A number of people commenting have said they wished John Key had used his popularity and ‘political capital’ to have done more as Prime Minister.
I still think the biggest disappointment is that he didn’t do more with his vast political capital. Maybe that’s why he was so popular. Did nothing. And we’re a bloody apathetic bunch.
Bitter Bill and the day our next prime minister lost the plot
And a prime minister who built tremendous political capital but wouldn’t spend it on hard choices like the housing crisis, or Pike River, and takes that capital out the door with him.
– Bye, bye John Key
I just wished he’d used his huge political capital to do more for the vulnerable in our society – even if doing so would have been unpalatable for traditional National supporters.
– John’s gone so the fun has to stop
The Trans-Pacific Partnership looks sure to be scuppered: a legacy unrealised and a lost investment of substantial personal and political capital.
– Key going as rules change
That last one isn’t about squandered political capital, it is a failure despite substantial effort, but the likely scrapping of the TPP was beyond Key’s or anyone’s capability apart from the US where it is a victim of Donald Trump.
In any case New Zealand could still benefit from the work that was done on securing the TPP deal with the other ten countries involved.
But what about the claims that Key failed to use his so-called political capital to do more?
He failed in a his attempt to change the flag, but he had a go at it. Key’s efforts and the process can be justifiably be criticised but this was as much a victim of petty politics as it was of Key’s stuffing up.
There are a number of things that Key and Bill English and their Government can be credited for, in particular managing the country through the Global Financial Crisis with the added huge cost of the Christchurch earthquakes.
They did what they had to, very well. New Zealand has emerged in better financial shape than most countries in the world.
Key put a priority on tourism, and that is now one of the country’s successes, contributing substantially to business and financial growth.
It is interesting to see that Key is praised more from Australia than in his own country.
Peter Hartcher in the Canberra Times: The only reason Malcolm Turnbull still has his job
Who is Malcolm Turnbull’s role model?
It’s John Key, he tells us, the NZ leader who this week rounded off a successful eight-year prime ministership by abruptly departing at the time of his own choosing. Key was the most successful conservative leader in the Western world.
Key has received other accolades like this from offshore but not so much in his own country, where pundits can’t see the forest for the trees.
When Turnbull was still new and still popular, John Howard had this guidance for him: “An iron law of politics is that if you have a lot of political capital at some point, you can be certain it will disappear. The question is, do you dissipate it through trying to do something for the long-term benefit of the country or do you dissipate it by sitting around and doing nothing?”Key took option A. He acted on this fundamental principle of political power. He took bold political chances on big, unpopular reforms and succeeded.
The NZ economy had been battered. It didn’t have a mining boom. The global financial crisis hit it hard. The country found that it didn’t have the borrowing power to use fiscal stimulus against downturn.
Recession hit. The three-decade long net migration to Australia, the notorious “brain drain” accelerated.
Among other initiatives, Key raised the GST rate from 12.5 per cent to 15. He sold minority government stakes in electricity companies to free the money for reinvestment. He liberalised trade.
None of these was a popular move.
But they succeeded. The country’s prospects are brighter. The exodus to Australia halted and has now reversed.
That reversed exodus is a significant reason for our high net immigration.
So has Key used his ‘political capital’ well?
He has sent our armed forces to the Middle East but hasn’t fixed things there. He has raised benefits but hasn’t fixed poverty in New Zealand. Nor has he fixed housing. He has improved our economy but hasn’t fixed income inequality. He signed up to something in Paris but hasn’t fixed emissions or the climate.
But he has left New Zealand in a better economic shape to address things that will always need improving.
Key has spent his political capital on financial and business infrastructure. Some of those efforts are benefiting us now, some may take time to show benefits.
Key has invested in the future more than is currently recognised here (they see it from overseas).
He won’t be able to look back and say “that flag is because of me” or “I convinced Trump in advance that the TPPA was a good deal”.
Bill English may be a benefactor of Key’s political capital, he now has the surpluses to address social issues that people have come to clamour for solutions for.
I think Key was a lot smarter than many give him credit for, and smarter than he portrayed himself as.
I have seen some say that due to his failure to achieve much of significance he will be quickly forgotten.
But if English can continue on with what he and Key have done then there could well be some payback for the political capital Key invested in the country’s future.
And if English fails to hold support to survive next year’s election I hope Andrew Little can see the forest that Key is leaving. And James Shaw (and he has enough influence as ‘co-leader’ to convince Metiria Turei not to blow the budget.
Or if National survives with NZ First’s support I hope that Winston Peters can allow the investment to pay dividends.
Economics and fiscal management are not glamorous, but it is essential they are continued soundly.
The modern world is not capitalism versus socialism. We need to find the best mix of both.
We need sound capital and political investment if we are to improve on the social issues that face us.
That may be Key’s most significant legacy – unsung now but humming along later.