I may be bad but I feel good! – John Key and the mystery of the National Party

Apologies in advance for the hyperbole but once I got on a roll it was impossible to stop.


I got bagged last week by some who knew me and read my post about Andrew Little and Labour as I appeared to them (and not all of them would fit into the mold of Left or Liberal) as a closet or crypto sympathizer for National and John Key and all they stand for.

This of course would be far from the truth, as on the political spectrum, I consider myself a fascist anarchist and in no way supportive of National. But as I said last week I am no fan of Labour but some took my last post as a clear vote for the Senor Key and Co. So to keep the karmic balance this post will peel away the blue on National corpse and see what lies underneath (I was planning to write about the security services in NZ but c’est la vie).

The difference between my analysis of Labour and National is that while my focus on Labour was on the failures of the party over the failures of individuals, National is the opposite it’s the failures of individuals that dominates the party and has done so for over a decade now.

To start John Key has been very successful as a politician, so successful in fact that it would be easier to call National the “John Key Party” than refer to them as National. But Keys success as Politician has come at a cost, to both himself and the John Key Party.

Firstly Keys success as politician does not translate well into actual leadership, legacy or being remembered as PM. The multitude of screw ups, gaffs, scandals, dodgy behavior, greedy and corrupt behavior by Keys minions is legion which shows that despite his high polling he has been unable to keep his employees from running amok when his eyes are not directly on them.

This is because that Key has his own version of the Fuhrerprinzip (leadership principle) in play here. He may not have started out as the dictator of National but as the success of the party rests entirely on his ongoing popularity it’s become his show and his show only and much like other dictators Key keeps those under him busy squabbling for power so that they don’t have time to unite against him or do too much damage.

Unfortunately political golems that comprise the party, such as the reptilian Judith Collins, failed Wagnerian/Faustian Jerry Brownlee and power hungry Steven Joyce, feature regularly in the press but rarely for good reasons.

Collins misdeeds are numerous and not even worth mentioning here except that it’s clear that Key brought her back into cabinet after the scandal of Dirty Politics and who she was dining with in China under the old adage of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. The smiling assassin wants to see the blade coming and by keeping Collins on a short leash and continuing to utilize her attack dog qualities he keeps her occupied and not with no further time to plot his overthrow, as had been rumored.

Brownlee also has been a useful tool to Key as flak catcher for the growing disquiet around the Christchurch Rebuild (nepotism, shoddy work practices and questionable dealings) but Brownlee is really known for little but his escapades in the media where he tried to start a war with Finland, Flouted Civil Aviation Authority rules and has demonstrated that his mouth is not connected to his brain. Also his placement as Minister of Defense, while seeming important, is actually a demotion to a backwater government department as a way of keeping him busy and out of trouble (much in the same vein that Murray Mcully’s appointment to the Foreign Affairs kept him out of the way by keeping him out of the country as much as possible) with all those “important” meetings overseas.

Meanwhile Steven Joyce oversaw his Frankenstein creation of MBIE (among other misdeeds), cobbling together disparate ministries and sections of government into an unholy (and unworkable) creation, staffed at senior levels with barely competent DCEs and then jammed into a chicken coop of a building complete with opulent surrounds at taxpayer expense. It was a power grab pure and simple and much in the vein of the SS in Germany capturing police and security functions under the banner of “centralization” but it’s become a bloated sagging beast with a toxic work culture and extremely high union membership.

But it’s not only the senior ministers that have appeared in the media as creatures that you’d rather not sit next to on the bus. Arron Gilmore will be forever remembered as for his arrogant outburst regarding who he was in regards to his membership in the John Key Party and current troubles with Todd Barclay’s staff show that the newer members of the party won’t be lax when it comes to acting like they are to the manor born.

And these are just examples that I am pulling off the top of my head. There are so many more that it does seem at times that the New Zealand political press are running a concerted campaign to discredit the Senor Key Party by publishing only the bad news but the truth is that the behavior of the members of the party has long been grossly out of touch with expected standards of decency and behavior. The short lived political career of Pansy Wong springs to mind or the highly inappropriate behavior of Maurice Williamson in calling the police when a rich “friend” was in trouble for are just a few more that freely spring to mind.

