Gareth Hughes: Why I said what I did about John Key


I am concerned about the direction New Zealand is going in under John Key. Late last Thursday afternoon, I stood up in an almost empty debating chamber and made a speech that has now been shared online thousands of times.

People have told me it struck a chord because it’s what they wanted to hear. It was a privilege to simply say what so many were already thinking and feeling.

Parliament starts every year with a debate on the Prime Minister’s statement. I’ve listened to every one of his annual partisan political speeches and this year I wanted to lay out his record and his legacy. I wanted to ask how John Key compares to our political giants like Seddon, Savage, Fraser and Kirk.

When you look at the facts – hungry kids, inequality, pollution, debt, foreign ownership and corruption – indicators are all up. Sure, we got tax cuts the country could not afford and maybe we’ll change the flag, but we also have $120 billion in national debt, unswimmable rivers, crippling student loans, and a generation locked out of home ownership. That’s not a legacy to be proud of, that’s intergenerational theft.

Speeches in Parliament are often throw-away events watched by a handful of dedicated Parliament TV viewers. This one seems to have a struck a chord and has been watched by hundreds of thousands of people online. I’ve given more than 250 speeches in Parliament but this is the first time people have stopped me in the street walking my dog, or people who I played rugby with at primary school have messaged me to say that’s exactly how they feel too.

There are a lot of New Zealanders who have had this same gnawing feeling that I do. A feeling that instead of a leader who can make the tough calls, we’ve somehow ended up with our first selfie-obsessed, comedian Prime Minister.

Key’s legacy will have one positive though. We’re seeing now a growing movement for political change. Key called one of the biggest protests in modern history over the controversial TPPA ‘rent a crowd,’ then he was booed by the crowds at the Rugby League 9s and the Big Gay Out. It seems like Key has a problem with crowds - and it’s mutual.

Kiwis are a good and caring people. The huge response to my small five minute speech has made it clear to me that New Zealanders have had enough, that the tide is turning on the National Party Government. After eight scouring years of scandals, embarrassments and dirty politics, the Teflon is well and truly corroding.

We don’t want to wait any longer. We want a leader that actually shows leadership, one that has vision for a better future for all New Zealanders. Selfies and jokes are fun but won’t cut it. Leadership is what it is going to take.

But hey, why don’t you listen for yourself and see what you think?