With the Flag Referendum voting papers sent out over the weekend, MyThinks had been doing some thinks-ing. We’ve been wondering what exactly John Key’s legacy will be. In years to come will people look back on his premiership wearing the rose frosted glasses reserved for so many of our former leaders (except Shipley)? Or will people just look back at the Key years with a massive sense of seething resentment similar to how people viewed the presidency of Slippery Nixon? We may never know… or will we?
Over the weekend we sent our reporter forward in time to the year 2030 to check out the legacy of John Philip Key. Late Sunday night she filed this report.
I arrive at entry to the gated community in Remuera. After having my retinas lasar-scanned and core samples taken from my abdomen, the police allow us through the large golden gates. The self-drive Googlecar takes me through a small forest which, according to the sexy Googlevoice coming from the dash, contains the only remaining partly bionic kiwi on the New Zealand mainland. I pull in to what is either a giant house or a small mansion. A large limestone statue of 35-year-old Max Key complete with beer belly and dreadlocks graces the lawn in front of the manor. The Googlecar comes to a stop outside the house and I’m ejected onto the road. As it drives off I pick myself up and walk to the front door.
Inside I am seated in the library I wait. Three hours later the Robobutler returns and informs me Sir Johnson Key is on his way. Twenty minutes later Key walks in deposits himself in the chair next to the fire and smiles warmly. A well-worn Kyle Lockwood button takes pride place on his left lapel. He gives it a quick polish before opening a draw in the side table and offering me three buttons.
“It’s ok,” he tells me, “I’ve got about 78,462 left. Help yourself.”
Aware I have a limited amount of time before I have to travel back through the portal, I’m keen to get on with it.
“Please,” he interrupts, “call me Sir Johnson.”
“Please,” he interrupts again, “call me Johnson.”
“Johnson…” I begin.
“How long have you had that hair?” he interrupts, “it doesn’t look at taut as should. Would you like me to tighten it for you? I have very strong wrists.”
“No thank you,” I decline, “Can I start asking questions now?”
“It seems,” he says with a raised eyebrow, “you already have.”
I ignore the creepy innuendo from the 69-year-old former politician and continue.
“It’s been nearly 14 years since you were rolled by the dream ticket of Judith Collins & Craig Foss while you were out of the country playing golf with Barak Obama. In your time as Prime Minister you presided over the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership which led to a massive rise in unemployment; inequality rose significantly while National was in power; your flag referendum cost somewhere between $20 and $35 million and failed to ignite a debate in a country that’s was looking to break free from its colonial past. What do you see as your legacy?”
“I’m a modern guy,” Johnson tells me, “I can look back on my time as Prime Minister and say, hand on heart, that I’m absolutely proud of everything I did.”
“Even the ponytail stuff?”
“Especially the ponytail stuff,” he says confidently, “many, many people told me how demeaning and sexist that was, but it was behaviour I persevered with even in the face of international ridicule and widespread criticism. That takes a special kind of leadership to pull that off, if you’ll pardon the pun.”
“Yes,” I say, disappointed somewhat but unsurprised with his answer, “but is there anything you are particularly proud of?”
“Oh yes,” he says, “The flag referendum. That was a defining moment in my premiership. New Zealand were asked to vote for a change and they voted.”
“But the flag didn’t change,” I remind him.
“But people voted,” he said, “and that was the point of the referendum. We never intended to the flag referendum to be about changing the flag. It was about getting New Zealanders angry enough to enrol to vote. And they did. They enrolled and they voted. So the entire process was a huge success – especially for Maggie Barry. So many people thought she still worked in television until that referendum. Great stuff.”
“Do you seriously believe that?”
“Absolutely. That is exactly why we changed the flag. Maggie Barry told us to change the flag so we did. Simple.”
At this point I just let him go for it.
“Dame Maggie was so lovely. It was such a shame to see her succumb to that carrot addiction.”
The slight pause allows me to ask another question. I decide this will be it. The former leader is obviously now more senile than he has ever been.
“How did you feel when Judith Collins and Craig Foss rolled you as leader in just the same way Jenny Shipley rolled Jim Bolger all those years before. You were out of the country. How did you feel being relegated to the back-bench on your return?”
“Oh… the succession plan worked incredibly well. I told Judith before I left that she could have my seat on the front bench. I was getting a bit board of yelling abuse at Labour and the Greens. There is only so long one can bully someone else without landing any actual blows before the whole process gets incredibly boring. Yes, Jude was quick to jump onboard with the plan and I got my cushy seat….”
I don’t hear the rest of the reply. I’ve heard enough. Just as he did with his premiership, Sir Johnson Key has spent much of his retirement reinventing the truth.
My Googlecar is waiting for me at the door. Just like the Chrome web browser, it seemed to know exactly what I wanted before I did. Google is fantastic.
As I pull out and down the driveway past the 3 metre high Max Key statue I can’t help thinking to myself that perhaps when she was carving it out of Oamaru limestone, Stephie Key could have considered clothing it. Thankfully, once I return through the portal, I will never have to look at it again.
NOTE: Readers will notice the timeline we sent our reporter to was the timeline where the flag referendum failed to vote in the Lockwood design. We made the call early on that it was highly unlikely the flag would be changed because so many New Zealanders thought this referendum such a massive waste of time and money. We gambled on not sending our reporter to that timeline because we thought it probably didn’t exist. We hope this hasn’t disappointed too many of our readers.