What A Way To Go! Some Initial Thoughts On John Key’s Resignation



RELINQUISHING POWER holds almost as many dangers for a political leader as the risky business of acquiring it. If John Key had chosen December 2015 to announce his intention of retiring from politics in December 2016, then the past twelve months would have been a messy combination of House of Cards and Game of Thrones.

Factions would have consolidated around the National politicians most likely to succeed, and investors would have put their plans on hold until the shape of the new regime became clear. Politically and economically, giving New Zealand advance warning of his intention to step down would have been a very foolish thing for John Key to have done. And whatever else he may be, John Key is no fool.

Surprising everyone with his resignation (and everyone was surprised) while simultaneously nominating Bill English as his preferred successor and Steven Joyce as Finance Minister has drastically restricted the room for manoeuvre of all the other claimants to National’s vacant throne. Key’s early identification of his preferred succession team also serves another important purpose. It forces English’s and Joyce’s rivals, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, to play the role of “rebel pretenders” to Key’s throne.

If either, or both, women force the issue to a Caucus vote they will be painted by English and Joyce (and Key?) as selfish and disruptive. In the face of the shock and dismay which the Prime Minister’s resignation has occasioned both inside and outside of the National Party, the succession team will argue strongly that the interests of the country are best served by a calm and smooth transition of power. They will insist that the last thing National needs; the last thing New Zealand needs; is for these two ambitious women to plunge the governing party into a bitter struggle for power.

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Whether or not the combined influence of Key, English and Joyce proves sufficient to squash the ambitions of Collins and Bennett depends on how many members of the National Caucus are willing to persist with Key’s Labour-Lite policy settings. While he could point to three election victories on the trot and consistently favourable poll results, Key’s ideological apostasy, while not forgiven, could, at least, be overlooked. With Key gone, however, those wishing to restore National’s right-wing default settings may yet decide that the tree of free-market capitalism is in urgent need of watering with the blood of the party’s leading pragmatists.

For Andrew Little and Labour, a win for the National Right would be the best possible outcome of Key’s departure. As Matthew Hooton commented, only this morning, the Labour Party in 2017 will not be running – as Michael Wood was running – against Pamjeet Parmar, but against John Key: a very different proposition altogether. Well, not any more. Labour may have had no answer to the political shape-shifter who dominated New Zealand politics so effortlessly for the best part of a decade, but finding the correct answer to the right-wing sneers of Collins and Bennet – that will not be a problem.

Which is why Key left vacant the position of Deputy Prime Minister. His clear message to Collins and Bennett: if you want to fight over something – fight over the deputy’s slot. That way, if English fails to win National a fourth term, a successor will be ready and waiting. Neat.

But then, everything about John Key’s fourteen-year run in New Zealand politics has been neat and tidy. Almost as if, at some point early in his career, he had negotiated a deal with Mephistopheles & Partners Ltd.

Perhaps that’s it? Perhaps the principal shareholder in Mephistopheles & Partners Ltd has decided to call in his debt? Perhaps John Key’s unprecedented mode of departure is his severance package?

To leave office undefeated and unpushed; with New Zealand’s economy the envy of the OECD, and with his party hovering implausibly close to 50 percent in the polls; no one has done it before – and it will be a long time before anybody does it again.

What a way to go!


  1. Yeah well done him – stuff the rest of us. I’m sorry but this man has done nothing of any good for this country. NZ could have moved forward in the last 3 terms – but went well and truely backwards.

    • I’m with Kim Dandy on this one, as the media have long deserted the 90% of us that have been crushed by this Jaunta!

    • While most on the Left loathed and still loath John Key at a visceral level, the man was a peerless operator.

      His teflon ability to ride out adversity was sometimes breath-taking. His irritating clown-in-the-machine persona continued to connect with many and his eat-you-seed-corn (milk, immigration, slash the public sector with a little knife, borrow to pay the groceries) tell everyone what they wanted to hear and hope for the best approach to the economic well-being of the country paired with a corporate eye for dirty politics kept him on-side with enough of the electorate to contemplate re-election for a historic fourth term. (Assisted by an opposition which pretty much did the opposite at every opportunity).

