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Monday, 5 December 2016

The Things That Should Not Be: Exit Planet Key!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you ...

I swear I couldn't make this kind of stuff up.

There I was at work sitting at my desk, taking a break from my work to ponder what to write for my next post and having decided that the next topic would be a rather sharp break down of Why Andrew Little should quit now and give whoever takes over a year to try and win the 2017 election when my train of thought was derailed by the comment that "John Key has quit".

"Quit what?" I thought.

But no, I was not to remain ignorant for long as my slightly less busy co-workers clued me in and from there on while my face remained businesslike and I returned to my work, inside I was grinning like a mofo.

You see, in my previous post I noted the stasis like state of the NZ political system and how we needed something to spark the shift or Election 2017 would be a rather dull affair with an even duller, and wholly inevitable, outcome of John Key as our Master of Puppets** another three years (and knowing how god forsaken the opposition was looking possibly even longer).

But all of that is gone by the roadside now, left twitching like some poor creature with a smashed spine while the perpetrator (in this case John Key) speeds away with a fading whoop in a cloud of dollars and we are now faced with the prospect of scraping the carcass off the road and making a meal of it.

But I am not here to praise Key, there is plenty of hagiographies springing up in the MSM like rabbit turds on a golf course (really guys? how many articles can you lot write about the same thing? did you have them pre-written or something or are you getting paid on a per-word basis?) nor to bury him (I have done that both here and on KP so if you want to know my thoughts on the man have a look here, here, here or here) and instead lets cast ourselves forward into time to see what the next, exciting, 12 months are going to be like because that stasis like state I was commenting on previously is now gone, the evil spell is broken as the Witch King of Parnell retreats to that great merchant bank in the sky, cast down by the one thing his foes could not use against him, love.

Yes it was not his opponents in the opposition nor the smiling faces  in cabinet that could take him off the board and out of the game but instead he left play at the hand of his wife Bronagh (Bronagh, if your reading this please understand that while I loath your husband, you will always have my thanks for getting him out of the Beehive and onto the nearest exclusive golf club or resort if only because of all the frustrated change his leaving is going to unleash on the 2017 election process).

So he is gone, and before we start pulling the meat form the bones of the matter let us stop for a minute and observe a minutes silence. Yes that's right, quieten your political mind for a moment and cock your ears and listen to whats on the wind.


There did you hear it? The sound of knives sharpening, of hearts fluttering, of minds racing, of lips being licked, of plans forming, of wheels turning AND if you listened extra hard you may have heard the faint sounds of glacial ice cracking.

So lets forget about Key and figure out what is going to happen now because with Key gone all bets are off and the throne is up for grabs.

To be clear, this is a spark, there might be more, but for now just one spark is enough to set the whole edifice ablaze (probably helped along by a few political pyromaniacs like myself) and things just got real!

First up, the obvious question, who will take over as Leader of National (and obviously PM)?

Take your time, I can wait.

If your struggling to find a name to put to the role then your not the only one because while the questions is obvious the answer is not. Which of the political monsters haunting the halls of National is able to step into the light, face the media, and far more importantly, be able to successfully lead the party to victory at the polls?

Judith Collins? Steven Joyce? Paula Bennet? Bill English? (pause here while we chuckle heartily). Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you can decide which one is which, these four scourges are saddling up and preparing to ride into battle for the crown.

English is the designated successor but as any fan of Game of Thrones knows, being heir to the title wont matter a pound of Valyrian Steel when the knives (as well as swords, guns and cudgels) come out and if English has already not put through an emergency call to his tailor for an order of extra padding on the back of his new suit (Crane Brothers do fast work at a pinch**) then he probably does not deserve the job.

The problem is that English was captaining the leaky barge that is National when it ran aground on the rocks of its worst ever electoral defeat in 2002 and there is no indication in the polling that he could do better this time.

Sure, National leads in the polls now but as has been said before by myself and others is that most of that high polling is due to the popularity of John Key and nothing else. National has not been in government because of its great political policies or its stellar cast of political go-getters.

No, without Key at the helm its all hands on deck and action stations as enemy sails appear on the horizon and the savvy swashbuckler that had the wind in its sails is suddenly becalmed while the scurvy ridden crew bicker and argue about who should be the new captain.

