Things have been looking up since former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key decided to give up and pass the baton along to his dull, bigoted and ineffective deputy. One of the most surprising aspects of the post-Key era is how quickly the public has forgotten about him. I’m able to go for several weeks at a time without thinking about him.
Of course, that serenity is punctuated by the brief occasions where Key makes the headlines again. One example being when Key was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, an archaic institution that he revived during his tenure as PM. The words “John Key” and “Sir” don’t go well together. However, I manage to forget that he was ever knighted, just as I manage to forget about him altogether.
Key’s back in the headlines again as the University of Canterbury has announced that he shall receive an honourary doctorate at the upcoming December graduation. The press release is obsequious and sanitises his record as PM. Vague references are made to the Christchurch Earthquakes, the Global Financial Crisis and the failed flag referendum, which was described as “focused on enhancing New Zealand’s sense of nationhood”.
The rebuild of Christchurch has been derided as autocratic and homeowners are still battling their insurers to get what they are entitled to. A once-in-a-generation opportunity to upskill our youth and plan for a modern innovative city has been squandered in favour of exploiting overseas workers and urban sprawl.
New Zealand’s trajectory through the GFC was largely credited to the Clark Labour Government who paid off government debt. The gains of the economic recovery have not been felt by the vast majority of the population who rely on borrowing and a property bubble to feel wealthy. Let’s not forget the deeply unpopular partial privatisation of electricity retailers. Higher prices were levied in order to pay dividends to those immoral enough to purchase shares, depriving the government of long-term revenue.
The flag referendum attracted international ridicule, Key was not shy about his bias and his mindless supporters were quick to put his pick up against the current flag. Even anti-British republicans such as myself opted to keep the old flag. Instead, the nationhood discussion was put on the back burner instead of accepting Key’s false national identity which amounted to little more than a tawdry attempt at corporate branding.
UC has a history of giving out fake doctorates to undeserving right-wing maniacs, compromising the rightful recognition also given to artists, activists, engineers, and scientists. It is a poor reflection on the outlook held by the decision makers, especially given the timing of the announcement which is in the middle of election season.
The University of Canterbury does its graduates (some who have real doctorates) no favours by pulling vapid stunts like this one. Honourary doctorates should be reserved for those who achieve great things in the arts, science and justice sectors, or not awarded at all. They should not be given to failed politicians or so-called “popular” figures as a cynical ploy to embellish the University’s public profile.
On the bright side, I will undoubtedly continue to forget about John Key, his knighthood, and his fake doctorate just as I did before.