Moral authority required

The third term blues have set in early and hard for the John Key-led National Government with actions of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet being scrutinised and critiqued in earnest.

The furore last week where Mr Key was hit from all sides about his inappropriate touching of a young woman's ponytail in one of Auckland's cafes is symptomatic of the changing political climate for National.

Putting aside, who said what first and why it took six months for this issue to be raised, does Mr Key not understand that playing with the hair of a young woman in public is not just ''horsing around''?

His wife recognised the signs and asked him to stop, but it seems Mr Key continues to rely on his blokey image to get him through.

At some stage, Mr Key needs to remember he is no ordinary bloke. He is prime minister of New Zealand and needs to act appropriately. And it is not appropriate for anyone, let alone an older man in power, to touch a woman without permission.

Things a Government can get away with in a first term do not go unnoticed in a third term. And this Government currently seems to be running on empty, with no direction from its leader.

The rot really set in with the sudden resignation of former Northland MP Mike Sabin immediately after the general election. His resignation, for as yet unspecified issues, sparked a by-election won by New Zealand First.

It was later revealed that during the byelection Transport Minister Simon Bridges may have breached the Cabinet manual in requiring advisers to do some costing on double laning many of Northland's one-lane bridges.

Instead of acting in a responsible manner, Mr Key shrugged off the questions and, as he expected it would, the issue died away because the general voting population do not care about beltway issues.

The reason it was obvious Mr Key would become prime minister when he challenged for the National Party leadership and won it from former leader Don Brash is easy to explain.

Voters decided Mr Key, a self-made man, represented the Kiwi ideal. He was someone you could have a drink with, make a joke with and could probably change a tap washer.

In fact, it was Mr Key who introduced himself and Dr Brash in Wanaka one year as ''Don-Key'', a name which will surely coming back to haunt him given the ponytail incident.

Mr Key always look competent and oozed confidence. No-one really understood why he wanted to give up a lucrative trading job on Wall Street to become prime minister, but there was no doubt he wanted the top job and would be competent.

Mr Key is currently overseas, dealing with trade issues in Dubai. At the weekend, he represented New Zealand at the Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli.

Mr Key is widely respected in the international political community and the hair pulling incident will be overwhelmed by Anzac Day and other global events. However, the National Party must be aware by now that public opinion is turning.

Yes, the last available polling results show National and Mr Key still commanding a large majority over Labour and labour leader Andrew Little respectively. But as time progresses, and do not forget how long it is until the 2017 election, little things will take on extra importance in the minds of some.

To break through the political lethargy which appear may be about to consume the Government, policies that resonate with the voting public are needed. And urgently.

The Government cannot sleepwalk to victory in 2017. Global events will overwhelm New Zealand if Mr Key and his ministers take their eyes off the issues affecting New Zealanders who live ordinary lives.

Next month's Budget will be an opportunity to resurrect some momentum, but given the majority of the announcements will now be written and soon drip fed to the public through the media, supporters will fear too little too late.

Broken promises, a casual regard to the rules and the shrugging off of difficult questions are something not wanted or needed from any government. It is time this administration reclaimed some moral authority.

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