The election and me

Opinion by Alan Duff
The election and me

I like John Key and clearly a majority of voters do too. The only time I met him at a dinner in Hawke’s Bay he showed he is no typical egotistic politician in sitting at tables listening quietly to everyone’s views. We knew he’d make a good Prime Minister.

His interview the other week with John Campbell showed us the core John Key. Not gloating, not running people down, just calm, reflective, decent and open. I’ve met every Prime Minister since Jim Bolger and though I rather liked them all, none compares to Mr Key. My good mate Bob Jones refers to Key’s “likeable everyman demeanour.” Just as his column called Hone Harawira “the worst ratbag ever to grace Parliament.” Both are smack on the mark.

Key wants to do even better for the people of New Zealand than he already has in two previous terms. He wants New Zealanders to have higher home ownership, higher wages, and a more worldly view. Having that worldly view is vital. It opens the mind. It helps create possibilities. Harawira didn’t have such a view, just a severely limited one that never allowed for Maoris to be educated, successful, in business, with interesting jobs and being content with their lot. Nope.

Hallelujah he’s gone.

Two decades ago I gave a speech at a Bay of Plenty marae my mother is from and to a fairly hostile audience. I told my mostly male elder audience that if Maoridom was a rugby team then we were losing every game and who amongst them would accept that? I said we as a people are not fit, out of condition and we need some good coaching. I won them over, albeit with the declared support of the women elders who said, "Good on you, Alan, for speaking out".

Well, our country is definitely a rugby team of 4.3 million. Our national representatives are doing just fine, thank you very much. And this election shows the team is doing okay, at least winning more than we lose. We’re in it together and John Key is confident enough in himself to embrace others even with opposing political views. They did it with the Maori Party and both sides benefited. He’s reaching out to other parties. Doubtless he’ll go down as one of our greatest Prime Ministers.

Former Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen calling Key a “rich prick” exposed the true seam of envy that runs through every leftie. Called “Champagne Socialists” here in France because while they espouse all the socialist ideals to everyone, they personally live like indulgent capitalists and without shame their hypocrisy and contradictions.

On the low voter turn-out, I’ve spent two weeks with a bunch of Aussies touring parts of France and they tell me voting is compulsory over there, which makes voters take a greater interest. Fined if they don’t vote. Simple, eh? Same with their Superannuation Scheme; it works marvellously and New Zealand should adopt that too.

Let me tell you a story about power behind the throne. Back in 1995 I was at a dinner with the Prime Minister Jim Bolger in his home town of Te Kuiti. I was mad keen on getting some financial oomph into our literacy programme and asked a National Party member mate what tactics I should best use with the P.M. in getting support for this cause.

“Duffy,” he said. “You sit beside Mrs Bolger and tell her about it.” So I did and found her charming and a good listener. She said, “I like your idea. Leave it to me.”

About a week later my phone was going crazy with people telling me to read the papers, that I was the only individual named in a Budget. Sure enough, Mr Bolger had granted our fledgling Books in Homes organisation $250,000.

This is the first time I’ve ever said it publically: A belated thank you, Joan Bolger. We’re still here twenty years and 10 million books later.  


Alan Duff is one of New Zealand’s best known authors and has written novels, including 'Once Were Warriors' and 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?', several children's books and a number of non-fiction works.

He was the driving force behind the Books in Homes scheme, which, with commercial sponsorship and government support, aims to break the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, anger and violence among underprivileged children by providing books for them to own.

He currently lives in France.

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