Cabinet shuffled with eye on election and what comes next

EDITORIAL

Prime Minister Bill English will be hoping last week’s Cabinet changes strengthen the party’s hand for a September election that is becoming steadily more fraught for National.

English clearly also has an eye on a future post-election period, even if that is in Opposition, as he has brought to the fore some of his younger and better performers.

Putting Amy Adams in charge of the Government’s house-building programme, where she replaces Nick Smith, is a shrewd move. Adams has developed a reputation as a safe pair of hands while Smith seemed to believe for a long time there was no housing problem. Adams is definitely one for the future.

Choosing Nikki Kaye to replace Hekia Parata as Minister of Education is also clever. Kaye had to withdraw from Cabinet last year to fight breast cancer and is popular with the general public, who admire a fighter. She is also an effective counterpoint to Labour’s new deputy Jacinda Ardern, who out-polls her leader Andrew Little yet was defeated by Kaye in the largely young, professional Auckland Central seat at the past two elections.

It is interesting to see the promotion of Mark Mitchell, whose 13-year police career included time in Gisborne, to Minister of Defence. As a security consultant working for years in the Middle East he would be one of the few defence ministers who has actually seen combat. Interestingly his grandfather Frank Gill, a former Air Force pilot, was also a Minister of Defence for National.

Perhaps the only appointment that has raised eyebrows was Gerry Brownlee being given the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Tact and diplomacy have never been his strong suits but English is too intelligent to place someone where they will do more harm than good. Time will tell.

Latest polling has it looking more and more likely that Winston Peters will be the kingmaker after the election. Will he want the Foreign Minister post?

Ultimately, however, English has taken this last chance to reshape his team for the coming battle.

Prime Minister Bill English will be hoping last week’s Cabinet changes strengthen the party’s hand for a September election that is becoming steadily more fraught for National.

English clearly also has an eye on a future post-election period, even if that is in Opposition, as he has brought to the fore some of his younger and better performers.

Putting Amy Adams in charge of the Government’s house-building programme, where she replaces Nick Smith, is a shrewd move. Adams has developed a reputation as a safe pair of hands while Smith seemed to believe for a long time there was no housing problem. Adams is definitely one for the future.

Choosing Nikki Kaye to replace Hekia Parata as Minister of Education is also clever. Kaye had to withdraw from Cabinet last year to fight breast cancer and is popular with the general public, who admire a fighter. She is also an effective counterpoint to Labour’s new deputy Jacinda Ardern, who out-polls her leader Andrew Little yet was defeated by Kaye in the largely young, professional Auckland Central seat at the past two elections.

It is interesting to see the promotion of Mark Mitchell, whose 13-year police career included time in Gisborne, to Minister of Defence. As a security consultant working for years in the Middle East he would be one of the few defence ministers who has actually seen combat. Interestingly his grandfather Frank Gill, a former Air Force pilot, was also a Minister of Defence for National.

Perhaps the only appointment that has raised eyebrows was Gerry Brownlee being given the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Tact and diplomacy have never been his strong suits but English is too intelligent to place someone where they will do more harm than good. Time will tell.

Latest polling has it looking more and more likely that Winston Peters will be the kingmaker after the election. Will he want the Foreign Minister post?

Ultimately, however, English has taken this last chance to reshape his team for the coming battle.

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