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The states of John Key – The drivers

Written By: - Date published: 10:13 am, July 24th, 2010 - 21 comments
Categories: john key - Tags:

Second of a series by Guest poster Blue.

The biggest clue is how when he was younger, his aim in life was to ‘make a million dollars and be Prime Minister’. His sisters describe how he got in early practicing how to play golf, because ‘he’d figured out that business guys have golf lunches.’  He was fascinated by politics, especially by Robert Muldoon, but didn’t take a strong position on any of the contentious issues at the time. He studied for a commerce degree and pursued a career as a currency trader.

The motives of the man above are not difficult to discern. Power and money are the two things that drive him. After he had acquired the fortune he sought, he turned his interest to his other love power. Politics for him is not about championing a cause, it’s about being top dog. One of National’s own MPs says in the Herald’s biography that Key ‘seems to harbour a deep instinct to be the most important guy in the room,’ and the biography further says that ‘if an outsider comes in who might challenge that status, Key is said to almost physically transform to take up the challenge.’  He did not get into politics to serve, but to rule.

Key’s time as PM has largely been spent preserving the power base of his own personal popularity not to mention showing off his power and status with photo ops, a Letterman appearance, and his own JK PM’s Pinot. Much has been made of his ‘relaxed’ style, but commentators have called his day-to-day political management sloppy. He is more interested in the status than the responsibility of power. Key is perfectly happy to leave others to do the work while he goes on holiday or to another photo-op.

His constant jokes are another sign of his need for dominance. Often seen as a mark of a relaxed and friendly personality, Key actually demonstrates a need to be the man who makes everyone laugh. There’s power and status involved in comedy it’s about being in control of your audience and commanding the reaction you want. If you can make someone laugh you have power over them. It’s a potent political tool because audiences don’t see humour as a power play it can disarm the most hard-bitten journalist and defuse the most hostile town hall meeting.

So, now that Key has the top job, what to do with it? That’s not an easy question to answer, because John Key essentially doesn’t have any principles. It’s something that has won him praise from the media for being ‘pragmatic’ and not ‘ideological’. It seems strange that a politician with no principles should be the ideal, but it does help him as a political operator if something proves unpopular, it’s no hardship to him to shelve it and move on.

Key doesn’t have a strong position on anything not to do with finances. He is neither a liberal social reformer nor a conservative reactionary. His main aim with anything not about money is just to not damage his popularity. Figuring out some cheap and easy people-pleasers like ‘getting tough’ on law and order and implementing national standards in schools is enough to maintain the illusion that National has policies on non-financial matters.

The real aims are all economic. Key and National want smaller government, and since coming to power they have laid off public servants, cut spending, given significant tax cuts to the wealthy and business, strongly hinted at selling off state assets, set private ownership of prisons in motion and introduced measures cracking down on social welfare. It is worth noting that this is a considerably more right-wing agenda than the National Party campaigned on back in 2008, with its appeal to ‘Labour-plus voters’. They have largely gotten away with it by using the recession as a catch-all excuse.

In addition, National have played their hand carefully when it comes to restricting worker’s rights and cracking down on unions. The ghost of the Employment Contracts Act has ensured Key approaches these issues carefully, not wanting to bring about a public backlash, but doing enough to tip the workplace balance of power significantly more in favour of the employer.

Free trade agreements have exercised the usually relaxed Prime Minister more than anything else on the international stage. If he attends any major international gathering it is only because of the opportunity to advance New Zealand’s case for free trade agreements with any country willing to listen.

However, despite his focus on growing the economy, Key has become known for blue-sky ideas that turn into expensive white elephants. The PM’s cycleway and the idea of a ‘Party Central’ for the Rugby World Cup are two notable examples of grand sweeping ideas that are impractical, costly and exist for little more reason than to gratify Key’s ego.


Series posts

The states of John Key Quantum uncertainty
The states of John Key The drivers
The states of John Key The Salesman
The states of John Key – Flexible in telling the truth

21 comments on “The states of John Key – The drivers ”

  1. BLiP 1

    John Key – Aotearoa’s Schrödinger’s Prime Minister.

