Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reshuffling the deck

Political news for the past month or so has been dominated by speculation about today's Cabinet reshuffle. Who'll be promoted? Who'll be dumped? And who'll be sharpening the knives as a result? But while this sort of court gossip is of deep interest to the harpies in the press gallery (just as it was of deep interest to the sycophants and courtiers who played and monitored the status game at monarchical courts), I don't actually find it that interesting at all. Sure, the faces will change, some people will strut while others slither - but will it lead to a change in policy?

The answer to that question is almost certainly "no". While a new Minister can bring a fresh pair of eyes and a new direction to a portfolio, with only a year till an election, that won't be their focus (and there wouldn't be time to implement anything anyway). Instead, they'll be primarily interested in the ongoing business of damage control, ensuring that the inevitable screwups (because there are always screwups, no matter who is in charge or what cabinet rank they hold) are properly managed so as to cause minimum damage to Labour's chances of re-election. And on a broader front, Helen Clark shows no signs of wanting to change her overall policy direction. So our foreign policy will remain in thrall to George Bush, and our immigration and Treaty policy to Winston Peters and his clique of aging rednecks. So, it'll be safe pairs of hands all round, and a lot of noise signifying nothing.

One area where I think a change might matter is in climate change. Here the Minister has rejected the advances of the business and farmer lobby groups who have previously dominated and frustrated policy, and pushed ahead towards a policy which might actually begin to help. Replacing him would give those lobby groups a second chance at a veto, and potentialy result in a repeat in the fiasco of the last seventeen years. And at this stage, we simply can't afford to let that happen.

Update: Yup, safe pairs of hands all round...