Maximising self-interest? The ambitious John Key.
We would at least be able to agree that in our present Prime Minister we are certainly not dealing with an unambitious individual. Personable, and with a very useful political quality of charisma – nevertheless, one which some of the most troubling and contentious leaders in history have shared – our man at the top must by now have his sights set further. We would be very naive to ignore the implications for New Zealand. It is by no means impossible that they may even give us cause for concern.
Having made a great deal of money in the field of high finance, in currency trading – or money shuffling, as it has been described – the man whose degree and subsequent experience has apparently narrowly centred around commerce and the financial world only is not remembered by contemporaries as having shone at school, but had sufficient self-regard and ambition to early intend to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He has now got what he wanted.
So far. And it’s the answer to this question which may well carry consequences for New Zealand one way or another. The process has arguably already started, with the door open to Communist-China backed companies being given permission to own New Zealand land – what is in fact strategic territory in the Pacific. The warnings of those very familiar with the smile on the face of the tiger, and China’s own aggressive moves in this part of the world, have been completely ignored by a Cabinet of National Party ministers who, under John Key’s determined control of his team, have simply rubberstamped his decision-making. And we should make no mistake – regardless of who holds what portfolio – it is the essentially autocratic Key who finally decides.
However, nobody would describe our present, ill-spoken Prime Minister as a well- educated individual, given the narrowness of his degree, and his early focus on money-making. Yet if the country’s leader lacks a sense of history or basic knowledge about the movements that have determined the history of the world, the question arises whether he is an asset or a liability – having achieved his long-wanted, top-of-the pole position.
Key won the National Party seat of Helensville in 2002, when sitting member Brian Neeson was controversially displaced, the latter subsequently regarding his defeat as having been deliberately engineered with the help of National Party highfliers, including Michelle Boag and Jenny Shipley. He subsequently also ousted National Party leader Don Brash, to become Opposition leader and then Prime Minister in the 2008 elections, strongly backed by colleague Gerry Brownlee. There, unquestioned by the media about his extraordinary denial of the rights and responsibilities of party members, he shocked some candidates and grassroots supporters by ignoring the provisions of the National Party‘s constitution to handpick his own selections for the first 50 on the party List.
Since then, National’s List MPs are seen as answerable directly to this Prime Minister. This loaded the political wing of the party with new and incumbent MPs owing their promotion directly to Key himself. The consequences have been with us since. Electorate MPs also, who previously have been regarded having their first duty to represent their electorates, have now a record of ignoring majority input, to satisfy their leader. Being “a party man”, an ambitious candidate explained, is what is required to now succeed in Parliament.
But what of honesty, integrity, the need for public debate – the blows dealt to the principles of democracy when the leader rides over individual members’ misgivings especially a highly determined individual with his sights set on life after Parliament? And we would be very naive indeed to think that John Key has not already planned his next moves well ahead.
One very obvious talent of the Prime Minister’s is self-promotion – its downside the continual showing off which has embarrassed New Zealanders expecting more dignity, higher standards even, from their Prime Minister. Dancing on stage with gays; camping it up by mincing down the catwalk, modelling a Rugby World Cup uniform; accidentally-on-purpose taking up the opportunity to gain more pre-election popularity by appearing on a radio show… And now, drawing spectacles and a moustache on his own photo at a summit meeting of international leaders…a Prime Minister who lacks propriety and dignity – but who certainly does not lack self-esteem.
This is an individual whose history is that of a forward thinker, and whose sights will be set high – given the fact that National are set to crash at the next election – not without having inflicted the sort of damage on the country that political parties tend to before the electorate throws them out. With the Crafar farms deal we are heading in very worrying directions.
Is this enigma of a Prime Minister even aware of this? Called “the smiling assassin” after sacking dozens, even possibly – some say- hundreds of his own co-workers after heavy losses in 1998 from the Russian financial crisis; he cannot claim empathy to be high on his list of attributes. As foreign-exchange dealing has been described as inhabiting aggressive, piranha-infested waters, Key’s description as the smiling assassin for maintaining his apparent cheerfulness while others lost their livelihoods at the time may even have been an accolade. However, reportedly, some of his co-workers were disturbed by his modus operandi and we can perhaps regard it as relevant that the word assassin is not bestowed lightly.