  2. ZakC 2

    Great pic of whatever rodent that is.. not holding the golfclub properly..

    I venture to suggest it is not a marmot. Reasons being, a marmot knows its golfclubs, and marmots are global warming lovers. Anthropophiles. For yes, they are getting fatter from shorter hibernations. Would you believe..? You’d better, because it is troo. Scientists say so. See!!

  3. Ari 3

    Ivory Tower is to setting as John Key is to character 😛

  4. Francisco Hernandez 4

    I’m sorry I’ve been a long time member of the Labour Party but this is just irrelavant personality-driven attacks.

    We’re going to have to do much better than this to win in 2011.

    [lprent: This is a left group blog with no association with the NZLP apart from having some (not the majority) of the authors being NZLP members – read the about. But this wasn’t even written by one of our resident authors.

    This is a well-written set of posts by a guest poster coming through the contribute post button using a throw-away e-mail address. Of course we will put it up. It expresses clearly the attitude of many towards our current PM. There are a lot more of them yet to come… ]

    • outofbed 4.1

      Lke get rid of Goff?

    • Anne 4.2

      @ Francisco Hernandez
      “I’m sorry I’ve been a long time member of the Labour Party but this is just irrelavant personality-driven attacks.”

      Please tell me what this Guest Post has to do with the Labour Party?

    • logie97 4.3

      @ Francisco – Presumably as a long time member of the Labour Party you would have a political philosophy. That is what defines left and right. Key on the other hand is Mr In-between and demonstrating that he is shallow with no philosophy – he will trip up one day – sometime soon we hope. People will begin to see through the Mr Niceguy. When he trips he will need to seek support from some of the more extreme in his party to bail him out but he might find it hard to identify with them and he will then be history.

      So I do not see any problems with these posts. Keep reminding the punters of his history. It will catch him out one day.

      Incidentally, if you managed to catch him on Maori TV with Willie Jackson last night… you will have seen examples of his uncomfortable wriggling and his endearing little nervous giggles…)

  5. Tanya 5

    He made his goals, didn’t he. He can’t take his money with him though, when he leaves the earth, His silver will canker.

    • Daveosaurus 5.1

      I highly doubt he will ever leave the earth; or, at least, its troposphere. There’s no votes in hopping on a space shuttle to somewhere.

  6. john 6

    Why did Kiwis vote him in then? Anyone could read what type of man he is!!!

    • BLiP 6.1

      That’s a good question and there’s all sorts of answers. There’s the naive belief that it was National Ltdâ„¢’s “turn”, there’s the “communist lesbian nanny combo” appeal to the irrational emotional aspect of the population, there’s the fact that the electorate seems to have a short memory when it comes to National Ltdâ„¢ and couldn’t/wouldn’t believe that its manifesto was a schedule of bollocks, there was the turd polishing hagiographic personal biography of The Goober . . . be good to get a definitive answer, assuming there is one. It certainly wasn’t a considered decision based on policy, hell no!! If there should ever be a happy election day that happens, we’ll have a Green Party in power.

      But what about you, john, what do you think? Do you even?

      • felix 6.1.1

        “…the electorate seems to have a short memory when it comes to National Ltdâ„¢…”

        I’ve been thinking a bit about this lately BLiP. Why did so many voters in 2008 act like they were born yesterday?

        One factor I haven’t seen discussed is the enormous number of immigrants who entered the country during Labour’s 3 terms who – having never lived in NZ under a National govt – may well have taken more of the bullshit at face value than many long-time residents would.

        The whole “you can have all the good stuff plus a tax cut” schtick only really made sense if you had no idea what Nat govts are like. A lot of their campaign rhetoric was so blatantly 180 degrees from anything National govts have ever stood for but how would you know unless you’d lived here before ’99 or taken a particular interest in NZ political history?

        To recent immigrants you can add anyone relatively apolitical who turned 18 sometime after 1999 and you’re looking at a decent amount of voters who, politically speaking, actually were born yesterday.

        Will they fall for it again? Anecdotally I can think of quite a few who won’t. Thoughts?

