Matthew Hooton on John Key’s legacy

In his weekly NBR column Matthew Hooton comments on John Key’s legacy:

Seldom does a politician come along who can connect with the public so well as the previous prime minister, or one who has as good an understanding of the global economy and New Zealand’s place in it.

Had he chosen to, Mr Key could have used his position not to “spend political capital” as demanded by some of his right-wing critics but to transform the political narrative toward, say, Mr English’s social-investment model or perhaps the Singaporean economic system he claimed to be interested in as leader of the opposition.

But, in the end, Mr Key just couldn’t be bothered. Instead he wasted his eight years as prime minister on a personal project of self-aggrandisement that has ceded all ideological territory to the left. It means Mr English and Mr Joyce will almost certainly respond to Labour’s latest spending promises with new claims on the taxpayers’ wallet of their own – and they will probably be making the right political judgment in doing so.

The one hope to avoid an entirely braindead campaign is that while Mr Key turned out to be as shallow as an empty birdbath, Mr English is clearly capable of considerable ideological depth. Maybe he will return from his holiday, observe the chaos amongst his opponents and decide he can risk spending some of the next two months communicating a basic ideological framework to guide New Zealand over the next three years.

English may have ideological depth, he has Steve Joyce watching the polling numbers rolling in from David Farrar. Those numbers can be moved in National’s direction with large dollops of welfare, corporate or otherwise.

John Key squandered his personal political capital. Not on useful things, but on stupid, idiotic things that were never going to make a difference to anyone, like the flag referendum. That was the beginning of the end for John Key. He realised that he could no longer sway people his way. They flipped the bird at him and killed off his personal project. I imagine his decision to jack it all in came shortly after the referendum results.

It’s sad really, no one will remember John Key in 3 years time. His high popularity was for naught.




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