As New Zealand collectively rolls its eyes at the paucity of ideas and vision, and surfeit of excuse-making and responsibility denying in Key’s state of the nation speech (it was so bad John Armstrong wrote a third piece on how great the reshuffle was, instead of praising the speech*), Whaleoil – of all people – asks a good question: What will Key’s legacy be?
Slater puts it in the form of seven questions, which I’ll briefly answer.
1. What changes to New Zealand do you think John Key will be remembered for? Asset sales
2. Has John Key actually been a strong leader or has he been blessed with an unbelievably inept opposition who have failed to call him to account for his election promises? inept opposition, Goff was Labour’s worst leader since Palmer until Shearer
3. In twenty years time how do you think New Zealanders will look back at John Key? Savage is remembered as a Ghandi-esque figure, Fraser as flinty, Holland as a bully, Nash – who?, Holyoake as a good harmless guy, Marshall – who?, Kirk as a hero, Rowling – who? Muldoon as a tyrant, Lange as affable but weak and ultimately a failure, Palmer – who? Moore – a traitor, Bolger – the bland face of something terrible, Shipley – a bully, Clark – strong and smart but cold. Key will be remembered as a failure and a conman.
4. Asset Sales will comprise less than 0.5% of New Zealand’s GDP, and will do nothing to create a step change in our economy, so why has John Key staked so much of his political capital on something so insignificant? Because the task of a National government, other than being in government to stop anyone else being in government, is to divide up the state and give it to the elite. If he doesn’t, he may as well have stayed in Hawaii.
5. Why do you think John Key’s ambition has been so limited? Because any policies he pursues are rightwing and he knows how unpopular rightwing policies are and that his personal popularity cannot overcome that to an unlimited extent. National was established with the goal of holding power so the Left wouldn’t.
6. Why do you think John Key has been so keen on giving hand outs to agriculture when nowhere in the world has got rich on agriculture in the last 80 years? Because the farmers are part of the elite, see 4.
7. Why do you think John Key was so strategically stupid over the MMP referendum? Because MMP was always going to win and burning political cred opposing it could have cost him the last election.
With Labour stagnant in the polls, odds are 50:50 that Key’ll get a third term. But if that happens, Labour will purge the Old Guard and ensure a decent leader like Little or Cunliffe is in charge. Key will then retire mid-term to avoid a defeat. So, Key’s got 3 years more at most on his clock. Nothing new will happen in that time, just more of the same gradually becoming worse with more of our public wealth handed to the elite, the environment further wasted, poverty deepening, and the economy failing.
We can write Key’s political obituary now because his record may get longer but it’s not going to get different. And that obituary reads: promised us a brighter future, smiled and goofed off a lot, failed to deliver.
*come on, it’s not like any other parties did anything this week