Journalists and pundits have rushed into writing about John Key’s political legacy.
Public response has ranged from cheers and jeers to tears. For some people politics is very personal, and there are extreme views and feelings.
Media coverage of key’s legacy has been mostly favourable. Key was a very successful Prime Minister and communicator in some ways.
Of course Key, like any Prime Minister, has made mistakes and has done things he won’t be proud of, but on balance I think most people will see his tenure as being pretty good through some tough times – like the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes.
Some people will never have seen any good in Key because he is not on their political side of a deep divide. Bitter bollocking has continued after the news of Key’s retirement.
Key has said that one of his main ambitions was to leave politics with New Zealand a better place than when he started as Prime Minister.
He took over as New Zealand transitioned from local recession to global financial crisis, and he, Bill English and their Government got the country though that better than most countries, with the added burden of the massive Canterbury earthquakes.
Our economy is emerging from years of deficits and the prospects are now looking much better. Housing is a major problem but that is not unique to New Zealand. In retrospect Key’s Government should have addressed land supply and the RMA sooner and more drastically, but they didn’t know the property bubble would blow up so much and for so long.
Key and all of us with mortgages and loans have benefited from a transition from high interest rates (mortgage rates were over 10% in 2008) to record lows of less than half of that. Some international influences are good, some are bad.
Key hasn’t dramatically transformed New Zealand, he hasn’t introduced one signature policy that will be remembered fondly for decades.
This is more positive than negative. Some people want revolution, they want to transform the country into their idea of some sort of capitalist or socialist nirvana.
But most people prefer stability, they don’t want their country lurching from one government to another, from one failed reform to another on the off chance one reform will make things better.
Governing a country is far more complex than many people seem to understand. Many tweaks are generally safer and better than a few major transformations. Big change is as likely to introduce new big problems as it is to solve the existing problems.
I think quite a bit more time and reflection is necessary to properly judge Key’s tenure as Prime Minister.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and some of the people will never be satisfied no matter who is in charge.
But I think in general New Zealand under the John Key led government of then last eight years has done pretty well, and our prospects overall are pretty good, albeit with some ongoing difficult issues like housing, drugs, violence and the struggling poor still needing more attention.
Like anyone Key had his flaws but I think he did a lot and he did his best and most of us are probably better off due to his efforts.