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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Daniel Hannan: 'My New Anglosphere Hero is New Zealand's John Key'

By Daniel Hannan

Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand
Is it possible for a Right-wing government to freeze spending and cut the deficit while remaining popular? As they say in New Zealand, ‘yih’. I’ve remarked before that, while no country is physically further from Britain, none is temperamentally closer. Yet there is a difference when it comes to public expenditure. A slowing of the rate of increase in the UK – there have, as yet, been no net cuts – is howled down as an assault on the poor directed by a clique of ancien rĂ©gime aristocrats. In New Zealand, by contrast, ‘zero budgets’ are seen as prudent and sensible.

Ah, you might say, that’s because Kiwis have got away from the inherited inequalities and class hang-ups of the old country. Perhaps. Then again, their prime minister, John Key, had a hugely successful career as head of foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch. Leftie crowds occasionally gather at his house and chant ‘You don’t care, you’re a millionaire!’ (logic plainly not being their strong point).

None of it prevents John Key from polling well above his party. Indeed, he is the most popular prime minister that anyone can remember – and, having now met him, I can see why. He is very clever and, at the same time, utterly charming in the informal and artless way that New Zealanders have. While he has little time for dogmas and theories, he has a clear sense of where he wants to take his country, and is able to communicate that sense to people around him.

His countrymen admire his modesty, affectionately calling him ‘Low Key’. You can see their point. He slipped discreetly onto my flight from Auckland to Wellington without anyone noticing. Kiwis like that sort of thing,

To be honest, I’m slightly surprised to find myself admiring him as much as I do. I have blogged before about the two heroes of the Anglosphere, Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott. Both men are idealistic conservatives. Harper is comprehensively dismantling the Trudeau settlement, cutting taxes, devolving power and making Canada the Anglosphere’s foreign policy hawk. Abbott horrifies Australia’s metropolitan establishment by opposing restrictions on free speech, attacking carbon taxes, believing in God and pwning Labor in the polls.

John Key has a very different style: practical, moderate, distrustful of doctrine. Like David Cameron, he bases his appeal on competence rather than ideology. The two men, as you'd expect, are close, and our own PM often cites John Key as a soul-mate.

The thing is, his competence is visibly yielding dividends. New Zealanders know an able manager when they see one. While other countries have toppled into recession, theirs is growing. Most Kiwis understand that this didn’t just happen on its own and, being a level-headed people, they see their PM’s background in international finance as an asset rather than a cause for resentment.

This week, John Key will come to Britain to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I asked him what advice he had for us. ‘Get into Asia,’ he replied simply. ‘It’s growing while Europe is shrinking’. Put like that, it’s impossible to disagree, no?

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

Encouraging news for the rest of us Anglophones.