Arguably this interesting description should at least have driven both an adoring mainstream media and their readers to take the cue and look a lot deeper than Key’s aw-shucks, self-deprecating projection, or the clowning show-off we have seen a great deal of.
Prime Minister Key never mentions his father, reportedly an English veteran of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and therefore a father of whom any boy might well be proud. As Key senior did not die until John Key was six years old, and will undoubtedly have memories of his father, it is curious how, possibly targeting the women’s or sympathy response, his vote-seeking references to date have offered no tributes to his father, but play on the fact that he was raised in a state house in Christchurch by a middle-class working mother before going on to university.
What had become obvious very early was the boy’s driving ambition – business people could afford golf lunches – he explained. And we have no reason to suspect that this distinctive driving ambition has deserted him. Where it is relevant for New Zealanders is the question which should be concerning us – particularly as Key has already stated that he has no intention of being in Opposition – as he doesn’t like “being negative”. The duty of a strong Opposition to closely scrutinise the directions of the party in power is dismissed with a cliché.
The National Party leader has quite a collection of similar clichés… being “comfortable”…being “relaxed”…”moving on”…”inevitable”. He likes to be popular, and his thinking on social issues is the fashionably shallow one of so-called “liberal” opinion makers. He doesn’t oppose gay adoption or civil unions, and is an atheist, with no belief in a life after death. He has adroitly changed his position on a number of issues, contradicting his previous stances or undertakings.
When a man changes his mind as often as Key has, the suspicion arises that pragmatism and poll-watching is the order of the day; that whatever is needed to help him accomplish his aims is what he will tell an audience. Key is apparently a great believer in pragmatism – but where pragmatism is placed before principle; there are consequences – not only for individuals, but for a country. And GK Chesterton reminds us, “Life is always horribly complicated for someone without principles. “
Readers will remember, too, that in 2011 Key was caught up in the controversy over the buying of government limousines which he denied knowledge of. However a later report showed that his office was aware of this purchase. Accused of being dishonest he apologised, calling the deal “sloppy”. Sloppy?
In October of the same year the Prime Minister made a statement claiming that Standard and Poor’s had said at a meeting that, if there was a change of government, downgrade would be much more likely. Standard and poor’s contradicted this claim and his credibility was called in to question.
With regard to the global warming cult, Key initially stated that “the impact of the Kyoto protocol, even if one believes in global warming – and I am somewhat suspicious of it, is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that I am not even sure is a problem.” He concluded: “The public are sick and tired of paying additional taxes for all sorts of crazy ideas.” Quite so. His subsequent turnaround was certainly not evidence-based. So what was behind it?
The whole global warming rort has been well and truly exposed for what it is – having achieved the status of a near-religious cult – but one which has had very profitable results for many involved in marketing it.
What, too, was behind the vote-seeking Key completely ignoring the over 85% of the electorate who utterly rejected the anti-smacking legislation? Many apparently far more aware than this Prime Minister, who likes to have its own way, recognised the parallel with the danger of creeping state intrusion into family lives and the threat to parental authority which occurred with Germany’s Hitler Youth, when children of 8 to 10 years upwards were recruited to spy on their families and inform on their parents.
The fact that this highly dangerous legislation, already disrupting family life – and having no effect at all on genuine cases of child abuse – was launched by the highly radicalised Sue Bradford, and supported by the left-wing Helen Clark, should have caused Key to beware of the fishhooks involved. At the very least, his total ignoring of majority opinion was essentially not only thoroughly undemocratic, but basically fascist. He backed Clark and Bradford, exaggerated enormously Clark’s and her finance Minister Michael Cullen’s gifts in financial management (their previous Labour government managed to turn reverse healthy financial assets into a considerable debt burden by the time they left office) and rang up world leaders to endorse Clark’s suitability for a high-powered UN management role. He rewarded Michael Cullen with a position on the board of New Zealand Post, with its ultimate chairmanship in mind.
Why would a man like Key go out of his way to so richly reward his political opponents, whom the rest of the country had rejected? One conclusion might be that he is simply a nice guy. But there is more to it than that, given that what has most distinguished John Key to date is his overpowering ambition. From the fact that he completely ignored the wishes of the majority, one might well conclude that, long-term, he saw New Zealanders and their future as far less important to him, on the way to higher things – than making friends with those who could be useful to him after parliamentary death.