But there is a method to my madness in cataloging these examples of nether-spawn here and it’s to place the popularity of Key in clear contrast to the Party (and its dismal inhabitants) he fronts.

Key is the Golden Boy, popular in the polls and able to appear in public during daylight hours. But the shadow he casts is long and dark and it’s in the darkness that things grow and thrive, things which cannot go into the light lest they die from exposure.

This is a tale of horror and dark deeds, of human sacrifice and blood, of a pact with demons, a deal with the devil.

Our tale begins in 1999, after nine years in government (and the last three at the behest of Winston Peters) Jenny Shipley (now being sued as a former director of Mainzeal) steered the party onto the rocks of Defeat and Helen Clark led Labour into power. Nationals performance in 1999 was dismal but was nothing to the beating it got in 2002 (20%; it’s lowest ever election result and a nadir even lower than anything achieved by Labour at the polls).

Then several strange things happened but to sum it up simply the party was taken over/bought out in aggressive coup by right-wing interests fronted by Don Brash and the Business Roundtable (Now known as the New Zealand Initiative in an attempt to re-brand its tarnished image). Bill English (possibly the last real link to National of the past times) was sacrificed publicly and painfully on the altar of political convenience and John Key entered the party (or if rumors are to be believed he was aggressively recruited due to his wealth and connections).

Weather Brash had sold his soul to get the leadership or was a patsy may never be known but it’s around this time that the remaining country elements of the party were being cleared out and put off to pasture (no pun intended). Dark words and incantations had been whispered and evil things summoned and now the life that flowed through the party was no human blood but a mix of money, religion and spin.

Shortly after Brash self-destructed in an orgy of greasy stories about his sex life and revelations from Nicky Hagar’s Hollow Men showed that the party was not only beholden to larger business interests but also rapidly becoming a vehicle for money and religion in ways that mirror the strange nexus of religion and power in US evangelicals. Stepping into the breach in 2006 at this time was John Key and the party’s fortunes mysteriously began to rise (to be fair Brash’s infamous Orewa speech had helped to raise the party’s fortunes but his own personal culpability was still poison to the party).

And rise they have but only in relation to Keys personal popularity and when he falls the party will fall with him.

By listing only some of the stains found on the scaly carcass of the party it’s clear that the John Key Party is not only wholly corrupt but incapable of behaving in any manner that requires honesty, decency or integrity and that without the magic of John Key National would have either self-destructed (ala Labour with endless power struggles and coup attempts) or faded into electoral irrelevance by now.

So what’s the plan in the post Key environment for the misanthropes of National? Which of the shambling horrors currently prowling the halls of the Beehive would the average Kiwi voter go for?

The first (and only) name that springs to my mind is Simon Powers. He was being groomed for the role by being chief whip and had the looks, and ability to speak without putting his foot in his mouth but Powers left after two terms (perhaps sensing the poison in the chalice being offered to him) for greener pastures (Run Simon, run!).

Other than that it’s difficult if not impossible to imagine anyone of the current crop of National MPs now sitting at the top level being able to either lead the party without its descending into a hellish power struggle or elicit any positive reaction in the polls to the grotesque suggestion that they may be likable or have any human feelings (or perhaps are even human). Further with the junior ranks either imploding due to swollen hubris or simply because so many National MPs (like Labour’s middle and bottom tiers) are just seat fillers, cautious drones taking their nice salary and doing little for their electorates, no voter in their right mind would be ticking their name on the ballot form either.

A clear example of this hideous electoral dislocation is Winston Peter’s astounding win in the Northland by-election. In what was supposed to be a safe National seat (until Mike Sabine was found to be under investigation by the Police for Assault in another instance of reprehensible behavior) Winston took his traveling medicine show out on the hustings and reaped the spoils of Nationals arrogance and terrible treatment of the electorate.

And if your still reading at this point you may be getting the picture. National is a party that is on life support and that life support is John Key. As soon as he leaves or no longer has the magic touch in the polls the party will be a shambling corpse, an undead husk full of nothing but vile waste and human maggots.