      But to get the rest of the picture look at the gushy appraisals from those who should have been his most effective counterweights: the political media.

      Listening to Andrea Vance and Rachel Smalley eulogize the guy, was a sad reminder of how a conspiratorially complacent political commentocracy excused and facilitated his success for years. And listening to Kim Hill’s interview earlier reminded me of what maybe should have been.

      I still remember Key taking Paddy Gower and Guyon Espinar out for “off-the-record” drinkies. And watching the cosy little chat with Tracey Watkins one day as they chose their coffees prior to a cafe interview put her in aposition where she could only be supportive, and was.

      Politicians are supposed and expected to schmooze the media. But it should not and must not be a two-way love-fest or we are all lost. New Zealand journalism forgot that basic tenet of their profession.

      No problem. When the Left win the next election, suddenly the political journalist fraternity will remember their role.

      Waimategate, anyone? (Should have performed a citizen’s arrest)
      Paintergate anyone? (That’s forgery….lock her up!)
      Showergate anyone? (Nanny State!)
      Pledgecardgate anyone? (Corruption in high places….)

      Under financial pressure, over the last few years, all the poor political journalist (financially) have been sent down the road by their struggling employers, leaving only the rich insider turkeys with the statutory task of voting for Thanksgiving.

      In a tiny information village like New Zealand the harm is dramatic and correction impossible.

      In my view,our following a diverse USA media structure into allowing unbalanced Media presentation in our limited market has been a total disaster, allowing Hosking and Henry-style loud-mouth opinion to dominate without statutory challenge. The sooner balance is restored (as used to be the case even in the US) the better for the country, even if it turns out to be the Left that suffers from the change first after the next election.

  2. Key knows that the crash is coming and the illusory rock star economy built on colonial levels of migration is about to keel over. Rat. Sinking ship.

  3. You believe our economy is the envy of the OECD? Who are you listening to the National Party? For starters our productivity is second to last!

    And any party polling the almost mythical heights of 50% should have won Mt Roskill, no problems and even if they couldn’t quite muster it, then came a damned good second. They did not, they got thrashed, more like a party lingering in the low 30’s.

    Condolences Chris but Key’s legacy to me is a dark stain on politics and NZ in general.

  4. A middle ground pragmatist…

    Have you considered having a go yourself Chris?

    You seem to be getting more and more right-wing in your dotage…

  5. “But then, everything about John Key’s fourteen-year run in New Zealand politics has been neat and tidy.”

    I guess you didn’t bother reading “Dirty Politics”.

  6. Its fair to say the manure is pouring on thick and fast today about this man who rather than be knighted should be given a sainthood.

    So how about some journalism? If these so called “journo’s” who take themselves ever so seriously ever scratched the surface on the sordid little organisation called the National Party, and they have had many years to do so, then they would have known in advance why he’s pulled the pin. But they don’t, instead the make up stories about Andrew Little and infighting in the Labour Party. And as per usual all we get today is the tired taking of Keys word.

    And what is Mike Hosking going to do now? Will he even make it through his evening show without breaking down or welling up. I am almost tempted to watch but I am washing my hair.

    Anyway a great day and Santa always comes to those who have been good!

    • Not hard to guess the reaction from Henry and Hosking.
      Hosking will be crying his eyes out and Henry will be like a bear with a sore head.

  7. Labour started as a party of union people committed to democratic socialism. They are now a Natz lite party rather than the Natz being a Labour lite party

    • First I’ve heard anyone insinuating that is was far right.

      In the spectrum of conservative politics Key was about as left leaning as they get. Just look overseas to see examples of real right wing politics.

      • it was far-right. Key simply managed to hide it with his happy face.

        One may smile and smile and still be a villain

  8. Are you missing your PM?…fat rat with golf clubs spotted boarding private yacht to Hawaii with a turtle riding pineapple.

    • Country Boy, oh dear I missed your comment, just adjust it a little and then the moderator will put it up. I know I know you like colourful language. I think some of what Chris is saying is quite clever about annointing others and then letting the two females scrap it out for the deputy leadership. But then they are AMBITIOUS females and we can’t have women who are ambitious can we. They are all revolting every one of them is not worth a single vote, self serving shits who don’t give a jot about those living in cars, scraping by.

