John Key’s dramatic Cabinet reshuffle displays a streak of ruthlessness hitherto rarely seen in a New Zealand prime minister.
Key has displayed all the sentiment of a corporate restructurer. So ministers are given the chance to perform.
If they do not they are out. Simple as that.
Above all, what the reshuffle does is put the entire Cabinet on notice. National largely got away with last year’s catalogue of blunders and unwanted distractions without too much damage to its support in opinion polls.
No-one saw the brutal dumping of long-time Cabinet ministers Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley coming – least of all them.
The usual route out of Cabinet for underperforming ministers is a slow slide down the rankings and reassignment to lesser portfolios.
But Prime Minister John Key, a man once known as banking’s smiling assassin, refused to offer them even that fig leaf, giving them just a few hours’ notice of their fate.
Mr Key made no bones yesterday about the reason for his sense of urgency to bring fresh blood into Cabinet – he did not want to repeat the mistakes of his cautious predecessor Helen Clark, who failed to rejuvenate her lineup
People sometimes badmouth the PM’s comms team, but anyone who can sell a minor mid-term Cabinet reshuffle – in which an MP stood down less than a year ago for unethical behavior is reinstated, and an incompetent failure remains in charge of the education system – as an act of corporate-style ruthlessness that puts the Cabinet ‘on notice’, is a stone-cold genius.
Presumably National’s market research has found that people see Key as ‘too relaxed’, ‘not tough enough’, etc, and one of the government’s goals for 2013 is to address that perception. If I’m right then we won’t see the PM declaring he’s ‘comfortable’ or ‘relaxed’ about anything for the next few months.