No one is going to vote for Judith Collins, Jerry Brownlee or any of the others grim specters as leader or as PM and the desperate reliance on dirty tricks and heavily manufactured (official and unofficial) spin has left the party desperately hyping and protecting its one and only political life line, John Key.

But zombie parties do not die, they have to be killed and the question is who will do the killing? Vernon Small pointed out in today’s media that John Keys current position in the wake of Panama Papers (the usual Key safe, clean and neat statements) is effectively “handing a cudgel” to the opposition. But who will swing it? Who has the strength?

The Greens and NZ First most certainly have the will but not the strength to really kill National. Labour has the strength but is unable to get its house in order and remains timidly cowering in the corner (in the tradition of many classic horror movies) paralyzed with fear while the beast runs amok among other victims.

Possibly in combination could these three, like some sort of political transforming robot, combine their powers to take out National but that is unlikely (an issue to be explored at a later date) and the odds that come November 2017 we will either see John Key lead his party into a fourth term or a Coalition Government with Labour, NZ First and the Greens in uneasy coexistence are high.

If National is defeated in 2017 then it’s the end of Key, he won’t hang around and will go off to reap the rewards promised by his backers way back in 2002. If National makes a fourth term then all bets are off and Key will rule as long as his popularity lasts.

And that is the final key (no pun intended) to the puzzle, his popularity. As Phil F pointed out in the comments to my last post (and is echoed by the folks over at Redline Blog), a large section of the New Zealand electorate has been docile and passive in the face of the Machiavellian antics of Key and Co.

Voter apathy in the wake of endless scandals by the National party and John Key means that where acts which would have people out in the streets or at least an uproar in other countries have been met with large doses of indifference and ignorance, which are fuel for the polling engine that drives Team Key. Part of the blame lies with the mainstream media but the other with the general public themselves (again fodder for future posts) and it’s rapidly becomes a chicken or egg argument in determining which causes which.

So to end what has again been a long post (I do apologize for the length) it’s worth summing things up. National is a dead party walking as soon as it no longer has John key to prop it up (be it in person or popularity); it’s filled with corrupt individuals and backed by larger business interest for said interests. Its policy is a mild brand of conservatism, watered down to enable it to hold the middle ground and engineered in-line with failed and discredited Neo-liberal principles.

This is a party fighting a holding action to enable those who currently benefit from 30 years of rapacious public policy to consolidate their gains and maintain their lifestyles. The fact that National is literally rotting away before the nations eyes and lead by a necromancer king has yet to generate the fear and loathing that it should in this climate of change shows that we are either under Keys spell or things will remain as they are until history does the job for us and removes the horror for us.

In times like this a heroine or hero is required, or the peoples will must be manifest, both of which have their dangers but it’s clear that the beehive is now more akin to Dracula’s castle looming over the peasant village below and at nights dark and monstrous shapes can be seen  in the windows.

7 thoughts on “I may be bad but I feel good! – John Key and the mystery of the National Party

  1. May as well recycle my comment from your last post:

    John Key is so popular because he clearly seems to dislike politicians and politics in general, which is the same position of the general populace.

  2. I agree with the general tone of this commentary

    Key and his ilk need to start thinking how they want to be remembered.

    Answer: A bunch of political no ones

  3. I think one should be wary of the “popularity” thing.

    Pollster techniques almost always favour incumbents.

    The disenchanted, disconnected voters ought to be of concern. The size of this group has been growing for decades.

    The more Wall Street puppets like Key promote the interests of the top 1% the more discontented the disenchanted become.

    Viva the revolution!

    Maybe, perhaps, Marx may have had a point.

    Maybe, perhaps, the French revolutionaries had a point.

    Maybe, perhaps the Russian revolutionaries had a point.

    Maybe Hitler had a point (post Versailles).

    Misery and oppression inflicted by the favoured few tends to lead to mayhem.

    None of our current political parties are connecting to a growing number of disenchanted, disaffected voters.

