In several classrooms, Mr Key, with his easy, seemingly ingenuous, almost childlike affability, connects with the children in a way few adults can, say long-time teachers.
He is fascinated with the interactive whiteboards for which Owhata Primary is noted, uses one to draw a picture of the Beehive with an arrow pointing at his office, takes a genuine interest in the children’s work and answers innumerable questions.
And, on Tuesday, he sent a message to the kids at Owhata Primary during his weekly appearance on TV One’s Breakfast show, which he’d been asked, but hadn’t promised, to do.
John Key is a Prime Minister whose like we have not seen. I’ve met many of our PMs over 50 years as a newspaperman – among them Holland, Holyoake, Marshall, Muldoon, Rowling, Clark – and none has had the easy, almost ingenuous, even childlike informality he displays.
Perhaps it’s because he is not yet a seasoned politician.
Nearly all our Prime Ministers until now have served long apprenticeships as MPs and Cabinet ministers in the hothouse environment of power and have acquired that veneer of superiority, an aloofness, common to the political elite.
Why I find Garth’s observations very interesting, is that much the same point was made to me last week by a couple of gallery journalists. They said that what they liked was that Key had not changed since becoming Prime Minister. He hadn’t become aloof.
John Key is an enigma, for behind that friendly and smiling exterior there must lurk a needle-sharp mind and a spine of steel. You don’t survive, let alone succeed hugely, in the vicious game of international finance without those attributes.
Indeed. And once he makes a decision, he doesn’t tend to doubt it.
I have, over my career, watched a number of decent, honest blokes be corrupted by the foetid atmosphere of parliamentary politics – some even flagged it away – and it will be interesting to see just how long Mr Key can maintain his unaffected, ebullient, man-of-the-people mien.
Let’s hope it’s for many years to come, for it is as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot day.
The system does grind down over time. I suspect the next election is when the pressure will really come down.