  9. Arise Sir John

    With the polls showing the return of a National led government to be a sure bet. John Key would be an idiot to wait until the shine comes off, and a Labour led government was in the wings.

    Another gaurantee is that among the names in the incoming National Government’s honour’s list will be Sir John Key.

    Wait until Labour is the incoming government and Sir John will be an unfullfilled dream.

  10. Do we know if Key has agreed to meet with the Pike River Mine families face to face yet? If he doesn’t give them a definite response in the coming week to whether or not he will honour his promise to retrieve the bodies of the miners then he will go down in history as a gutless coward.

  11. Jolly good chaps!!! The PM is to step down with a perfect sense of timing. I’ll buy into that but a key problem is looming as he well knows.
    Key would have been wiped out if he had remained for the next GE and he knows it. Fifty percent in the polls is a recent record but there remain the missing 800,000 plus who do not vote and in all likelihood do not poll. Correct me if I’m wrong ?

    There are over sixty five percent of the NZ population who ” will agree with me when I say ” go, you , and your ilk and don’t come back.

  12. The main MSM spin on John Key’s resignation (even from Mike Williams) is how “Key left at the top of his game….” or similar comments.
    Yes, he left at the top of HIS game.
    He left when HE had achieved all the personal glory that he had desired.
    What was left to achieve? I dunno, perhaps boring things like child poverty, homelessness, unaffordable housing, government departments in meltdown, rivers full of cow effluent, rising crime???
    A PM REALLY dedicated to the welfare of New Zealand would have worked on such problems and seen them through to some kind of conclusion.
    Instead Key took the coward’s way out and quit while he had milked all the awards there were to be had, but also to avoid the backlash and let others take it.
    He let the country down very badly, apart from the 1% and the rabid right.
    National once again in its history shows it has no stomach for the hard fight and gives up when the going gets tough.
    He may have quit while he personally was ahead but he quit when the country is only just starting to recover from another bad earthquake and a leader who cared more for the country than himself wouldn’t have done that.
    That is John Key’s real legacy, but you won’t hear that in our MSM.
    You will get the John Armstrong version about being the best PM ever.

    • Couldn’t have explained it better – he is a petulant kid who can’t stand the heat in the kitchen and for the betterment of John has decided to kick his colleagues in the guts and walk away. He has all the selfies, gongs, addresses in his notebook he needs and now he waits for his knighthood. God I hope if Labour get in they bring back the NZ Honours system. What a nasty little man he was. He goes the day before my birthday, I couldn’t have asked for a better present.

  13. This article is a load of rot, particularly this.. “To leave office undefeated and unpushed; with New Zealand’s economy the envy of the OECD, and with his party hovering implausibly close to 50 percent in the polls; no one has done it before – and it will be a long time before anybody does it again. What a way to go!”… what rubbish!

    key is coward who is not even seeing out his 3rd term. he got thoroughly trounced in another by election and is now doing a runner.

    • And you are no more than a shill for Labour – and not a very bright one who thinks Trotter making Key his ‘politician of the year’ means he is a supporter of Key’s policies. The same goes for your one-dimensional approach to those who are critical of Labour as somehow being supporters of Key and the National Party. You’d make good comic material if you weren’t such a dangerous and pathetic Labour-can-do-no-wronger. It’s uncritical fools like you who’ve fucked the left.

      • That’s rich coming from a national shill like you Chris. I am entitled to my opinion, as you are of yours. Your stalking abuse doesn’t contribute a thing to the discussion.

        • I despise National and everything they stand for. What I also despise are people who give uncritical support to an opposition no matter what that opposition says or does. They are just as despicable as the National Party, probably even more so because they enable the National Party to do all of the evil things they do. You have firmly established yourself in that group who gives uncritical support to an opposition regardless of what it says or does, and that is why you are as despicable as the National Party.

        • Mind you, Words, Time magazine, named Adolph Hitler as “Man of the Year” in 1938. Being given that title is not necessarily a positive thing – just an indication on the impact a person has made in a given sphere of human activity.

          • True. Trotter also made Bill English NZer of the year as well. Both articles did read as being rather positive though.

