There’s been much talk of the pragmatism and centrism of John Key lately. It’s true his cabinet picks and coalition dealing have been showing that in John Key, the National Party finally has a leader who understands and can work MMP. This isn’t worthy of any special praise in my opinion- there was nothing inspired or difficult about his negotiations, and the moves he had to take were all very obvious- including dumping his senior embarassments in big-name small-impact roles. In that respect, he’s showing he has some of the capability that Helen showed, and that he’s going to make this government function reasonably smoothly.
What he has not done is show any overt signs of centrism. It’s still uncertain whether he will merely be a moderate right-wing Prime Minister who leaves most of Labour’s employment and social policy intact, but still approaches his first term from a right-wing ideology. Or he could show himself to be a genuine centrist willing to bring new initiatives to the table that New Zealanders on the left of the political spectrum can warm to, and demonstrate his concern for communitarian politics that engages all New Zealanders- a role that no Party in parliament has ever really filled properly. The first signs of that will be how he deals with the remaining government and members’ bills left on the order paper, and even then it’s possible to judge too hastily.
Let’s not declare him a centrist just yet.