I do not mean to be unkind, but does it not seem like John Key is gallivanting around the world looking to stuff his nose into major leader’s derrieres without substantive returns for his efforts? He claims to be exercising “leadership” and showing the flag at various and sundry conferences (recently APEC, now Copenhagen), but in reality he is an incidental player looking for a photo op. At the APEC meeting he did not have a single bilateral meeting with anyone of import–his breakfast handshake with Obama does not count. Heck, even other small players did not give him the time of day, and that much vaunted agreement to continue discussions about enlarging the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) was no more than a US delaying move while it sorts out trade issues with bigger regional players such as Malaysia and Indonesia (even if the P4 agreement involving Chile, NZ, Brunei and Singapore is used a possible model for the larger deal). In reality, NZ got nothing from the APEC meetings (the bilateral trade deals announced during the time of the meetings had already been finalised and the occasion was merely used to reveal that fact), and the way advanced economies are feeling the heat (no pun intended) over extending climate change controls in the midst of a global recession as of yet in course, the Copenhagen conference Â looks to produce a lot of hot air and little concrete action.
Meanwhile political tensions in NZ are picking up, and in fact are the tip of a growing iceberg of social unrest that has seen recent divisions over race, corruption, social policy and cultural mores all hit the media front pages. Meanwhile Mr. Key burns a few carbon credits and gets his passport stamped every two weeks on his way to “summits” in which he has no real say, while Bill English actually runs government policy direction. As an example, think of the Don Brash’s 2025 recommendations–it was English, not Key who dismissed them as unreasonable, and Key has not voiced an opinion to the contrary (perhaps Mr. Key choose to be charitable to the guy he rolled). In fact, Mr. Key presents himself as Mr. Milquetoast–nary a hard word can be heard emanating from him regardless of the skullduggery happening beneath/over/behind him.
That makes Â me wonder whether what we are seeing is a National version of the French system, where there is a figurehead president who does diplomatic work but has no real policy making power, and a PM who does the real business of governing. From the looks of things Mr. Key is National’s president, but it is Mr. English who pulls the strings of his globe-trotting puppet. This may be an unkind thing to say, but the more important question is whether it is untrue.