By Andrew Tait
All aboard for the gravy train. John Key just pulled off another coup, leaving at the top of his popularity (National just polled 47% to Labour’s 27%), forgoing the chance for a fourth term but avoiding any of the unpleasantness usually involved in leadership transitions.
In fact, if anything sums up his style, it would be avoiding unpleasantness.
John Key leaves as much as a cipher as when he entered office. Sure he’s smart – he was underestimated for years by the Opposition – but he has never shown any substance.
In a world thrown into turmoil by the Global Financial Crisis (a crisis he had a hand in as a banker at Merrill Lynch), Key’s New Zealand appeared an oasis of stability.
None of this had anything to do with his policies.
His main response the GFC was to announce … a cycle trail.
The cycle trail is great but it didn’t get us out of the GFC. That was down to two main factors – the international food crisis that occurred at the same time, which drove dairy production (and environmental destruction) to frenzied heights, and the fact China (which eclipsed the USA as New Zealand capitalism’s main trading partner during Key’s term) built its way through the crisis.
China took in huge amounts of wood and coal from New Zealand, and iron and other minerals from Australia. Australia in turn took in thousands of unemployed New Zealanders, providing a vital safety valve for the NZ economy.
In more recent times, Key’s economic successes have been driven by disaster – the Christchurch earthquake recovery building boom and house price inflation caused by a housing shortage.
Key came into power promising to help the emerging “underclass”. He hasn’t – although he has renamed CYFS. He tried to change the flag and failed (but sucked all oxygen out of politics for a year). The only issue on which he appeared willing to fight for – the TPP – has also failed.
That trade deal failed because of the election of Trump. Although Key is himself a populist, he is very much a centrist, a manager, not an orator. Key does not do passion. The changes in world politics are probably uncomfortable for Key and doubtless he knows, even if he doesn’t care, that house prices are an accident waiting to happen.
Leaving now is a coup for Key and the international gravy train is waiting at the station. Teflon John is now no doubt set up for almost any position he would like – CEO of any multinational, director on boards, the lecture circuit, any number of overpaid advisory roles.
Andrew Little thinks John Key deserves respect, and wishes him well for the future. We heartily disagree. We don’t thank him or wish him well for the future. He arrived on the political scene a carpetbagger, a leech and a parasite and he leaves, sated, from this long-suffering land to suck the blood of the working class and the poor in new ways but to the same effect.