The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next leader of National Party?





It was all set to go: Teamkey would be the cult of personality that would do Stalin, Mao, Reagan, Thatcher, or any of the Nth Korean Kim Dynasty, proud.  National and it’s “Teamkey” propaganda strategy   would cash-in Big Time on Key’s immense public popularity.

It was a popularity that seemed impervious to all the scandals, stuff-ups, and questionable economic and social policies enacted by this government over the years. Every time a minister stuffed up,  Key’s popularity remained unblemished.

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People couldn’t work out how it was being achieved. Despite shitstorms surrounding so many National ministers – many of which resulted in sackings/resignations – Key walked through it, much like Superman might walk through an atomic bomb-blast, barely feeling a tickle.

But Key is no extra-terrestrial super-powered being (despite accusations to the contrary). His seeming talent for invulnerability wasn’t a preternatural super-power. It was wholly manufactured by mere mortals, working in back-rooms, funded by tax-payers, and played out with ruthless efficiency.

The plan, as outlined in Nicky Hager’s expose, “Dirty Politics“, and based on leaked emails, was that Key would be kept “above politics”. Others would do the dirty work, and he would maintain an “apolitical”, almost Presidential style. It was a form of fake neutrality.

When  Key said in January 2011,

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative.”

– he wasn’t talking about his own persona, he was reciting a pre-prepared script.

Nicky Hager’s book has stripped away the secrecy to this plan and Key’s closeness to the players in dirty politics has been exposed to public scrutiny.

Russell Norman once pointed out that there is a great deal of similarity between John Key and Robert Muldoon. Russell was half-way correct. Key’s politics was every bit as destructive as Muldoons, attacking, destabilising, and under-mining critics of the government.

The only difference is that Muldoon did his own dirty politics. He never hid behind others.

Dirty Politics” has achieved more than simply revealing  unwholesome machinations between National party apparatchiks, ministers, and halfway-insane right-wing bloggers. The book has explained the nature of Key’s seemingly “Teflon” nature. The secret is revealed; the mystery is stripped away; and now, when Key is confronted by a media pack, the brown smelly stuff is sticking to him.

Result? Key is just another self-serving politician and his bloody-mindedness in continuing to shield Judith Collins is corroding his reputation and public standing. I am guessing this will be reflected in coming polls. It’s game over for this government.

If National loses this election, Key has already made it abundantly clear what his intentions will be;


Key says he'll quit politics if National loses election



Which then begs the question – who would replace Key?

Of the options available to National, I offer these insights;

Steven Joyce




Style: loud, abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views.

Low points: his “debate” on TV3’s “The Nation“, with Labour’s Grant Robertson, where he continually shouted over his opponant and almost hijacked the show.  Or his veiled threats against protesting tertiary students in September 2011.

Leadership chances: 5/10

Electoral saleability: 3/10

Comment: Joyce alienates people by shouting them down. It is bullying and as a political strategy makes him a liability. His pugnacity is more openly Muldoonesque than any other politician.

Judith Collins




Style: abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views, 100% Pure vindictiveness in high-heels.

Low points: her relationship with National’s black-ops team headed by Jason Ede and Cameron Slater; lying about journalist Katie Bradford; dodgy dealings with Oravida; mis-use of ministerial power; etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Leadership chances: 2/10

Electoral saleability: 0/10 (nil)

Comment: Collins would be a gift for the Left if she were elected Leader of the National Party. She brings back memories of Jenny Shipley – and didn’t that end ‘well’? The Nats would be unelectable with her as Leader. (In simple terms, her political career is over.)

Bill English




Style: inoffensive.

Low points: rorting the ministerial accomodation allowance (double dipping) in 2009. A silly thing to do for minimal gain. Mostly forgotten by the general public.

Leadership chances: 7/10

Electoral saleability: 7/10

Comment: English has been mostly untainted by all the scandals swirling around Richard Worth, Phil Heatley, Pansy Wong, Nick Smith, Aaron Gilmore, John Banks, Hekia Parata, Judith Collins, et al. In fact, he distanced himself from Collins’ actions in leaking a civil servant’s personal information to far-right blogger, Cameron Slater, by saying,

“I certainly wouldn’t condone an attack by a blogger on a public servant doing their job.”

If  English is positioning himself for a future leadership bid, it was a good move.

English was Leader of the National Party from 2001 to 2003, and was dumped after the Nat’s worst electoral result in decades. During that time, he’s kept his head down; focused on economic issues; and avoided public controversies.