    In the USA Trump appears to be gathering most of his support from the usual non voters.

    There are a lot of unhappy voters out there with no party /leader they can support.

    Vacuums can attract all sorts of rubbish.

    We live in interesting times.

  4. James: I would agree although I think its less of a dislike and more of the fact that he is treating this like a manager of a company, he is independently wealthy so there is no need for him to get high on the hog while in office so he is playing a different game to those he rules.

    Edward: Now that the flag debate is over there may be very little to which we will remember him, much like Jenny Shipley and Jim Bolger.

    Peter: I agree which is why I kept referring to spin, its very likely that JK has a PR team (both overt and covert) working for him full time to keep the man in the media as well as deface and defame his enemies.

  5. I think one of the factors of Key’s popularity is that lots of the left make up stuff about him and people see this and know that about 90% of what the left says about him is simply not true. So the left shoots itself in the foot, and Key grins his smarmy grin and continues on his merry way.

    Key is a middle-of-the-road politician who doesn’t really believe in anything, and wanted to be PM as a kind of vanity project. He had no Big Ideas, he was never going to ‘finish off’ the work of the Rogernomes/Ruthanasia types. He enjoys being PM because he gets to hang out with people far cooler than himself, which didn’t happen when he was making his millions in the money markets.

    He’s neither a puppet not a puppeteer. He’s a PM in the Holyoake mode but whereas Holyoake had the good fortune of running a government at the height of the long post-WW2 economic boom, in which all boats were being raised, Key has the bad luck of running a government when capitalism is exhausted. He’s just about managing the malaise.

    Key’s ‘vision’: managing the malaise of NZ capitalism: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/keys-vision-managing-the-malaise-of-new-zealand-capitalism/

    He’s no neo-liberal, because NZ capital needs more of that like it needs a hole in the head:
    The Key-English government in the context of capital accumulation in NZ today: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/the-key-english-government-in-the-context-of-capital-accumulation-in-new-zealand-today/
    (The pieces about Key-English economic policy were written right at the very start of the government, in fact I think one was written before, and I think they’ve held up a helluva lot better than the left paranoid rubbish about Key.)

  6. In terms of who comes after Key, I think he is quite keen that it be a woman. Despite weird shit like the pony-tail stuff Key is quite favourably disposed to giving bourgeois women the same opportunities as bourgeois men. Plus there is a group of people within National tasked with improving the gender and ethnic balance within the party – that’s why National now has more Maori MPs than Labour. Key seems to favour Paula Bennett whose class background has certain similarities to his (or his mother’s) and who has dragged herself up by the bootstraps of others, just like he did.

    My guess is that the first Maori PM, and the first female Maori PM, is more likely to come from National than Labour, just like the first female PM did. National is a party of urban liberals these days; it’s changed dramatically from the Muldoon era, because the country has changed dramatically and National has its fingers on the pulse way better than Labour.

    Labour didn’t even understand that their dog-whistle racism against Chinese – or people with ‘Chinese-sounding surnames’ wouldn’t give them an electoral boost. Today, Labour is way more xenophobic than National and can’t work out where to go because the ground they used to occupy now has the National behemoth spread all over it. And not moving.

  7. Phil: In regards to your first point I agree which is why you may note I have pretty much avoided discussing or even characterizing Key in my post.

    Not only is it low hanging fruit its the expected behavior and automatically reduces the debate/analysis into character assassination which I would like to avoid where possible.

    In the case of discussing the various issues with individual National MPs I had to break that rule but it was important that their behavior be made clear and its all a matter of record.

    In regards to the second I again agree but Bennet would be a low budget Jenny Shipley if she managed to succeed to the top job in National, and since Key would have to leave the post for her to move into it it would be likely that National would be in opposition at that time which would mean being out in the wilderness and with predators (rival claims for the job) abounding.

    There are some other more junior female MPs who would be just as credible candidates for that job.

    In short Key is a rational player in the game and much more organised than Little and Labour. It would never be a criticism of him that he was playing the easy cards but that rationalism is a cloak for the actions of the technocrat in Key and in the end his actions can be as evil as they are banal.

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