Clark as secretary of the United Nations and John Key is president of the World Bank.