Kelly McParland writes in the National Post:
I’m willing to bet that most Canadians had never heard of John Key before they readtoday that he’s stepping down as prime minister of New Zealand. If they gave the news the usual cursory glance, they probably assumed he was leaving because a) he got caught in a scandal, b) is so unpopular he has no chance of re-election, or c) he knew he was cooked and wanted to avoid the embarrassment of being forced to quit over a or b.
What makes Key’s departure noteworthy, however, is that none of the above apply. He appears to be quitting because he feels he’s accomplished enough, and genuinely wants to spend more time with his family. A politician leaving office before being forced out by circumstances. Imagine that.
Almost unheard of.
His three mates, Abbott, Cameron and Harper all went out the normal way. Key avoided that.
From all available reports (I admit my first-hand experience with New Zealand politics is limited), Key looks to be an authentic success story. He has been party leader since 2006 and prime minister since 2008. He led his party to three successive victories and appeared set to add a fourth next year. No major scandals stain his name. When he first entered politics his party had just suffered a serious drubbing at the polls; six years later he lifted them to power, and they’ve been there ever since.
He goes out with National polling 27% ahead of Labour.
Canada’s history is loaded with examples of politicians who didn’t know when to go (or, even if they did know, refused to leave anyway). John Diefenbaker had to be dragged from office kicking and screaming, then glued himself to the opposition leader’s bench until a party rebellion arose against him. Pierre Trudeau stuck around so long he was defeated by Joe Clark, then ended his comeback just in time for his successor to be decimated by Brian Mulroney. Mulroney, in turn, successfully exited office in time for his Tories to be reduced from 156 seats to two
Term limits could be a good idea!
It all reflects the iron ego that motivates so many electees. They run for office because they’ve convinced themselves the people need them. Far too many have little experience in any job that didn’t depend on public funding. Once handed some authority, they are loath to ever let it go, because it’s too crucial to their own self-image. In the end, serving the public has little to do with it; it’s all about protecting their sense of self-worth.
John Key appears to be an exception. A lot of elected people in Canada should study the example he’s set and look in the mirror. The world would be a better place, and politics a much more respectable calling, if others followed his example.
Key never measured his self worth by political power. He achieved enough outside politics to avoid that.