If folk wondered/hoped/were frightened that John Key’s second term would see him unleash the hounds of radical reform, with yesterday’s announcement of a ten-point five-year plan—one complete with “Key Performance Indicators” ranging from the fantastic to the fatuous—we all now have our answer: He’s not Margaret Thatcher, he’s her wet-bus-ticket successor John Major.
Major defined dullness and lack of imagination. Comparing him to Mrs Thatcher, one wag pointed out that at least with her there was a character to assassinate. To call him grey, said another, would be an insult to porridge.
Ask Major “what’s your big idea,” and like Key his answer would be “ I haven’t got one.” After Major found the Prime Ministership thrust upon him however, this grey shell of a man struggled to find something, anything, with which to define the premiership he’d found himself in. And in 1992 he found it: in the depths of recession with millions unemployed, his “big idea” was a so-called “Citizen’s Charter”—complete with “Key Performance Indicators” ranging from the fantastic to the fatuous. Things like a formal public promise to signpost toilets. Performance targets for late trains. And a “cones hotline” complete with quotas for road-cone reduction on highways.
Much like John Key’s bold promises of yesterday, really, and just as easy to fudge.
So we could say yesterday was John Key’s “cones hotline” moment—the defining moment of his premiership.
Which is not intended as a compliment.