There’s a tendency for John Key’s opponents on the left to dismiss him as stupid – which is, in itself very stupid since Key is plainly as cunning as a snake. What they mean is that Key isn’t an intellectual. He probably doesn’t know who John Rawls or Isaiah Berlin are! And that’s also, mostly an asset, since it makes it easier to identify with ‘ordinary New Zealanders,’ and many of his challenges as a leader are technical rather than philosophical.
But I think it makes him vulnerable to mistakes like this decision to retrospectively validate illegal activity undertaken by the New Zealand police. The bureaucrats embarrassed by the Supreme Court’s finding that the police acted illegally can argue that it would be awfully practical and convenient for the state to pass legislation dumping the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, and the Prime Minister doesn’t have the intellectual clarity to say, ‘Hold on a minute. That violates almost every principle my own party is supposed to stand for!’