Well done, you've produced National's best result since 1990 and Labour's worst since 1996. I know you did it by essentially agreeing to much of what Labour has done, but still after 9 years it was an achievement to fight your first election as leader and win. Now you have the hard task of pleasing a few million people during a recession, with their expectations you'll fix the economy, their kids' education, their healthcare and improve law and order. You've promised to spend more of other people's money, but give some back too. Now I didn't vote National this time, as is bound to be obvious but I am glad you defeated Helen Clark - it is time for change, and your chance is now to make positive changes that both advance New Zealand, and promote a New Zealand less dependent on the state.
So I dare to give you 10 small pieces of advice:
1. Do not give Peter Dunne a Cabinet post or seek a confidence and supply agreement with him. 0.89% of the vote is not deserving of it. You don't need him as much as he wants you. He spent the last 6 years giving Labour confidence and supply, and his party is finished as a force. Make him Speaker - he has been in the House a long time, and this role would suit him. It also enables you to deal to the pointless Families Commission, and not build Transmission Gully without being held to ransom by one man.
2. Talk to Rodney Hide and Sir Roger Douglas about their roles. You need them and one of them should be in Cabinet. Hide would be easier for you, because Douglas would drive you all nuts - but Douglas should have a role. ACT will support you on law and order and tax cuts, but it needs something more - may I suggest dealing to the RMA, cleaning out bureaucracies and education vouchers as useful steps.
3. Don't enter into a confidence and supply arrangement with the Maori Party, but do enter into a dialogue and consultation arrangement. The Greens had this with Labour. It will pull the Maori Party into the tent, and teach them and you both very much. It isn't a chance to sell out, you have a mandate for change towards more frugal government, but it is a chance to undermine the Labour-Maori relationship of dependence.
4. Be careful who gets what Cabinet positions. May I make a few suggestions:
i. Nick Smith should not get environment/RMA, building/construction, conservation or climate change. The man is a Labour MP in very poor drag, his seat has more votes for Labour and the Greens combined than National. He will do nothing to the RMA to raise NZ's competitiveness or protect private property rights, he has never had a real job, a politician since his teens. Give him Corrections and Defence, if he needs something.
ii. Give education to someone who can fight the teachers' unions to the bitter end. Lockwood Smith is not that person. It should be a woman.
iii. Give transport to Maurice Williamson, he had a healthy hatred of the LTSA when he was Minister, and given how nationalised it became under Labour you need someone who can have it face the other way. Yes he went on about tolls, but he knows this area well.
5. Scrap the 39% top tax rate along with your tax cuts. ACT will support you, and any flack you think you'll get will fade away over the next three years. NZ$60,000 a year is not rich and it will be a huge sign that New Zealand wants its best and brightest back. Tackle the vile envy factor head on, you know how.
6. Delay the RMA fastracking for government projects and conduct a bottom up review of why you need that legislation. Let Rodney Hide do it. Start with first principles, start with private property rights and think carefully about transitional provisions, and while you're at it, read this.
7. Invite the Chief Executives of all government agencies to meet with the respective Minister, yourself and Rodney Hide. Ask the Chief Executive to explain in 5 minutes why the agency should remain, another 5 minutes to justify its current budget, another 5 minutes to outline what would happen if it closed up shop tomorrow. Those who don't satisfy you should be informed as such and either closed down or budgets slashed. Have a small group of Ministers and advisors go through budgets line by line, and cut at will.
8. Think very carefully about education, look at ACT's policy, go to Stockholm to see how it works, the UK Conservative Party has adopted a similar policy, you just need to sell it and take on the vested interests in the teachers' unions. It isn't enough, but it is a step forward to decentralising control and competition in education.
9. Send Tim Groser with yourself to Washington once the Obama Administration is sworn in. There is every risk it will turn its back on free trade, especially in agriculture. I don't need to explain how important it is to convince Obama how bad that would be for the US and the world.
10. Read George Reisman: Capitalism A Treatise of Economics, over Christmas and New Year, pass it onto Bill English as well. Demand all Cabinet Ministers read it within 3 months.
There is so much more John, but it's a start.