Whenever Key gets on well with another head of state – David Cameron, Barak Obama, and most recently Malcolm Turnbill who name-checked our PM in one of his first speeches – our punditocracy gets very excited and explains that these relationships are very valuable at the international level.
But they seem to be totally worthless. Key’s close relationship with Obama didn’t get us anything in the TPP negotiations, and now Turnbill’s admiration for Key does not extend to policy flexibility on imprisoning New Zealanders in detention centres. These supposedly valuable relationships look more like liabilities: because they’re perceived as very valuable we have to make commitments to maintain them (like sending soldiers to Iraq) and we never want to devalue them by taking a tough stand when it comes to disagreements. It’s like having a rich friend who you’re constantly buying dinner for to try and impress, but never dare ask them to reciprocate in case it looks gauche.