Rodney Hide on John Key’s no principle government

John Key governed for himself. There were only three things he wanted after becoming Prime Minister, he wanted four terms, to beat Sir Keith Holyoake as National’s longest serving Prime Minister and a knighthood.

Really, he was that shallow.

When it became apparent that he could get a fourth term but only if he cut a deal with Winston it all got too much for him. That nagged away at him and it also would have meant almost no chance of scoring his second ambition, to beat Sir Keith Holyoake’s record. So he cut a quiet deal with Bill English, gave him several months to set up his palace coup, so to speak, giving any other contenders almost no time to marshall the numbers. The deal is that Bill English will hold an election sometime after Queens Birthday Weekend. Why? Well because it would have been unseemly to give John Key his knighthood in the New Year’s honours, wouldn’t it?

So John Key will get his knighthood and not much else. He did, however, build a cult of personality around himself which Bill English is stupidly trying to insert himself into.

What did John Key leave us with policy wise?

Well, not much according to Rodney Hide.

John Key resigned after eight years as our most popular prime minister.?He came in on a high and he stayed there.

There are many aspects to his great success but policy is of the most interest.?It?s what government does that determines a nation?s success.

Mr Key perfectly reflected the middle voter. ?He evaluated policy not by its effectiveness but how it felt.?If it felt good ? and sounded good ? then it was good policy.?That?s exactly how middle, muddling voters think.

It feels right that government through statutory process has final say about what you can and can’t do on your own land.

It doesn’t matter that the Resource Management Act is an economic, social and environmental disaster.

The average voters feel?it to be A Good and Necessary Thing with the frustrations and complaints about its application just bugs to be ironed out rather than fatal defects inherent in the approach.

Average voters are political slobs. They give policy no thought. By contrast, past governments have had their programme and their advice reflect, to some degree at least, political principle and logic.?Their decision making necessarily had a political overlay but it was not unmindful of principle and logic.

The Key government applied no policy principle or reasoning based on objectives, options and costs and benefits to policy. In consequence, the departmental advice?was mush.

The policymaking process followed process but had no rigour. It was empty of reason and thought.

Policy was judged solely on what David Farrar’s polling and focus groups told Steve Joyce and John Key. I’ve had ministers and caucus members tell me that policy would be agreed to at cabinet and imparted to the troops at caucus and everyone heads out with their talking points only to have Steve Joyce order a ‘reverse ferret’ two days later once polling came in.

Average voters also don’t want the political boat rocked.?They like things just as they are.?Change comes with a risk. The possible downside of change looms much larger to them than the actual downside of the status quo.

The Key government, consequentially,?was the most do-nothing government in our history. That alone aided enormously in maintaining Mr?Key?s extraordinary popularity.

Finally, the average voter values security over freedom. The response to the global financial crisis and the earthquakes was always to provide security at the expense of individual freedom and personal freedom.

The government protected investors and bankers from the consequences of their decisions.

The planning regime created following the Christchurch earthquakes did the politburo proud. It was inconceivable to the government that landowners should be left to their own devices. A senior minister explained to me that free market couldn’t rebuild the CBD.

The slow, costly and dreadful result was exactly as expected.

The?Key government set the bar for policy making incredibly low. It was one of the reasons for John Key’s popularity.

His policy approach and programme was that of the average voter. It was neither challenging or upsetting.

The lesson has not been lost on politicians. The cost of poor policy making is not going away anytime soon. That?s the true John Key legacy.?

The media loved John Key, right now they still talk fondly of him. But eventually, when people look at what was achieved, it wasn’t that much and John Key never spent a cent of his political capital, which is a crying shame. He was so shallow all John Key wanted was to be loved…and when that shine started coming off, he bolted.

Sure the economy is ok…sort of. And Bill English helped steer the country through the GFC and the Canterbury earthquakes, but legislatively we are no further along and in fact with respect to some legislation a long way off where we should be.

John Key never wanted to rock the boat…he started to realise he wasn’t the golden boy anymore when he strangely tried to change the flag…then came a few other reversals and even our own INCITE polling showed him coming perilously close to a negative favourable rating. So off to Hawaii it was, into retirement. He would have been hoping that his mate Barack might have had a better end to his presidency but it wasn’t to be.

Come Queens Birthday it will be ‘Arise, Sir John’.

 

– NBR

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