The Labour Party seems unable to get over the fact that John
Key is wealthy, and it has frequently made attempts to imply
or demonstrate that he gained his wealth deviously, and
continues to do so.
None of these efforts has succeeded.
Helen Clark tried it when she claimed Mr Key personally
profited from the 1993 privatisation of Tranz Rail, because
he had been a former director of Bankers Trust, which won a
contract to advise the then National government on the sale.
At the relevant time, however, Mr Key was nowhere near the
sale; he was operating as a foreign exchange dealer.
Ms Clark may have been badly advised, but this did not slow
her attempts to muddy the Prime Minister's credibility,
especially in the business and commercial world.
Labour thought it was on to another winner when it sent its
then party president, Mike Williams, to Melbourne on a
dirt-digging expedition in the hope of yielding
election-influencing material supposedly showing unlawful
deals in the 1980s, but he came home empty-handed.
The latest attempt has been made by another senior party
figure, the Dunedin North MP, Peter Hodgson, who has tried to
show the Prime Minister knows what assets are held in his
"blind trust", implying that a conflict of interest has or
can arise where government policy is concerned, to Mr Key's
That is a serious claim to make where public figures are
concerned who hold positions where they can influence policy.
Mr Hodgson's "evidence" - it hardly justifies the description
- has been successful to the extent that Mr Key, in
responding, seems to have had some knowledge of one asset in
It is no more than that, however: there is no shred of proof
that his knowledge - if he had it - has been used to
influence policy to his advantage.
The Cabinet Manual's advice to ministers recommends blind
trusts be established where personal assets can be placed so
as to avoid possible conflicts of interest.
The trust is managed by a third party and the ostensible
beneficiary remains ignorant of its dealings - although the
minister may know what investments go into a blind trust when
it is first established, after that point the trustees have
full authority to deal with those investments as they see
fit, without reference to the beneficiaries.
Mr Key has insisted that he does not know what is in his
Aldgate Trust, created after the 2008 election win, while Mr
Hodgson insists the trust has a parallel company whose
activities Mr Key can monitor, providing he knows the
One of the assets are shares in a vineyard whose owners also
include persons linked with a major supermarket company, and
Mr Hodgson is trying to link that with the sensitive
political issue of additional controls on the sale of liquor
Mr Key has denied he knows if he owns shares in the vineyard.
Mr Hodgson laid a formal complaint with the Speaker of the
House that Mr Key had misled Parliament with his responses to
questions about access to his assets, but the Speaker found
there was no case to answer.
That appears to be the end of the latest attempt to impugn
the Prime Minister for his wealth, but it is unlikely to be
So far, none of the mud Labour has attempted to fling has
stuck - at least so far as opinion polls judge the matter.
The most that Labour can hope for is that somewhere in the
public mind is lodged the perception of dodgy practices at
worst, a cavalier attitude toward the rules at best.
The workers' party has not had a National Party
multi-millionaire to contend with for years, especially one
brought up in a state house, and it is perhaps understandable
that with Mr Key's background as a share trader and money
market dealer Labour has wasted no effort in trying to
unravel his attitude of sunny success.
But it will need to find a great deal more material to
exploit than it has been able to discover so far, while also
overcoming public acceptance of the fact that a rich man is
likely to have a lot of assets and should not be expected to
sell up when he becomes prime minister.
There is also the danger of a significant increase of
interest on the part of National in the blind trusts set up
by Opposition MPs when they were so recently ministers
Of course, like Mr Key, they had no idea what was in them or
how the assets were managed - or so they expected voters to