Nov 30, 2010

National mismanagement?

The current government has an incredibly well managed image. Yet, they do not appear to possess the political management skills to complement this image. By political management I mean campaign management, strategic management (e.g. choosing what policies to implement and when) and managing ministers and caucus members. The current government’s negative press has, for the most part, revolved around failures of political management.

In terms campaign mismanagement there was the Mt Albert byelection disaster -a template on how not to run a campaign (that been said the Mana byelection was a template on how to run a campaign).

Poor political management on a policy level does not necessarily equate to unpopular policy rather policy that came about at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons and in the wrong form. In politics you can justify almost anything if the timing is right (the political climate is right), the reasons seem genuine and there are some parts, if only one or two, that the electorate considers reasonable.

National Standards is an example of policy that was pushed through at the wrong time and in the wrong form. There was no great appetite amongst the electorate for change in the education system, although the electorate appreciated the government’s intentions, and the education sector believed that the policy took the wrong form. If the government had been willing to approach implementation of the policy differently they probably could have come away with a win. There were parts of National Standards many parents seemed supportive of. Like having a single measure of achievement as opposed to a range of different measures. So the timing was wrong, the reasons and the sales pitch was poor. Political mismanagement 101.

Some of the failures of political management on a personal level include the Bill English housing rort, Pansy Wong’s abuse of travel perks, the Phil Heatley saga, the stupid Richard Worth affair and now the David Carter controversy. The PM should have a close finger on all his ministers. His hands off approach has led to more than a few ministers been caught out for activities that weren’t legit. These failures, on the part of the PM, will probably be the most damaging in the long run. They feed the perception that this government is “loose” with standards of behaviour. The opposition can easily build a narrative around this idea and I imagine the media would be fairly receptive given it is an easy angle. Policy is much harder to pin down because it is such a subjective thing whereas most people can agree using taxpayer money for personal purposes is wrong.

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