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National’s key to power commits?to fighting another election

Opinion Piece

Prime Minister John Key has thrown down the gauntlet to the Labour Party. Back from his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, Key has confirmed his intention to seek a historic fourth term in an interview with the Weekend Herald.

One basis for his announcement is that he will campaign on the Government’s record, saying it has delivered in the things that people really look to the government for — economic performance, health, education, and law and order.

Buoyed by a current high poll rating of 51.3 percent, he believes the Government can attract enough swinging voters for an outright majority — something that might be necessary if his current coalition partners continue to falter. He sees this mid-term year as critical for the Government to perform well and earn that support.

Key has no feasible challenger for his leadership so does not have to watch his back, but National supporters will be hoping he avoids any slips like ponytail pulling or being involved in stupid jokes while visiting radio stations. More and more, the party depends on his image.

The interesting question is how Labour will respond. Last month it marked the 80th anniversary of the election of the first Labour government, in July it will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding — both records it can be proud of.

Labour has some important decisions to make during its retreat at Martinborough which started today, leading up to Andrew Little’s State of the Nation speech next weekend.

That would include issues like the signing of the TPPA in New Zealand in the first week of February and whether New Zealand should play a bigger role in the battle against ISIS.

Observers are giving Little credit for bringing Labour’s often fractious and divided factions together and stabilising things. He has already made one rousing speech at the party’s conference in November at which he outlined the core values for which Labour has stood for a century. Another bold, decisive move in the political chess game is needed now.