In such a climate English might not even want the job, he has been in politics for a long time now and while probably doesn't have a nest egg as big as his boss's he might just want to step aside when it come time to step forward for the main job and avoid that expensive tailors bill.

But if not English then who?

Next up, say hello to Judith Collins, quickly followed by saying goodbye to Judith Collins because no National strategist in their right mind (and if my sources are correct their brain trust is one less member at the moment due to one of them going mad from a curable venereal disease) is going to honestly endorse Jowley Judith as the vehicle for Electoral Grins in 2017? Like some god awful candidate on some ghastly talent show, Collins will try for sure but the judges are not that dosed on the fizzy sugar water to give her a thumb up anywhere and there are only so many knives one can carry and Assassins Creed this is not.

We all know Collins is jonesing for the top job and that Key had to keep her round after her previous shadow tilt at the role because to cut her loose would have been the worse choice but if anyone reading this thinks the voting public would be susceptible to Collins getting a Helen Clark style "look she is human after all" makeover as enough to get their vote is officially crazy.

For Collins to get some of that Irish magic in her name to work in this situation would require a Faustian pact of such magnitude that Satan himself could retire to a quiet house in the country and write his memoirs. So no Collins, no way no how.

Then its Paula Bennet or Steven Joyce as the next likely contenders but lets stop fooling ourselves, neither of these two will wash any more than the first two so lets just accept that its English as the official choice and let the blood sports begin because who knows which of these repugnant waste products will actually get the job. Only time (and a dose of penicillin) will tell.

And just pause for moment and wonder what else is lurking a bit further back in Nationals ranks that could end on moving on up amidst all this power play.

The problem here is that while Key was popular on one side and the man you loved to hate on the other, people just hate Collins, Joyce and Bennett, on all sides while English is tolerated like a low grade rash that might go away with time and the right cream.

None of them command any popular support or the numbers to be a popular PM and all have the history to show what kind of evil predator the country would be getting if they actually got the job (God/Allah/Budda help us!). To be genuinely honest I don't know which one of these greasy criminals would actually be worse. Its like having to choose between Famine, Pestilence or War while Death keeps the throne warm.***

English is tolerable but he looks more and more like his masters dark magics have sucked the life out of him and what is left is a shuffling, semi animated cadaver which cant think but can spout simple, easily repeatable phrases (usually some economic dogma) but little else. The rest? Fuhghetaboutit!

Oh I fully expect National to circle the wagons and put on a brave face but its clear on all sides that this has come as a shock and as I noted way back on KP, there is no Plan B for National once Key leaves. The sound of bricks hitting the floor in the Beehive must almost be enough to register on the Richter scale right now.

Meanwhile on the opposition benches you would expect there to be some celebrating and you would be right as long as you don't include Andrew Little in that list.

Because as I noted at the start of my post, my planned next post was going to be about him being rolled now, rather and after the 2017 election as a a better choice, as after two years at trying to make it work, at trying to strike a spark, any spark, Little has nothing to show for it except a rotten pile of MPs as the wood and some soggy policy positions as the matches and no fire what so ever.

And with Key out of play those arguments get stronger not weaker as now there is hope, there is a chance of winning an election and you wont need any of that fantasy dust so popular in parliament at the moment to figure out that such thoughts will be peculating in various minds in Labour. "Better to roll him now or after the Christmas holidays?"

Yes Little has the union vote as his shield, for now at least, but it was a very close run thing last time and those odds are not going to get any better if others decide that he is still not going to lead the party to victory in 2017. Andrew Little needs to make hay on this or step aside because if he cant make some headway now then he never will.

But lets park those thoughts for another post as there will be plenty more to chew over soon once the cult of personality around Key fades and exactly how weak National are without him becomes crystal clear.

And speaking of predators circling the campfire, just out of sight on the edge of the light, there are all those other parties which can only gain from trying to snatch a chunk of polling off the juicy flank of the National Party corpse as it roasts over the fire.

