Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missed the last Labour PM

By the time I got to Wellington, Labour PMs simply weren't about (and it's not like they were in short supply in the '90s). They'd in fact been gone a few years, some rather begrudgingly so, meaning I had to content myself with seeing them in Opposition only. Fortunately, and despite their defeat, some of senior members of the 4th Labour government remained remarkably effective.

I have a clear recollection of Lange interjecting on a question to the Minister for Police. The Minister was rattled but coped, several of his colleagues however, were clearly disturbed. It wasn't a portfolio-related fear. It was simply the prospect that, were it them taking a question, they knew no possible preparation could fully offset the risk of Lange coming in over the walls. Forgive me the machismo, but I think this is a part of Parliamentary discourse too much undervalued.

It's a dimension of politics that'll challenge Key. He's simply not a great performer in Parliament. He's far from hopeless, but his best performances are very much set pieces. This is fine when you're challenging a government (and can reherse your attack in advance), but the dynamic of being a government is an entirely different proposition. Thinking on your feet, reconciling the days events back to policy statements, knowing when a Minister is at risk and when to simply divert attention - these are skills only really learnt after many years in Parliament. The times ahead are tough and Phil Goff, one of the most experienced members in the House, will combine the necessary scrutiny of Key's government with the need to differentiate himself from elements of Clark's.

I watched Clark leaving Parliament and thought her send-off entirely appropriate. I note others thought it OTT. I simply disagree and I'd've been there if I was able (and can always be expected to spring the water-works). I quite like and respect Craig Ranapia, he's a fantastic writer. It's also good for the blogosphere that a clearly bright and considered commentator exists on the right of the political spectrum - there's not many - but Craig's got this one completely wrong. For all the fawning editorials of Key and the realisation of his boyhood ambitions, Clark just achieved what few NZ PMs have - a stable and successful government for nine years - that's entirely worthy of recognition.

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