Scoop Review of Books

Key to Key’s Success Scrutinised

A new book is set to uncover the secrets of John Key and National’s success in the 2008 general election.

Key to Victory: The New Zealand General Election of 2008 is a series of insiders’ views on our most recent general election, showing how John Key became New Zealand’s 38th Prime Minister.

Edited by Victoria University Professors Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts and published by Victoria University Press, the book offers accounts from politicians, campaign advisors and media commentators who reveal insights into how John Key successfully rode a popular mood for change to overthrow Helen Clark’s Labour Government after three terms.

It is the eighth book in a row that has come out of post-election conferences, which have been organised by Victoria University after every election since 1987.

Co-Editors Professor Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts say the book is remarkable for its candid assessments of what went wrong—and right—from key players in the election.

“One of the great things about New Zealand is that it’s a small society and people are fairly open and honest. You are getting insight straight from the horse’s mouth in this book,” says Professor Roberts.

The book includes a chapter on the National campaign from campaign chair Steven Joyce, who is now a senior member of John Key’s cabinet. In addition, successful first-time electorate candidates Grant Robertson and Rahui Katene have written the chapters on Labour and the Maori Party’s respective campaigns.

Two other MPs also contributed to the book—the Greens’ new list MP Catherine Delahunty, and ACT’s John Boscawen. In another chapter Damian Edwards (former political advisor to Winston Peters) talks openly about what went wrong in the New Zealand First campaign.

Professor Roberts says that John Key was literally the key to National’s victory in 2008, and has quickly shown himself to be a natural politician.

“As well as cleverly moving National back into the mainstream, he was a fresh face. But it is also a fresh face that is quite remarkable for its candour, a positive attitude and a pragmatic approach that New Zealanders warm to.”

Other highlights from the book include a look at the role of new media—such as the Internet and Facebook—on the campaign, and a look by German academic Aljoscha Kertesz at the international media’s coverage of the New Zealand election.

The book also includes a DVD offering a visual record of the campaign, including excerpts from televised party leaders’ debates, a look at party billboards, and various other campaign advertising.

John Key will officially launch the book at the Beehive on Tuesday 23 February.