Winston Peters will be certainly smiling as he outlasts another PM and will certainly now be able to work his patented populist magic on an electorate bereft of its feel good icon and searching for another "charismatic" leader to latch on to. Key has been the master of the "cult of the feel good MP (and later PM)" but Winston is a close second (in his role as that guy sticking it to the pointed headed bastards in the capital) and if he ever really put his dreams of being PM aside now might be the time to resurrect them.

Also this makes Winston even more important as Kingmaker as a desperately weak National would be willing to pay almost anything, perhaps even the PM spot but probably not, to stay in government.

Its pretty simple math Bob. Take National pre Key and Brash and you have the kind of polling that Labour is currently getting (the low 20s) when English was last leader and its easy to see that National, with its current lead in the high to mid 40s, could possibly end up shedding up to 10 to20 points, plus the spread, in an electoral feeding frenzy as it sinks into a futile doomfunk under some vile, hungry, powerslave****.

That's how popular Key was and how important he was to the party. That's why his face was always plastered on election billboards along with whatever gormless candidate was running wherever (although supposedly not for Parmjeet Parmar in Mt Roskill where it was just her).

So without Key out of the picture (figuratively and literally both in person and for those bloody awful  billboards) all the other parties (except possibly ACT) can get a slice of pie and even new entrants like Gareth Morgan and The Opportunities Party (as the lowly hyena at this predators feast) should be able to cram some scraps into their hungry maw.

Maori and Mana might be sweating now as their easy plan of play the game and sneak in under the next National government might need some reevaluation after they burnt their bridges to Labour and decided that open hostility was the way to go. For Tuku Morgan it will probably be stick to the plan but an endorsement from the Maori King only goes so far and we might find out exactly how far quite soon.

On the other hand the Greens now have a real chance if Labour can get it together at the polling booth and that in itself will be more than enough to help congeal Greens voters together to get out for the bigger/greater good and help propel the co-leaders into government and power.

What price will a desperate Labour pay if faced, and they certainly almost will be, with not enough votes to make the nut on their own and therefore either forced to pay the piper in the form of Winston Peters grinning like a wolf or a much more known (and hopefully more malleable but don't bet on it) Green Party? Which would you choose?

What this means in a Nutshell is stock in the smaller parties is going way up, National is going to go down and Labours will remain where it is until Little is rolled or gets a personality transplant.

To be fair to Andrew, he has a fighting chance against any of the Cowboys from Hell that National might end up letting front the carnival while the management desperately tries to cook up a truly viable strategy but there are others on the Labour team who can do just as good or better and I can think of two who will be figuring all the angles right now as I type these words.

So that all for the moment. Now its time to get some good food, get away form this screen and spend the next week sampling the mood around the place (as well as a urgent call to my politically astute friend, Q, in Wellington, to sort out dinner when I am up there in a weeks time.

But lets be clear about this, this is a game changing situation, who knows what cards will be dealt and all that dull certainty that Key embodied is now gone and cast to the winds (I should thank him for that but as noted above the credit goes to his wife).

Had Key not left none of this would be happening and we would still be locked in that political stasis that his high polling popularity had created but now its like an alternate reality being flashed before our eyes as the timeline splits and we go careening towards another set of possibilities.

So lets strap in and get ready to ride the lightning.

*-Yes I know its a song (by Metallica) about drugs rather than some evil overlord but the concept of people hideously addicted to JK as some sort of explanation for his ridiculously popularity is not the worst I have heard.
**-Props to the nice folk there who finally invited me in after a month of putting up with me pressing my face against the glass (like some poor kid outside the toy shop dreaming of that one toy they will probably never get but desperately want) on a daily basis and let me in to try stuff on. You, sirs, are true couturiers.
***-In such a situation it might actually be best to choose death as its always better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
****-If your noticing a Metal music theme to much in today's post its because I have been mainlining energy drinks and pumping bands like Pantera, Iron maiden and Metallica on the head phones at work while I try to get a big report up to speed in impossibly short time frames due to management hubris and its bled over into my writing this post.


