John Key dismisses rumours surrounding resignation

KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

In a farewell interview, former Prime Minister John Key says rumours around his departure aren't true.

John Key has addressed the rumours surrounding his bombshell resignation - and says none of them are true.

Key's shock decision to step down last year as he appeared to be cruising to a fourth election victory has sparked wild speculation about the "real" reasons for his departure, ranging from affairs, to hacked emails, or family scandal.

Speaking ahead of his final day in Parliament, Key debunked the stories swirling around his departure as conspiracy theories - and said there was no truth to any of them.

Mates on and off the international stage: Barack Obama and John Key
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Mates on and off the international stage: Barack Obama and John Key

"I didn't go because of some scandal, I didn't go because someone pushed me. I went because I felt a decade at the top was about right. For us to keep winning as a political party we needed continuity but we needed big change."

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The announcement of a new book to be released by Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager has revved up the rumour mill again.

Famous for horsing around: Key sets the Woolman, Billy Black, alight at the Helensville A&P.
DAVE MACKAY/PHOTOTEK.NZ

Famous for horsing around: Key sets the Woolman, Billy Black, alight at the Helensville A&P.

But Key said no-one who knew him, including journalists in the Press Gallery, should have been surprised by his decision.

"I was never going to stay here all my life. I can't think of anything worse than being 71 and being in Parliament."

One of New Zealand's most popular prime ministers ever, Key has kept a low profile since stepping down. He delivers his valedictory on Wednesday and his farewell bash at Parliament is expected to be a who's who of New Zealand's movers and shakers.

Key waves to the crowd after stepping down as Prime Minister.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Key waves to the crowd after stepping down as Prime Minister.

Key said he would never have stepped down if he thought National was going to lose the election, because that would look like he was running from a fight, or didn't like losing.

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"[People] couldn't say that about me; they couldn't say that I didn't stand a good chance of winning the next election and I wasn't polling very well. It's just that the sort of people that write these conspiracy theories ... they're the sort of people that their whole world is a conspiracy."

Key said he had no regrets about stepping down, and has been inundated with job offers since announcing his decision to leave Parliament.

He had whittled them down to two possibilities - both board appointments - but wasn't rushing to make a decision.

He is also on the international speaking circuit. While he won't say how much he is getting paid, Key admits "it's quite remarkable actually what they pay", on the American speaking circuit in particular.

Key's public popularity has plummeted since his decision. The latest TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll had him at just 2 per cent as preferred prime minister - but Key says he didn't mind that at all.

"In a funny kind of way it feels good ... it feels like the transition's worked. In reality ... I had a fantastic run in politics. Tomorrow I give my valedictory and leave and I'm not coming back. So it's not like I need political capital any more."

In the time since he stepped down, Key has spent a lot of time overseas, including his Hawaiian holiday home, where he and wife Bronagh headed for some time out.

Pictures of them relaxing around the pool surfaced in New Zealand media over the Christmas break, and while Key did not comment publicly, he was said to have been furious.

Key said his main concern was the invasion of his and Bronagh's privacy at home.

"That's our house in Hawaii, not some hotel ... it's our property. My main point would be that for Bronagh, she wants to feel - and so do I - that we can just go there and chill. Not think 'have I got the right gear on or do I have to do my hair'.

"I felt like a bit of an invasion of privacy, i couldn't see any public interest in it."

Key's new life starts Thursday, but he says there was nothing special planned.

He and Bronagh were planning a "pretty quiet day", and then on Friday he will head to Australia for a speaking engagement.

Then there would be a trip to Italy - honouring a long standing promise he'd made to Bronagh - and spending several weeks on a boat with a friend.

 - Stuff

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