John Key’s parliamentary apprenticeship before becoming PM was the shortest since David Lange's. Like Lange, he was one of the few recent PMs without prior Cabinet experience.
Key, the state house kid who dreamed of making millions and of becoming PM, achieved both goals. In the mid-1980s, after graduating from Canterbury with a commerce degree, he launched a lucrative international career in investment banking.
In 2001 Key returned to New Zealand to enter politics. A year later he was one of National’s few new faces after an election in which it won just 20.9% of the vote. In 2004 Opposition Leader Don Brash, another of the 2002 recruits, promoted Key to deputy and then to finance spokesman. Brash improved National’s poll ratings, but lost the 2005 election and the following year resigned under pressure, clearing the way for Key.
Elected in November 2008, during a deepening international recession, Key formed agreements with the ACT, United Future and Maori parties and the following year signed a memorandum of understanding with the Greens. In opposition National accepted most of Labour’s key policies but in 2009 reintroduced titular honours. Like Clark, Key made a statement in his selection of a portfolio, in his case tourism.
By Gavin McLean