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Goodbye, John Key

Today New Zealand’s prime minster, John Key, announced that he would retire as PM and party leader. It seems to have been a big surprise to everybody, including me, because he has been consistently popular and still maintains that popularity today.

His party, National, is New Zealand’s center-right party and one that I would not normally support because my politics tends to be a bit more to the left, but I do have to say that, in general, I found Key’s leadership fairly easy to accept because he was what I would call a moderate and pragmatic leader.

He did sell some assets (what center-right party wouldn’t, even when it makes no sense) but a less than a 50% share. He did cut taxes to the rich (yeah, there’s nothing much good that can be said about that) but also introduced higher minimum pay. He did allow fishing companies to plunder our fisheries, but also introduced some worthwhile environmental changes. He did some effort to reduce climate change, but he didn’t force farmers to accept their responsibility in that area.

So it was a pretty average effort overall, but still orders of magnitude better than any other National prime minister we have ever had, especially some of the miserable excuses for human beings who preceded him, like the truly revolting Jenny Shipley.

On the other hand, what is maybe his biggest failure, is the one thing that I am quite happy he failed to deliver. That is the TPPA (trans-Pacific partnership agreement) trade deal, which was rejected by the biggest treaty partner, the US, by Donald Trump (it was also likely to have been cancelled by Hillary Clinton). That wasn’t Key’s fault, but it was one of his signature policies so he must accept it as a failure.

So who will replace Key as New Zealand’s new prime minister? Well, I do have to say that I find the rest of the National Party to be completely uninspiring. I have said that I will move to Canada if Judith Collins is the new PM. The most likely person will be Bill English, the current finance minister, who is completely underwhelming, but relatively safe.

I haven’t thought about this too carefully yet, but I do quite like Amy Adams, so if she won the leadership I might be fairly happy. She was a lawyer so that’s a mark against her, and she currently owns 3 farms, so that’s another huge mark against her. But this is the National Party and you can’t be too fussy. After all, you don’t join a party like that because of your high moral standards!

Many people would say that John Key was single-handedly responsible for the National Party’s recent success so this does make the next election, in less than a year, more interesting. Maybe the opposition will now have a chance to make some progress in the polls. Maybe the center-left might even win. That would be good because New Zealand does tend to do better when the left are in power rather than the right.

Whatever happens, we probably won’t get another PM like Key again for a while. I do have to admit he was a hard man to dislike. He could be kind of goofy, and some times a bit creepy (do I need to mention the pony-tail incident?) but in general he seemed like a fairly decent person. And that’s all we can really expect for anyone in that position.

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