        • BLiP

          Ahhhh . . . now there’s a dynamic I hadn’t considered and, I wonder if, Labour made fatal assumptions concerning. Being an immigrant in Aotearoa is not an easy fate, especially for our melatonin-enhanced brothers and sisters, and those who might initially flounder with the lingua franca. I would suggest that C/T et al were more aware of it than perhaps the rest of us should have been and were quick to fund the likes of Shawn Tan et al to stir up fear that egregious spate of crime facilitated. (Where are the headlines now, I wonder.) Labour and the Greens should be all over this issue ensuring as best they can, as The Who so wisely said, they don’t get fooled again.

          Very good thinking, 99. I’m going to have to ponder but, as usual, you have provided another slant, this time on the “what happened” question. Cheers mate.

          In the meantime, you might be interested in this highly confidential, internal Crosby/Textor training video. It looks as if they have been turning to practical science to supplement their social science experiments and it explains exactly what was done to John Key in the lead up to November 2008.

          • felix

            Don’t forget about the less-pigmented immigrants either – lots of fairly apolitical Brits have come here in the past decade to buy a house and raise kids and generally get a fair go at the Kiwi dream – the “all this + a tax cut” would’ve resonated pretty well there too.

            As for the video, it reminds me of being a kid and having someone explain to me how a “sheen” is light reflected off a surface whereas a “gleam” radiates from within something. You really can put a sheen on anything it seems.

      • prism 6.1.2

        there’s the “communist lesbian nanny combo’ appeal to the irrational emotional aspect of the population, there’s the fact that the electorate seems to have a short memory when it comes to National Ltdâ„¢

        A politician can wear out the goodwill voters had whether male or female. It is sexist to constantly cast criticism of HC in terms of anti-female. Labour did not have a good majority in the previous election, and did not please or offer enough positive visions for the voters who cared when they finally went down. National seemed to have better ones, and didn’t have the weight of years of activity that hadn’t given enough lift to the country for the future.

        The anti-spam says it all for now – mess!

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    This could be useful

    The Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) is a self-assessed personality questionnaire designed to help people better understand themselves and others. It was first introduced in the book Please Understand Me.


    The type that probably corresponds to John Key is this one

    Promoters are tactical operators, concrete in speech and utilitarian in action. In social situations, they are directive and expressive.[2] Promoters are the most adept among the types at maneuvering other people to their position. They make a point of getting to know those in positions of influence. Promoters are also resourceful, knowing where the fun and the action are. They like to indulge themselves in the finer things in life and to bring other people with them. Their goal in life is to sell themselves and their ideas to others. Dramatic and debonair, they are gifted at earning others’ confidence.[1]


    Sorry about the cut and paste but it makes the point

    [lprent: fixed the tags ]

  8. I agree with Francisco, if I were a member of the Labour Party I woulnt base my opposition to the NACTs on such a flimsy characteristion of Key’s personality as the vacuous man in the middle. Key is just the man for the NACTs, having gone through Binglish and dumped Don, and with the rest useless or faceless, Key is the personable ‘smiling assassin’ who can front NACTs rightwing agenda. What makes Key good is that he is actually believes the crap about the meritocracy and his own life is proof of it for many NZers who would have loved to go from state house to Wall St to ‘live the dream’.
    So its not Key that is important as such but the fact that Key represents the realised ‘aspirations’ of lots of middle class NZ trying to escape the working class even when theyre not. He provides a few targets to blame and bash.
    So he can be pragmatic, this and that, feint left and right, but all the time he serves the basic agenda of the ruling class to try to fool most of the people most of the time so that the bosses can gerrymander, jackup, pay off, suck off, smile and gloat while they shaft us with rogernomics 11. He is still doing pretty well considering the rolling ruck the NACTs are using to steamroll democracy, welfare, and climate change policy.
    Its not about leaders its about followers. While NZ follows the leader like sheep they will end up at the works.

    • felix 8.1

      That’s spot on but it cuts both ways. You could attack the rest of National on their policy, their sub-par cabinet, their already long list of lies and corruption from now until the election and you know what? Key would still smile and dance his way into half the Party vote. But he’s all they’ve got, electability-wise, and they know it.

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