Picking leaders ten years out is pretty hard when there are so many variables and the last two National leaders had no length of tenure in parliament. What is possible is to think about the problems New Zealand will face, and the type of people in the National caucus.
New Zealand will be facing massive problems with government spending, especially superannuation. It is unlikely that enough progress will be made to solve super after John Key goes, so we will all still be funding super in an environment where continued economic mismanagement has kept New Zealand’s growth rate lower than our major trading partners.
The National caucus newer intakes are getting progressively more fiscally conservative. They grew up in the Douglas era, understanding the benefits of the free market. Most did not sign up to the National Party to borrow $300m a week, and most do not like the fact that Bill English and Steven Joyce cannot explain why it is necessary and good for New Zealand, when they would prefer to be cutting the state sector and benefits.
The same applies to the likely new MPs who will come in over the next three elections. I know most of them, and they are fiscal conservatives. There isn’t a wet among them, and if they are wet they will be lonely in a dry caucus.
This puts potential leaders in a difficult position. Do they support the current wet regime wholeheartedly, and if they are in cabinet do they promote wet policies that will alienate their peers? Will being branded as a wet mean that future leadership chances are non existent? Being a wet may make you popular in cabinet now, but will a fiscally conservative caucus vote for a wet in the future?