  1. The New Zealand media have accepted the implausible (not to put too fine a point on it, laughably improbable) claim that John Key resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand at the bidding of Bronagh, Stephi and Max Key. Does it matter that this was not the case? Pablo at kiwipolitico doesn't seem to think so. Yet this is another case of political blindness (wilful or otherwise) of the political pundits. If Key had stuck it out into 2017 he would then have had to deal publicly with the scandal that was the cause of his undoing. He left office at the time of his choosing (rather than six months later when he would have been forced to resign) but most definitely not "on his own terms". That phrase, plastered all over the media, is simply designed to deceive the people of New Zealand as to the true cause of Key's departure. Winston Peters may not be the only one who knows the truth (and it is not clear how much he knows) but he is the only one who is letting out even a hint of what lies behind this "shock resignation".

    1. Care to elucidate, Geoff?

  2. Geoff: I had heard and had thought the same but so far I have seen nothing to support those.

    The most plausible one I got told was he was blackmailed by some possible scandal, which would explain the sudden move but from what is being said it was only sudden to us, he knew a lot longer.

    Also Kiwiblog has a great breakdown on how NZ PMs have left parliament and Key is the only one to walk away in a manner like this so it does raise some questions but having had work keep me apart form my significant other i also know the strain such things can have and I can see how even Key might one day have to bow to the inevitable.

    That said if you do know something please, like Steve says, share it with us. What have you heard?

  3. I posted the following comment (more or less) on kiwipolitico:
    Sexual and financial misdemeanours and breaches of security are classic pitfalls for politicians in democratic states. From what is in the public record John Key could be a candidate for all three, but as Pablo has observed, the New Zealand voter is very forgiving of such things as extra-marital sex between consenting adults, financial skulduggery and “dirty politics”.
    Many voters regard all politicians as corrupt to a degree, and therefore don’t see any point in voting on the basis of the moral integrity of the candidates. Many also feel more comfortable when the people in power share their own loose approach to moral and ethical standards. Finally, the “shrewd manager” (aka “the dishonest steward”) principle comes into play. Voters may look kindly on politicians who two-time, avoid paying tax or manage to destroy their political adversaries because such politicians are deemed to possess qualities which can be useful in managing the state.
    So the reason why John Key left office must have been outside of the usual run of sordid affairs and dirty deeds.
    It would have taken no great flight of ego for Key to assume that his leadership was vital to the electoral prospects of his party. Also, he and the party have told us many times that a continuation of the National-led government is of vital importance to New Zealand’s future well-being.
    Would John Key decide, one year out from an election, to abandon party, country and personal destiny for the sake of quality time with Bronagh, Stephi and Max? He had made no secret of the fact that he aspired to be a four-term Prime Minister. Then, by leaving open the possibility of taking on Christine Lagarde’s job at the IMF, he convincingly gave the lie to his own claim that he had resigned for family reasons.
    John Key is not hard to read. It does not need a computer to analyze the words, pauses, body language and intonations of his resignation speech in order to realize that he was distressed to be abdicating the second highest office in the state.
    So what was the real reason? I believe that Winston Peters, who has better intelligence than I do, knows the answer. I am aware of one security scandal which should have ended John Key’s career, and Winston Peters is also privy to the circumstances around that affair. But we should not assume that there was only one scandal which left John Key open to political blackmail, and we don’t have definitive evidence as to which scandal was instrumental to his resignation. Having said that, Pablo is right to suggest that the particular circumstances of John Key’s downfall don’t greatly matter. What matters more is our general understanding of how the New Zealand state system works in practice. We may know more in the New Year. In the meantime, a happy Christmas to all

    1. Thanks, Geoff, for giving us a detailed response to our request for more information.

      But, I have to say, I don't buy it. You are engaging in pure speculation. Why would those who are "blackmailing" John Key release details of the scandal next winter, rather than now?

      Also, the IMF job story has been revealed to be brought about by someone who was also engaging in speculation about a year ago. There is nothing to it. Furthermore, Winston Peters has been "playing" us for nearly 40 years now. He has never produced the "evidence" (and I include the winebox nonsense in that), and never will. I've never believed a word he has spoken, and, again, never will. The sooner he retires from parliament, the better, in my view.

      In my opinion (which I acknowledge is worth very little), John Key just got fed up with the political grind; he sensed he was wasting his "political capital", e.g. Auckland housing disaster, flag referendum; he didn't fancy dealing with / reacting to, the inevitable fallout(s) from Donald Trump's election; and he probably wants to take back control of his fortune from the blind trust that is currently running his affairs.

