It’s usually the party leaders who give the great defining speeches for their Governments.

But John Key is not really made that way.

Though he is a good tub thumping Parliamentary debater he is not much given to oratory and even less to philosophical musings about the direction in which he is trying to take New Zealand.

His political strength is his ability to apply a single minded focus on to pragmatic political priorities.

Back in May he defined those priorities in a speech to his party’s northern conference.

 “People who are in their homes or any community around New Zealand today are focussed on four issues,” he said.

“Does the family have the jobs they need to support themselves?

“Do they feel safe in their community?

“Are their children getting a decent education?

“Is the health system going to perform for them?


“People worry about the issues that actually matter to them.

“And that’s where their focus and attention is and as long as we as a government stay absolutely focussed on those issues we are going to connect to New Zealanders.

“And as long as deliver for New Zealanders on that we are going to connect to them and they will vote for us.

Contrast that with the speech that can be downloaded here from Bill English in Melbourne two weeks ago on how the Key Government works and what its policy priorities are.

“A guiding principle of the John Key-led government has been to take the public along with us as we make changes, explain the reasons for them well in advance, lay out the logic, adjust expectations and implement those changes competently,” he said.

“Over time, that builds up a popular support for our changes so they will stick.

This approach was developed partly from the experiences of the 1990-1999 National government.

The early 1990s were a time of extensive and sometimes unexpected changes in New Zealand.

We implemented sound policies, but we failed to build broader constituencies for those changes.

As a result we lost support, the electoral system was changed to MMP, and many of our policies were undone by the subsequent Labour government.

“Since our election in 2008, we have taken a different approach.

“Over the past six-and-a-half years the National-led government has been able to implement sound centre-right policy which is now sufficiently embedded with public support that I am confident it will remain in place.

“Our approach has been dubbed ‘incremental radicalism’. 

Bill English argues that smaller Government is better Government — which he explains is the driving force behind the investment approach to social policy.

What Mr Key and Mr English are saying does not conflict. But what it does suggest is that there is much more to this National Government than “Team Key”.