The election is now behind us and there have been plenty of lessons for the outgoing government and the one that awaits us. There are some learnings for business too. So I thought I’d recap on a few of the outcomes from the campaign and offer a brief view on one aspect of the future.

  1. Talk about yourself, not the other guys

My first job when I left university was as a Xerox photocopier salesman. Our training was excellent and there are lessons from those days that are still drummed into my head all these years later.

One of those lessons was to avoid speaking to our customers about our competitors during the sales process. The sales trainer told us to talk about Xerox all the time. He said that our competitors would spend half of their time talking about Xerox instead of their own brand. As a result, over the course of the sales process, the client would hear more about our brand than any other. It was a lesson that I have followed to the letter, during my Xerox years and many many years thereafter.

The election demonstrated the benefits of such an approach. National did a very good job of talking about themselves, their people and their policies. Labour in particular, and to a lesser extent the Greens, ran a campaign which was based on a desire to attack National. I never heard much policy from either of them. But I heard them talking about National a lot. The result speaks for itself.

  1. Get out of the bubble

We all get caught up in our “bubble”. Whether we work at the port, drive a cab or sell real estate, our work becomes a centre of our universe and we take a more intense view of it than any outside observer would. As a result, we all tend to imagine that everyone is as aware and interested in our business as we are. We get immersed in it. The result is that we gradually lose perspective on the thoughts and opinions of those people who are outside our particular workplace bubble.

Those working in and around government are no different and possibly even more remote than the rest of us. They have a tendency to think that the world revolves around everything they do and that their opinions and perspectives are somehow more important.

During my discussion this week with former Finance Minister Steven Joyce on our podcast Leaders Getting Coffee he referenced John Key with the following comment. ‘One of the amazing things about John was how much time he spent out of Wellington speaking with every day people.’ In other words he kept in touch with those outside his parliamentary bubble. For the last six years I’ve had the feeling that our Wellington centric Labour-led government didn’t do much of that.

  1. Walk a mile in the other man’s shoes

Chris Hipkins concession speech on election night proved that he’d spent too much time in the aforementioned Wellington bubble. During an emotional monologue he attempted to list their achievements. He mentioned 14 or 15 bullet points relaying what he clearly thought were an outstanding list of successes.

This column doesn’t have the space to cover all of his points but here are some of the things he said.

Commenting on Covid he stated that “we saved lives with the lowest number of covid deaths in the developed world”. According to Johns Hopkins University we had 52.88 deaths per 100,000 people. Yet to name just one other country, Singapore, which I’m pretty sure is part of the developed world, have had 29.53 deaths per 100,000 people.

He mentioned that his government “sought to bring people together, to unite not divide”. And yet it feels like we are more divided than I can remember, a view confirmed by a recent survey by Essential Research suggesting that 77 percent of us think that is the case.

He went on to tell us that his government “kept kiwis in work with unemployment below 4% for the last 2 years and we moved record numbers of people into work”. Meanwhile, Ministry of Social Development figures tell us that 9.6% of working age adults were on a main benefit when Labour came to power in 2017 compared to 11% at the end of June 2023.

He then went on to speak about policing, health and education citing that “we rebuilt and then increased police numbers” and “increased the numbers of nurses, doctors and teachers whilst also increasing their pay as well.”

However our crime statistics tell us that crime is up and so is the number of victims of crime. Hospital waiting lists are longer and child immunization rates have gone from 88% when they took office to 76% today (Te Whatu Ora). And we know all about education statistics where both attendance and achievement are noticeably worse than they were when the 2017 government came to power.

In fact, in listing many of his so-called achievements, the outgoing Prime Minister may have offered a hint of the problem. You see increased staff numbers and increasing pay, are inputs not outputs. This government has been very good at making announcements, telling us what they are going to do, and often throwing vast amounts of money around. What they haven’t done is generated outputs and achievements that have left the country better as a result.

  1. Get a deal done with NZ First

Finally, a nod to the new government and the future. There is no question that the repair job on the New Zealand economy, our institutions, international relationships and our society at large will be an enormous task.

In order to progress we will need decisive leadership, the ability to move quickly and to be highly responsive to the needs of the country, our markets and our people. I genuinely believe that the new government will need all the help it can get. I also think that to drive the level of change required with a single seat parliamentary majority will be challenging to say the least.

That’s where NZ First comes in. They can provide the government with the additional parliamentary support in terms of numbers, and if they’re in the tent it’s probably preferable to have them inside rather than outside.

I’ve met WInston Peters. I told him I wouldn’t vote for him and that I didn’t forgive him for what he did in 2017. He accepted that comment graciously. He’s not perfect, but he’s likeable, passionate and steeped in our political history. After the shenanigans of the Trevor Mallard led parliament, and a few short years of controversial legislation passing under the blanket of urgency, one of our greatest needs is for a political statesman who can take over the the role of Speaker of the House. Someone who will restore the discipline, process, behaviours and standards back into our parliament.

If properly supported, Winston Peters would do a wonderful job of that. I’m not sure if he wants to work that hard. But Christopher Luxon should ask him. And throw this into the mix. After forty plus years in and around our parliament let’s recognise the man. Hell if we can bestow awards on Jacinda, Winston is certainly more deserving.

So here’s the deal. Bring him into the government tent. Make him Speaker. And give him a knighthood. He might just say yes.

This article was first published on Newstalk ZB Plus, Thursday 19th October, 2023.