      Also, it's also quite feasible that Bronagh is fed up with her current lifestyle, and has (started to) put the hard word on him. Not wanting to risk losing his life partner, he may have decided to take this opportunity to bow to her wishes. Who knows? I certainly don't. So yes, I accept that I, too, am just speculating.

      No doubt time will tell, as it usually does.

  4. Hmmm, interesting. I agree that if it was a scandal that forced him out then it would have been well more than run of the mill. I wish there was more info.

    Also, Pablo is correct, he is out of the game and that is all that matters at this point.

    Merry Xmas to yourself as well.

    1. Steve is quite right. Though a necessary response to uncertainty, speculation is of limited value. To be wedded to a particular theory, defensive of it and blind to the alternatives, and then to act on the assumption that the theory is correct, is to court failure.
      In a state of uncertainty however, it is pertinent to look at all the empirical facts as they come to light, to analyse and place them in context, and then test the theory against the known facts. That is true political science - the application of the scientific method to political analysis.
      A few more little, perhaps insignificant facts have emerged to support the theory that John Key did not resign for family reasons. Key has now stated that family was "one of the reasons" for his resignation, meaning that it was not "the reason", and implying that other reasons are yet to emerge. This could be the statement of a man who wants to preempt a looming threat to his credibility.
      Second Bronagh has confessed to having "mixed feelings" and "feeling a bit sad" at "the end of an era". Not the words of a wife who had pressured her husband to abdicate from the highest political office.
      Third, when John cleared his office, in the publicity photograph only Bronagh was there to help him. Not Bill English, as one would expect if there was a desire to show continuity in the transition, and to associate English with the Key legacy. That is extraordinary because the media propagandizes that John Key is the "most popular Prime Minister in New Zealand history" which implies that his legacy should be of great political benefit to his successor.
      Lastly, John Key is to leave the country almost immediately and for an indefinite time. That is not in itself remarkable. Like his Prime Ministerial predecessor, Helen Clark, John Key is more a citizen of the Anglo-American world than a boots-in-the-mud New Zealander, despite the homes in Kaipara and Parnell and the vaunted "kiwi" persona. He is more at home in Washington than Wellington, more at ease in Hawaii than Helensville.
      Yet is it credible to suggest that the last eight years in government have been John Key's private joke on the National Party and the New Zealand public? That he has had his fun, and is now quitting the game? Even if that was so, this should be a time for John Key to quietly back the new team. Make the occasional uncontroversial comment in support of the National Party. Be seen with Bill and Paula. Visibly pass on the mantle of office. A joke should not be taken too far.
      The media assure us "nothing to see here folks". Maybe there isn't. But when we were following up the AKL-304 scandal one of the speculative theories about what had taken place was so extraordinary that we could not disclose publicly, and in the end that was the theory that proved to be correct. Strange things do happen.
      This particular political mystery is interesting for those who are not persuaded by the anodyne reports of a politically compromised media, and want more reliable intelligence on the workings of the New Zealand state. The inferential techniques used by western intelligence agencies to interpret and analyse political developments in the former Soviet Union, China and North Korea have relevance to New Zealand. It is as well to keep an open mind, to look for facts which might discredit any particular theory, while also keeping an eye open for facts which may tend to confirm it.

    2. Thanks for your additional, and interesting, insights, Geoff.

      As I understand it, the Keys flew out to Hawaii on Tuesday night. It should not be overlooked that Key has not resigned from parliament. That means he is still the MP for Helensville, presumably through to the general election. Therefore, unless he has been granted some sort of extended leave that the public is not yet privy to, I (and no doubt his caucus colleagues) would expect to see him occupying a back bench in the debating chamber at 2.00 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 February.

      For the time being, it looks like we're just going to have to wait and see what 2017 brings us, although I for one won't be holding my breath.

  5. Geoff: I think there is more to this as well but at this time we need more info to offset the speculation.

    Also are you suggesting we use the personality politics profiling that is useful for assessing less democratic nations to clue us in for NZ politics? Surely we are not that undemocratic yet but it would be a useful tool for unpicking who sits where in the National party shakeup.