Left-wing critics of Prime Minister John Key have been vindicated today by a study that determined him to be the worst Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had.
The study, carried out by Victoria University’s department of Political Science, compared various Prime Ministers and the assessments made about them by their critics during their tenure, and found that Key, along with Jim Bolger and David Lange, was the most widely hated and despised Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark was also found to be the worst Prime Minister ever, and even four-term Prime Minister Keith Holyoake was said to be “unequivocally worse than any leader that came before or after him.”
Other Prime Ministers found by the study to have been the worst Prime Minister ever included all of them.
“This was a fairly decisive study,” said Professor Stephen Levine, who spearheaded the project along with his colleague Dr. Jon Johansson. “The results are very clear: no other Prime Minister has inspired so much hatred or vitriol as all the Prime Ministers.”
The study comes on the heels of a public debate between political commentators that broke out when co-leader of the Green Party Russel Norman asserted that Key was “like [former Prime Minister Robert] Muldoon,” who was previously believed to have been the worst Prime Minister ever.
Levine said the study seemed to vindicate Norman’s claim, suggesting that Key was “certainly no better” than Muldoon, who himself was described by critics as just slightly worse than leader of the German Third Reich Adolf Hitler.
“If Key is worse than Hitler, then that would also back up [Labour MP] Clare Curran’s assertion that Key is the most dangerous politician in New Zealand’s history,” he said.
Asked what the study had to say about left-wing commentator Martyn Bradbury’s claim that John Key “makes [infamous Roman Emperor] Caligula look compassionate,” Levine wasn’t as sure.
“We don’t really have a long history of people comparing leaders to Caligula,” he said, “so we’d have to work through that one step by step. Our study found that Helen Clark, generally speaking, was quite similar to Stalin. Now, seeing as Key is similar to Muldoon, who is also similar to Clark according to her detractors, then it really becomes a case of whether you think Caligula was compassionate compared to Stalin, Clark, Key and Muldoon. I think once you put all of that together you’d have a much clearer answer.”
But regardless of the precise conclusions, Levine said the study showed something truly horrible about our history of Prime Ministers.
“These are very strong words coming from very ordinary people,” he said. “They certainly wouldn’t throw these sorts of things out there for the public to see if they hadn’t really thought about them.”
Levine said that the process of judging a Prime Minister’s tenure by what his or her contemporaries say about them was a sufficiently robust research method, and rejected the notion that critics of a government would just say the worst things they could think of because it was easier than making a rational argument against something they’d conceded wasn’t necessarily extreme.
He said it was unlikely that responsible adults would do that, as it would make them appear stupid and careless, and prevent them from having credibility when trying to criticise governments for actual mistakes and injustices.