Key's likening of self to Obama 'ludicrous' - PM

National Party leader John Key's likening of himself to Barack Obama is "absolutely ludicrous", Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

Mr Key compared himself to the United States Democratic Party presidential contender in an interview with a British newspaper, published today.

The Financial Times described Key as "young, smart and rich", but warned that if he beat Helen Clark at the polls in the next 11 weeks, he would become the most inexperienced politician to lead New Zealand in more than 100 years.

"I'm a bit like (Barack) Obama," Mr Key, 47, told the Financial Times. "I am not institutionalised in Wellington".

"I had 18 years in the commercial world and I will be quite pragmatic," the old former Merrill Lynch investment banker said.

But Miss Clark said the comparison was "absolutely ludicrous".

"For Mr Key, a rather wooden speaker at the best of times, to compare himself to one of the most gifted orators of our time is simply preposterous."

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen also wasted no time in attacking Mr Key.

"John Key has a very high opinion of himself, but his claim to the mantle of Barack Obama is laughable."

Mr Obama had turned down high-profile corporate jobs in order to work in his community, while Mr Key had spent decades as a currency trader, Dr Cullen said.

While Mr Obama was running on a ticket of change, Mr Key was busy trying to persuade people that he had no "secret plans" and he would do little different from Labour.

"Senator Obama also opposed the war in Iraq from day one. Mr Key attacked the Labour-led government for not joining the war effort, saying New Zealand was `missing in action'."

Dr Cullen said Mr Key probably hadn't expected his comments to be reported in New Zealand.

The Financial Times described Mr Key as "young, smart and rich", but warned that if he beat Helen Clark at the polls in the next 11 weeks, he would become the most inexperienced politician to lead New Zealand in more than 100 years.

Mr Key said his years in Singapore, London, and New York, where he was running foreign exchange for Merrill Lynch, and two years on the foreign exchange committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, would help.

But he conceded this experience in finance was useful only to a point: "There are a huge range of issues you need to be across. Economics is good but it is only one part."

The newspaper also predicted that Mr Key may be haunted by his decision to rule out a deal with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Mr Key said it was "inevitable" that New Zealand would become a republic, and that the move could be triggered by a change in the British monarch or a move by Australia.

- NZPA


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