For seven and a half years, the Opposition have been trying to bring down a Prime Minister who by all accounts has been probably New Zealand’s most popular in two generations, if not longer. In those seven and a half years Prime Minister John Key has successfully seen off three Labour leaders – Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe. Two elections have come and gone. Labour has barely made any progress in all that time rebuilding itself from the days of Helen Clark.
All manner of stuff has been chucked at Mr Key. Some of it has been credible. Some of it has been flights of pure fantasy and some of it has been simply disgusting gutter snipe nonsense. But all of it has some how run off the back of Mr Key almost like water off the back of a duck. Even the flag debate seems to have not had a major impact on the Prime Minister, clearly ahead of anyone on the Opposition benches, and National at what might for a third term be historic levels of popularity.
Or maybe it has had an impact and Mr Key has just done a first class job of hiding the damage.
But whatever the case, now another problem in the form of the ongoing Panama Papers saga and its 60,000 individual mentions of New Zealand is assailing Fortress Key. The scandal overseas has toppled Iceland’s President, left powerful people such as President of Russia Vladimir Putin, David Cameron and others either bluntly shutting down debate or going into damage control. And now Mr Key himself has been forced to admit that he made a deposit in a foreign trust.
National has railed constantly against beneficiaries committing fraudulent acts with money. It has acted legislation in an attempt to crack down on benefit fraud, despite it being a small portion of total fraud in New Zealand. Outraged by the assault on their constituents, the left has tried to counter that with accusations of corporate fraud and tax evasion being lobbed at Mr Key, and the National Party. And until now that tactic had not had much success. But this is different not least because of the scale of the damage being done by these documents from a law firm in Panama to Governments overseas.
Could this be the mud that Mr Key cannot clean off his immaculately shining armour? Could this be the thing that finally swings the people of New Zealand against the National led Government of Prime Minister John Key? Given how well he has fended off other attacks that I thought were credible and might cause his popularity some damage, I am not holding my breath.
But what if the media that has for so long been remarkably kind to him genuinely smelt blood? What if the Prime Minister and his Government genuinely had something to hide like the President of Iceland had? It could be more than mud that is stuck to him.