John Key, currency trader, turned Prime Minister, turned political commentator, well and truly threw a cat amongst the pigeons on Sunday.
In what is likely to be New Zealand’s most read op-ed in recent times, Key took aim at the Government’s Covid response and offered a few suggestions of his own on how to fix some of the problems.
He also peppered the phrase “hermit kingdom” into the piece a number of times for maximum impact.
And maximum impact it had.
Every major publication either ran his piece, or did a story based on what he had said.
It dominated talkback lines and led the coveted 6pm Sunday night TV bulletins.
The next day, Key was back doing his familiar media rounds on Monday morning, still very much on the offensive.
For a moment, it was just like old times.
His piece and the response it got shows the power Key still holds in New Zealand.
The Government was forced to respond to him and his ideas, as well as defending its own record.
In other words, he was playing opposition – and doing it in a way we haven’t seen in a while.
He stood his ground in a testy interview with Morning Report, made All Blacks’ references on the AM Show and purred his way through an interview with Mike Hosking.
It was a stark contrast to Judith Collins’ ill-fated appearance on Breakfast earlier this month, where she was widely panned for taking aim at the interviewer.
It also didn’t go unnoticed that in Key’s piece, he didn’t even pay his own National Party a passing mention.
But Act’s David Seymour got one hell of a shout-out.
“…as Act leader David Seymour has been advocating, we need privately-run and purpose-built short-term MIQ facilities for workers and, in time, for tourists.”
It’s telling that Key singled out Seymour, when National has also been advocating purpose-built MIQ facilities for months.
It’s also telling that National MPs were more or less (publically) silent in their response to their former leader’s ideas.
Key’s storming onto the political stage so dramatically puts his former party in a tough spot.
He completely overshadowed Judith Collins, who gave one of her better interviews on the Nation the day prior.
He’s also shown her up; many right-leaning voters would have seen Key’s performance and thought to themselves: “That’s how it’s done”.
But perhaps most importantly, he got out ahead of National’s planned Covid-19 response policy – which will be released on Wednesday.
The plan’s somewhat of a crown jewel to National. Spearheaded by Chris Bishop, it’s the party’s chance to lay down a comprehensive strategy for the road ahead.
And it comes at a time when more and more Kiwis are calling for some clarity from the Government.
It could have been Collins’ moment to start turning the ship around.
But now it risks being little more than an afterthought, following Key’s five-point plan, which has now extended into its third day of coverage.