One does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to recognise that, post-electoral defeat, Prime Minister John Key is not going to settle for any lesser reward than what his previous political foes have reaped. Reinstating the knighthoods, well and truly discredited in this country with the perception that very often they have been awarded with little justification, may have been grist to his mill.
The perception is that he is sights will be set high. And while eschewing conspiracy theories, given the path the Prime Minister has trodden so far, we have no reason to think otherwise than that he is programmed to act in terms of his own ambition – in which case being Prime Minister well have been simply the stepping stone for him to attempt to play a larger role on the world’s political international stage.
Moreover, any such conclusion makes sense of Key’s reversing his positions with an eye on the two areas where he could most profit in future , pleasing both the United States – under Barack Obama’s equally liberal personal initiatives – and endorsing the directions that the anti-the-West United Nations has rubberstamped.
In this way, his complete turnaround on the issue of global warming becomes explicable – UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, number one on the United Nations pecking order, again plugged it during his curiously low-key visit to New Zealand last September. Number three is Helen Clark, heading its development programme. It is highly doubtful that the ambitious Key, who shows obvious enjoyment in meeting celebrities and being made much of on the world scene, is going to settle for a quiet retirement in New Zealand. Obviously overjoyed to be at the wedding of Prince William and former Kate Middleton – who quickly became Wills and Kate – rather than, appropriately, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prime Minister has also reversed his pro-republic enthusiasm of “inevitable” to that of not on his watch, and is now a monarchist – for which most New Zealanders would forgive him.
However, Key’s concentration on his future explains, too, his ignoring of the opposition expressed by that overwhelming majority of New Zealanders to the anti-smacking legislation. What also falls into place is his shameful endorsing of Maori affairs Minister Pita Sharples sneaking off to the United Nations to sign the highly problematic declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples – without New Zealanders being informed – although this is an issue that should have been put to the country at large, given its potential consequences.
The question we may need to ask ourselves is whether what is happening and is going to happen to the country is all filtered through the overweening ambitions and over-controlling activity of a man who was so good at his job, in a cut-throat environment gambling on international currency that he was regarded as one of the sharpest. Have we been dealing on the home front simply with John Key’s poor judgment, or the highly calculated trade-offs made by a man who, not to put too fine a point on it, was essentially part of what many regard as a highly dubious international financial brotherhood which rewards its own acolytes, movers and shakers, in a manner utterly disproportionate to what they actually contribute to a country.
What if there is an inherent contradiction between John Key’s personal ambitions and the deeper implications of decisions he has essentially forced upon the country?
In essence, is it possible to escape the fact that a man as apparently determined, ambitious and possibly ruthless in his dealings as Prime Minister Key, well aware from the very beginning that his term in Parliament would have to be finite, and already on record as saying he had no intention of serving in Opposition, may have had a long-term agenda which has very much influenced his actions as Prime Minister? Once this possibility is considered, very determined decisions that he has taken, ones utterly undemocratic in that they have completely disregarded public opinion and the principles of democratic participation on crucial issues of the day, provide a worrying scenario for New Zealanders.
Have we been inflicted, in relation to these, with the highly calculated trade-offs made by an individual with different priorities than what New Zealanders might have initially assumed?
The Swiss, with their respect for democratic principles and practice would never have put up with a one-man band politician overriding the wishes of the majority.
The only practical way of limiting the power of our politicians is our 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement -see www.100days.co.nz which, once achieved, will put a stop to the hijacking of political power by determined individuals – or political parties.
This is the measure upon which the most successful democracy in the world decided, with the Swiss people ensuring that they are not bullied nor trapped by their political leaders.
Simplicity itself – the notion of the 100 Days scrutiny period for the country to examine all legislation passed by Parliament – and to quite simply say no – where this is perceived as acting against the country’s interests, is eminently achievable.
If not John Key, who next?
Given that power corrupts, what we need to be taking on board the fact that if there is any effective way to control politicians from either Left or Right – ranging right across the political spectrum – so the people of this country make the decisions affecting them, their families and their future – then we should be putting our efforts into making this come about.
If you genuinely believe in democracy, why not support us!
© Amy Brooke