Whether it’s a Labour leader or a National one, there’s such a thing as Third Term Blues. It’s when the person at the top takes their foot off the gas (okay, bad analogy when we think back to Helen’s blur of a motorcade) because they know they are well and truly in charge. The job has gone, almost entirely, to their head.
Perhaps we should change this, we could introduce a cap, much like the American system (and believe me this is the only facet of the American political system I think we should copy). We should have a two-term Prime Minister, then out. We could, like America, have the individual term extend to four years rather than the current three, but two terms, psychologically, would change a lot.
Anyone sick of whoever is in power, but knows the only way they’ll ever be defeated is if the vote were to be held on Facebook, could still take solace in the knowledge that the man or woman currently in charge will have a shelf-life. Even if the party can’t be defeated the person at the top can – and will – go. That’s psychologically very important in mobilising voters and creating engagement. Currently a ‘what’s-the-point’ feeling floods the country. We can be as active in our own neighbourhood or online communities as we like, but there’s no way of truly knowing what that means until polling day.
If the PM has eight years in that top job only, it’s likely to mean something to Master and Ms Apathetic. It’s likely they’ll have to think beyond the defeatist approach of figuring that the PM might just always be there. It should certainly mean something to the Prime Minister too.
We’re a small country, too small to have the same face at the top for a decade or – gasp! – possibly even longer. Particularly in this day and age. It might only be one year – two, four-year terms verses three, three-year terms – but it could make the world of difference; for a start the campaigning could be correctly strategised, less a farce, not the bun-fight this past voting season turned out to be. Name-calling, avoidance and smear – those three tenets might be the actual Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite of today – in fact an anti-Liberte, anti-Egalite, anti-Fraternite, but at least with a rule in place that no one person can be at the head of governance for longer than two-thirds or three-quarters of a decade would mean there’s some chance of a sunny perspective outside of the glow of the enlightened right voters.
The Left currently has no chance – because it’s fighting against itself as uch as it is battling any real opposition. And National is most certainly a fearsome opponent, but it’s not as if Labour has even got close to dressing correctly for the battle.
There’s no way to ever actually even the playing field in such a dirty sport – but giving the Prime Minister a deadline would mean they can’t just folly about, can only avoid the truth for eight or nine years, not the current eternity, as it would seem…
Right now, Labour currently has no hope of dethroning Key, nor does anyone in his own party. We need a rule in place that challenges the leader to build their legacy in a clearly defined time. To not be allowed to walk away when they’re happy, to be challenged every day and with an ultimate deadline.
Speaking of building, this current bout of Third Term Blues is particularly worrying, because as our old friends the Carpenters told us, “we’ve only just begun…”
This originally appeared in similar form as a column in NZ Today.