I will go out on a limb and predict that John Key will not lead the National party into the next election. I have thought this for a number of months now, however, the events of last week, with Key fainting in a Christchurch restaurant, have reinforced that belief. We all know Key doesn’t need the money, and who could blame him for leaving the most stressful job in the country to spend more time ‘at home with his family’.
Regardless of last week, there are a number of reasons why I have come to this conclusion.
Key has beaten Labour legend Helen Clark and senior Labour member Phil Goff. He has nothing else to prove; and in fact to lose to a relative novice like Shearer would, in his mind, reduce him to a level of mediocrity (and the chances of this happening will increase significantly as the election draws near).
Very few Prime Ministers get to determine the time and nature of their departure from office. Most are either voted out (Clark, Shipley, Muldoon, Rowling, Marshall and Nash), stabbed in the back by their own caucus (Bolger and Moore) or leave in a box (Savage, Fraser and Kirk). Only Lange and Holyoake immediately come to mind as PMs who resigned without being pushed – and Holyoake did, in fact, lose the 1957 election as PM. Palmer also left of his own volition, but he was really an ill-suited caretaker, despite being one of the most intelligent men ever to enter politics.
Likewise, Key is a man who changed the law so that he gained the title ‘Right Honourable’ for the rest of his life. He is currently the only person in NZ to have this title. All other politicians who have this honorific (Winston Peters for example) do so because they were appointed to the Privy Council. When the current monarch dies, they revert back to being simply ‘Honourable’ (like every other cabinet minister). If Key believes there is a chance Labour will once again remove the titles system – although they have not said they will – he would, in my opinion, rather retire as the Right Honourable Sir John Key than risk losing and remaining simply John. I wouldn’t be surprised if he received a knighthood in the 2014 New Years honours list.
Last week I caught up with David Shearer when he came to the Bay for Sir Paul Holmes’ knighthood ceremony. He looks like a man who has discovered a new sense of self-belief and confidence. He is now through his first year, he has effectively seen off his only real rival in David Cunliffe and he is ready to go hard on the issues that really matter to the people of NZ.
I expect Labour will be at 35% in the polls by mid-March. Shearer will come across as a real alternative PM and the fun will all but disappear for Key.
In 2014, expect a Shearer versus either Collins or Joyce election race.
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