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Political slate / Cabinet reshuffle

Politicians see the 'annual' Cabinet reshuffle as a chance to start with a new slate. They hope to slough off dust from the preceding year, and project the appearance of an invigorated start to the new year.

John Key went for the new start theme when he today released National's Cabinet and portfolio line-up for 2013, saying "we need to refresh".

So much is being made of the appointment of the keen Auckland Central MP Kaye as Minister for food safety, youth affairs, civil defence and Associate Education Minister.

Simon Bridges completes his predictable trajectory into Cabinet to cover labour and energy and resources, and associate transport.

Little is being made of the blooding of amiable Michael Woodhouse as a minister outside of Cabinet, with responsibility for immigration and veterans affairs.

It's not much of a refresh. The real story is that in the fifth year of his administration, Key is in the same position as many predecessors; struggling to identify more good performers among ranks just outside Cabinet.

For example, yet again tried and trusted Steven Joyce has to pick up the broken bits - Novopay this time. And yet again the ever-dedicated Nick Smith returns to Cabinet.

While "team players" Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson have been let go from Cabinet, relative newbies Jonathan Coleman and Amy Adams have increased their Cabinet rankings, although they have yet to show their best.

David Carter might become Speaker when Lockwood Smith leaves, with his primary industries portfolio going to Nathan Guy. National hopes that Guy can seal off National's rural heartland support.

The workmanlike Craig Foss has picked up the Minister of Consumer Affairs role as well as being Commerce Minister.

This conservative shift will seem significant within Parliament, where egos have just been bruised and built. But externally, the reshuffle doesn't wipe away last year's poor political performance and hasn't the qualities of change that blow organisations away from the doldrums.

Note: 23/01/13. It seems pundits have fallen for the National spin line that John Key has been tough on two under-performers - a dramatic decision that signals a New Year's resolution to be very different from last year. Yet relegations from Cabinet are not unusual, and these are not relegation for failures, but for pedestrian performance in pedestrian portfolios. My conclusion remains that john Key has little to work with.

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