Does he really take us for such fools? Are we really expected to take him at his word? Is he seriously asking us to believe that, somehow, he's been able to persuade the National Party to abandon every one of its core principles? Because, if he does, then it's John Key who is the fool.
Since October 2003, a powerful group of business leaders (some domestically based, and some off- shore) have invested millions of dollars in securing the return of the National Party to power. They haven't poured those sorts of resources into a political movement whose single election- winning strategy is to position itself in Labour's shadow.
When it comes to economics, industrial relations, and foreign policy, the slogan favoured by these extremely wealthy men and women is definitely not: "Me too!"
And yet, that is precisely the slogan John Key has adopted.
On virtually every policy front: from climate change, to New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy, to the privatisation of publicly-owned assets and enterprises, National's promise is the same: "We accept everything – we will change nothing."
Politically-speaking, this is absurd as even a moment's logical analysis will confirm.
Let's go through it.
National wins the election on the promise of no major changes to the Clark-Cullen status quo. The new Government keeps its word.
All Labour's reforms remain intact: the Super Fund, the ACC monopoly, Kiwisaver, Working For Families, the Employment Relations Act, annual adjustments (upwards) in the minimum wage, Kiwibank – the lot.
Health, education, housing and social welfare spending are also conscientiously maintained at Clark-Cullen levels.
Three years pass. The 2011 election looms. What have all those wealthy businessmen and women got to show for their multimillion-dollar investment?
If we are to believe Mr Key, they've got nothing: zero, zip, zilch.
It's as if Miss Clark and Dr Cullen had never left. Under National, New Zealanders have enjoyed three more years of moderate social-democracy.
The only things that've changed are the names and the faces of the people sitting on the Treasury benches – aside from those, it's still Labour's world.
Leaving aside, for one moment, the objections of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who position themselves on the Right of the political spectrum, the ones who put National back in power.
How, exactly, do you think the people who have bankrolled the Party's return to office are going to react to this state of affairs?
Are they going to slap Mr Key on the back and say: "Good on you, John, you've done an excellent job. As prime minister you're no different to Helen. Which is why we've all decided to kick in a few more millions of dollars.
"We are determined to help you and your splendid National team keep New Zealand on the straight-and-narrow socialist path."
As Bill Ralston would say: "Fat chance!"
John Key must understand that if he is serious about leaving the Clark-Cullen status quo intact, then his tenure as New Zealand's prime minister will be extremely short.
The National Party caucus has not endured the soul- destroying impotence of opposition for nine long years, only to find themselves immobilised in a Labour Party-designed policy straitjacket. In saying that, I am, of course, assuming that National's MPs entered politics for something more uplifting than a big Beehive office and a flash government car. I also believe it's only fair to assume that Mr Key entered political life for something more than the simple pleasure of being able to add "Prime Minister of New Zealand" to his personal resume.
Unfortunately for Mr Key, if we are willing to ascribe a more noble motive to his quest for the ninth floor of the Beehive than petty personal ambition, then we cannot avoid calling into question the sincerity of his undertakings to the electorate.
Either Mr Key wants to change New Zealand in a fashion consistent with his right-wing principles, or he doesn't. If he favours change, then his undertakings to leave all of Labour's economic and social reforms in place cannot be true.
He is, therefore, guilty of misleading the electorate, which surely disqualifies him from becoming our prime minister.
On the other hand, if Mr Key doesn't favour change, then what possible excuse could a National Party supporter offer for backing him?
Why vote for a fake Labour Government when you could just as easily re-elect the real thing?
- © Fairfax NZ News