He comes across as likeable, and the public might be persuaded to give him another shot as a Leader.


The political dramas will only be beginning on 20 September.




NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

Fairfax media:  Key’s staff can’t disprove reptilian theory

NZ Herald:  Norman – Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

TV3:  The Nation – Debate: Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce on the wealth of the nation

NZ Herald: Bill English to pay back part of allowance

Wikipedia: Bill English – Leader of the Opposition

Wikipedia: 2002 General Election

Radio NZ: Key, English distance themselves from Collins

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader loves you!

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!



20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes



= fs =


  1. Re English, you forgot his once being caught out red handed, via secret recording, being duplicitous in regard to asset sale programme.

    Not a person to be trusted.

      • A source is still a source. He said it. Under NZ law, if the person taping was a part of the conversation, it’s legal. You may question the ethics, but whoever taped it was not, legally speaking, being underhanded.

      • Yabby – funny how some folk are more interested in preserving the “privacy” of their preferred politicians rather than finding out what they’re really up to.

        Do you really want politicians who are mendacious in the extreme and cannot be trusted? Or do you really want to know what the dickens is going on?

        I guess that’s the nature of political “tribalism”, but really, if that’s the case, then we really will get the government we deserve (whether Left or Right).

      • Not more underhand spying as a source???

        No, not “underhand spying”. When in service of the public good such an exposure of mendacity is conventionally termed intelligence gathering..

        You really must try harder.

  2. Sorry Frank, you’re kidding yourself if you think any of the cyberhacking is sticking to Key. Granted he has looked ill at ease, but there’s nothing on him personally and his popularity still intact in latest poll.

    You need to look outside the beltway and media – to the people. I think that if he announced he ate kittens for breakfast half the country would order them up fried or poached on toast

    • Yabby, I voted “up” for your comment. You’ve raised some valid issues for discussion.

      Why? Because whether or not the public take notice of National’s dirty politics is only secondary to the main point; that people need to be allowed the opportunity to know what is happening.

      What they do with that information is up to them.

      By the way, Nicky Hager also wrote an expose on the Labour Party’s policies toward genetic engineering in 2002.

      It allowed the public to know what was going on, and vote according. Labour voters could change their votes to the Alliance if they wished.

      The problem for the Right is that National voters have no such choice. It’s either National or —? ACT? Conservative Party?

      If National fractured into two or three individual parties (urban liberals; rural right; moral conservatives; etc), right wing voters could turn from one rightwing party to another, depending on various factors.

      At present, there is no political “market force” to motivate the Nats to up their game and abandon dirty politics.

      On the Left, by contrast, when several Labour MPs (Hipkins, Nash, Davis, Goff, et al) engaged in negative politics with Mana-Internet, they faced oppobrium from many on the Left.

      The result (?) was Labour being forced to mend it’s ways, and hence was born the “vote positive” campaign.

      It’s a shame that National is still one big bloc. Several smaller right-wing parties might do a world of good to improving politics on the Right.

      It would certainly give right wing voters more choice, eh?

      And as the Right keep insisting, choice is good.

    • I think the fallout from “Dirty Politics” has spread well beyond the beltway. Evidence that Key lied about his role in the Goff smear is incontrovertible. While most NZers care only about the amount of money they have in their wallet (or more particularly, that someone must have less purchasing power than they do), I think growing numbers of us are coming to the conclusion that our Prime Minister is a lying, dissembling scumbag who will stop at nothing to hold on to power. For many of us, Key’s behaviour is simply unacceptable.

  3. “The PM now can’t answer any questions regarding Ede and that’s simply not good enough. The Prime Minister suddenly looks in trouble.

    Ede needs to be sacked, but Key can’t do that can he because he knew what was going on and endorsed it.”—and-mud-sticks/tabid/674/articleID/52542/Default.aspx


    Our prime minister johnny two face has been exposed.

    He enjoyed slaters work and was hands on in the most sleazy and corrupt stuff we’ve ever seen from a NZ government.

    Greedy Wall Street ethics on show.

        • Clown…straight away we can reject your input…don’t you read the news stories?…FJK stating he wont stand again if he looses..