  14. Good riddance. The man was a skilled manipulator, liar, and deceiver. I’d like to think NZers finally came to their senses by next November.

    • Totally agree Priss, John key getting totally thrashed in the Mt Roskill by election shows that people are coming to their senses.

      • The Mt Roskill by-election outcome was quite standard. It was a long held Labour seat with a substantial majority for the sitting member.

        The odds on National winning it were always low; as they have been over several decades for these kind of by-elections.

        Typically, voter turn out was low. Labour was able through superior organisation to get its vote out. There is no evidence that shows that hoards of National party voters switched their votes to Labour.

        Trying to spin it that this represented some kind of major embarrassment for National and to imply that it had some influence on Key’s decision to resign is just fanciful and desperate.

        • It is not spin, it’s fact, even National’s Audrey Young said it was a bloody nose, black eye and a broken jaw to key and the nats. So yeah, it is a major embarrassment for National, coming after losing the safe Northland seat.

          No, the Mt Roskill by-election outcome was not quite standard, it was in fact, outstanding and a crushing blow to National.

          John key campaigned hard for an upset, due to the party vote 2014, he didn’t expect the thrashing and loss of support he got. Monday he resigned.

          Fact check: Key says Wood’s win “not emphatic”. Truth is, he has 3rd highest vote share of any electorate MP. Key is 5th

          Fact check: Key says turnout was low. In fact, of the 8 by-elections on his watch, this was 4th highest turnout.

          • Believe Labours spin if you want Word’s, the fact remains that the turn out was low, those that did turnout were primarily staunch Labour voters, Key acknowledged before the by election that National would not win it etc etc.

            It’s relevance to a general election is about zero.

            BTW the more interesting development insofar as electorate seats and the general election is concerned is the decision by Labour to now stand a candidate in Nelson; much to chagrin of the Greens, and in breach of the MoU with the Greens.

            • It’s not spin, facts are facts. It is you Ocon, that’s spinning National’s spin.

              All by elections have traditionally low voter turnouts, but do take note of the fact checks in my previous post, and despite the spin in the final week of the by election campaign, John Key, for a number of reasons, still expected to take the seat. key was looking for an upset and it was him that was on the receiving end.

              The by election’s relevance is significant, as not only a number of people within the National biased msm and some authors on here and elsewhere have pointed out.

              Whatever needs to be worked on between all the opposition parties in the lead up to the next general election, will be.

              • Words

                Your so called ‘fact’ sheet is irrelevant. None of those points are material in terms of the general election next year.

                I’m keen for you to explain to me how this by-election result is of significance to the general election in 2017. How will it influence how people will vote, for example?

                In my opinion this by-election is already forgotten and has passed quietly into history.

                • That is not what most people are now saying Ocon. The Roskill by election is currently being overshadowed by John key resigning as PM and leader of the National party 2 days after getting crushed in that by election, and you continue to think that that’s not significant and that nothing has changed. As been reported the political landscape has dramatically changed as a result of the by election. What appears to be irrelevant are your denials and out of touch opinions.

                  • The political landscape has dramatically changed as a result of Key’s resignation, which has nothing to do with the by election result.

                    If you are suggesting that Key resigned because of the by election, then you’re just plain nuts, and belong with the greatest of all conspiracy theorists in NZ, old Winnie the Peters.

                    Mt Roskill is just an irrelevant side show.

                    • After losing a flag referendum and 2 by elections in a row, brand key was done, key couldn’t take another defeat, particularly in a general election and so he dropped his government in it and did a runner.

        • I heard a story that the grateful abusive emloyers, corporate tax evaders, foreign trust tax evaders, Chinese property speculators and cabinet club members had held a whip round for a bronze plaque to commemorate Key’s glorious reign. They were puzzled where to attach it however. The cycleway was unfinished and unused. The debt was too intangible. The flag failed. Hosking was too small and Henry was too brazen. It would’ve fitted on Brownlee but it would have slowed him down even more. So they gave it to McCully, who sent it to an ACC supported firm that makes small arms, where it was made into bullets and sent to our ‘training forces’ in Iraq. Dummy bullets of course – nothing about Key ever worked.

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