Geoffrey Miller and Mark Blackham write:
Our research in April this year into the working experiences of our Parliament revealed that the political class is increasingly estranged from ordinary voters.
We commented presciently at the time that the success of Donald Trump owed a lot to voter dissatisfaction with the staid politics of professional politics. We predicted that his brand of rabble-rousing and pomposity-pricking would find healthy support.
It looks to us that the New Zealand political environment holds the same conditions that had led to Trump’s success. The only difference is John Key.
Mr Key is the exception that proves the rule. New Zealand’s political environment is now largely a professionalised machine. A whole generation of MPs can no longer truly emphasise with many New Zealanders.
A third of New Zealand’s MPs have only ever worked inside the government system. Another third built no real career before they tried to get into Parliament.
The common path for many is student politics, backbench MP staffer, ministerial staffer, a spell in a union and then become an MP!
When Mr Key leaves, the inadequacies in Parliament will become clearer to voters. His common touch and relative frankness have been a buffer between Parliament and the public.
Mr Key is our own populist politician. Like Trump, he is wealthy and not a career politician.
Mr Key’s inherent anti-political nature frequently motivates him to behave in ways which we would not previously have expected from a prime minister. Examples of this include mincing down the catwalk in a Rugby World Cup uniform, dancing along to Gangnam Style and last year’s unsavoury ponytail incident.
In some cases, such as in the ponytail affair, MrKey has gone too far and ended up apologising for his actions. But generally, his non-conventional style and willingness to make fun of himself have helped him to stay astonishingly popular – despite being eight years into the top job.
Moreover, Mr Key appears to enjoy a particularly enduring appeal with New Zealand’s “Waitakere man” working-class voters. These voters feel Mr Key is one of them.
When Mr Key leaves, his populist touch will go with him, exposing the public to a parliament awash with careerist politicians who play it safe, deal in slogans and spin and have no way to forge a genuine bond with voters as Key has done.
Maybe Key should go for a 5th term after all then!