          As for Paula Benefit?….. 🙂 yes, please do…

          We could do with an extended break from National…but I’d still prefer FJC …Collins for the eternal leader of the opposition sounds lovely , actually…

  4. They’d parachute someone else in when the time is right. Just get someone to fill the space for the moment.

    Still think the game is not over for Key yet. What right wing people hate more than being made a fool of by their loved leader, is the fact being exposed by the Left who they will always hate a lot more than a flawed leader.

    Right wingers basically believe that whoever does something wrong, left or right, it is always the left who should suffer the punishment.

    The surest way to drag Key down is not by the weight of public opinion, but the weight of the law. This may have to wait till after the election if National still manages to squeeze back in. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

    • Then again….them emails is just gonna keep right on a-comin…and then weve got the 15th of Sept …. can only get a whole lot better from here on in 🙂

  5. Labour attacks should switch to what a mess the next three years will be with a rudderless, factionalized, legally challenged National Government limping on for three more years. It will be a mess. Because this does not all go away on the 20th of Sept. They will be in court, they will be tearing themselves apart.

    This has blown up because of internal rivalries inside National, that will only get worse

    • And as for that cheesy ad with a rowing boat…true to form…they will have cheated (as they always do ) and put a quiet outboard motor on the back…

      And what a bunch of stereotypical jerks – what do they take the NZ public for? They think we only think about sport in this country ? – they really think we are a bunch of passive idiot sheep?…shows their cynical thinking….

      Rudderless is right….as is factionalized , and legally challenged…who the hell wants those dickheads in power? …..they are the very thing now they’ve accused the Left of being.

      Hypocrites . ( As always. Goodbye to you , all you ‘Born to Rule ‘ pricks…)

  6. Nice piece as always, Frank. Great food for thought. Two thoughts for my 10c worth…

    1. Who the next leader of the Nats is after they lose is essentially irrelevant. In modern NZ (and Aussie FWIW) politics, the new leader after a party loses power does not become PM themselves. AFAIK you have to go back to Muldoon to see a leader take over a party that lost power and win themselves.

    The good news however would be that choosing someone toxic like Joyce or Collins would likely prolong National’s time in opposition. The bad news is that it could still be someone even worse who takes over and leads the Nats to victory – Abbott in Aussie is a scarily prescient example.

    2. Although the Nats are having a really rough run at the moment, nothing is yet guaranteed in this election. We’ve got less than a month now to make it happen. Every vote counts – get every voter you know out there to make change happen. There is no room for complacency.

  7. If National will indeed lose, which is now becoming more likely by the day, I bet we will have them fall into disaster mode, worse than now. It will not lead to a new leader being elected and appointed for the longer term, it will likely be Bill English again, taking over for time being, as he is the only somewhat experienced and competent one they now have left in their ranks. He could be the “steady hand” to keep guiding the ship, on a course of internal reformation so to say.

    Joyce is not supported by enough, has proved to be rather toxic (remember his last performance on the Nation, with Grant Robertson), he would not have the numbers.

    Judith Collins is unlikely to take over then, as she will still suffer the reputational damage caused over recent months, especially the last week. Few will support her. I suspect though, the reason for her not stepping down yet is an ominous one. She could well be working overtime behind the scenes now, with her “friends” like Cameron Slater and his “mates”, to dig and dig, in order to try and find out, who the hacker is. If they have means and contacts and sources that could expose the hacker, she could step up totally unexpectedly, and announce her “victory” over the alleged “left wing conspiracy”.

    She is that type of ruthless, determined, calculating and even capable character, to work on such a “project”.

    It is clear now she has something over Key, that is why he is not sacking her, no matter what.

    This can still become a somewhat exciting, unpredictable story, but as the days pass, her chances are fading fast, that she can rescue herself.

  8. Gerry will be disappointed he was left of your list. After all of his sinking of the boot into those unruly Canterbury peasants that dare voice their discontent over the government’s management of the Christchurch ‘rebuild’, his persistent intimidation and blackmailing of the local council to get government’s way, and deliberately undercutting the entitlements of EQC’s claimants to aid in the creation of his boss’s budget surplus mirage; The Emperor will be expecting his just deserts for blind obedience to his master.
    However, I think even the most staunch in the National Party ranks, realize, that giving Brownlee any such position, even at deputy level, would be a serious mistake not only for NZ, but the Party as well. Don’t tell Gerry though. He might cry.

  9. 21 September 2014, all votes are counted, the Chief Electoral Officer has just announced the final result, John Key is announcing, he will retire from politics, move permanently to Hawaii, and play golf and consult with his close buddies in the USA!


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