Expose reveals dark side and dirty tricks of John Key, New Zealand’s so-called Mr Nice Guy

Controversial Kim Dotcom

  • John Key
    Prime Minister John Key has maintained 50 per cent approval ratings Hannah Peters/Getty Images

He is consistently the most popular leader in the western world — and probably its most inconspicuous.

In his six years as prime minister of New Zealand, John Key has maintained satisfaction ratings of about 50 per cent, trouncing even Angela Merkel in Germany.

He left his country for a decade, became a currency trader and cleaved a path into the upper ranks of Merrill Lynch’s London office, before returning home in 2001 to a New Zealand ravaged by a long, bitter recession that he had missed while becoming a multimillionaire. Within seven years, he was the prime minister.

Now up for re-election, Mr Key’s image as an inoffensive, avuncular and understated accountant has taken a battering from revelations that his government engaged in a sophisticated drive to smear opponents.

A book, Dirty Politics, by the investigative journalist Nicky Hager, revealed a trove of email exchanges between ministers and staffers and the country’s best-known right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater.

They showed how the government supplied Mr Slater with inside information to attack its critics. Mr Key’s justice minister was forced into an embarrassing resignation, and the spy agency watchdog launched an inquiry into possible abuse of official information. Mr Key’s attempt to dismiss Mr Hager as “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist” did not stop the book’s revelations from hijacking the first weeks of his re-election campaign.

Now, a week from election day, opinion polls suggest the prime minister has recovered and will be returned for a third term, albeit with the need for a coalition partner to gain a majority in parliament. Polls show his National party has almost 49 per cent of the vote, while the main opposition party, Labour, has less than 25 per cent.

His government has turned around New Zealand’s anaemic economy to the point where its growth rate, powered in part by surging dairy exports to China, is among the world’s highest. The improved economy has dramatically stemmed the flow of young New Zealanders to Australia, which was running at 40,000 a year when Mr Key was elected in 2008.

Mr Key’s most spiteful enemy in politics, the German-born internet mogul Kim Dotcom, rues the nation’s willingness to overlook the prime minister’s drawbacks. “He could probably survive shooting little kittens in his garden with a shotgun, even if there is picture evidence,” he reflected last week.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s