If the outgoing Air New Zealand chief wants a political career, he'll need to take a much humbler approach than apparent last week, writes Matthew Hooton.
Plane crashes are caused by pilot error, mechanical failure, freak weather events, sabotage, blunders in the control tower or a combination of all five. From the wreckage, we may never know which was most responsible for the debacle of Christopher Luxon's attempted launch into politics last week.
In politics, it is less important what is true than what is believed.
Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, National MPs and those who make candidate selections believe there was an orchestrated attempt to push Luxon into a safe seat or high list ranking, probably engineered by the likes of former Prime Minister Sir John Key, former party strategist Steven Joyce, former president Michelle Boag and incumbent president Peter Goodfellow.
None may in fact have been involved and no one is now keen to take ownership of the behind-the-scenes media briefings that Luxon, a deeply devout non-denominational Christian highly active in his local church, had arrived as saviour of the party.
The unfortunate impression left was that Luxon and his supporters were telling party members something like: "Here's your next leader and if you losers don't realise how lucky you are to have him, he's got lots of offers overseas."
This is not the way to win friends and influence people in any political party.
Moreover, the last thing those who will decide Luxon's fate want to hear is that the messiah is a centrist who says he enjoys working with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and disdains what he calls "petty politics".
Perhaps worst of all, the manner of Luxon's apparent launch has created an awful dilemma for National Party strategists.
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If he secures nomination for a safe seat like Botany, Epsom or Selwyn, or is leapfrogged into a top-10 list spot like Don Brash in 2002, the message voters will receive is that whoever leads National into the 2020 election is a mere placeholder, dooming the party's campaign.
For members of those electorate selection panels and list ranking committees, the first impression of Luxon is that he is a problem rather than a solution – and such party stalwarts have an aversion to being told who they must select through the media.
Comparisons with the rise of Key and Joyce last decade are flawed, making it difficult to believe they were as deeply involved in last week's shenanigans as some suspect.
Whether sincere or not, Key's entry into politics was characterised by personal humility and respect for the party.
Having gently let National know of his interest in politics some years earlier, the global head of Merrill Lynch's foreign exchange business quietly quit his job and slipped back into New Zealand without any fuss or publicity for endless one-on-one cups of tea with ordinary National Party members.
He made clear he was now fully committed to politics, the National Party and New Zealand with no talk of heading back overseas if he didn't get his way. He did not say nice things about then Prime Minister Helen Clark. Nor did he encourage anyone to say he would be Prime Minister. Each National Party member was allowed the illusion that they had individually discovered the next big thing.
Far from creating a perception he wanted a political career handed to him on a plate, Key risked everything on a local challenge for the Helensville electorate against incumbent MP Brian Neeson, winning the local delegates over one by one. Poor Neeson was furious but has since had the good grace to accept the delegates probably got it right on the night.
More eyebrows were raised within the party following Joyce's emergence, with him not seeking an electorate but being parachuted into number 16 on the 2008 list.
But, again in contrast to Luxon, he had been closely involved in the party for many years, conducting the post mortem and constitutional review after the 2002 debacle and running the much more successful 2005 election campaign. He also had better taste in music than Luxon's preference for American country jingles.
Luxon's closer parallel might be with Brash who arrived in a blaze of publicity in April 2002, when quitting his job as Governor of the Reserve Bank. But even that overlooks Brash first being a National Party candidate as much as 22 years earlier.
In any case, of the three eventual stars of the 2002 intake, those with the lower profiles, Key and Judith Collins, enjoyed greater long-term success in politics than Brash.
Simon Bridges' reshuffle this week has successfully moved National on from the Luxon speculation. Bridges carefully positioned Luxon as one of many high-profile new candidates the party hopes to attract. His promotion of his staunch ally Paul Goldsmith to Shadow Finance Minister will please the more right-leaning sections of the Auckland business community including National's major donors.
For Luxon, all is not lost. Airlines pick themselves up after even the most negligent plane crashes. But they do so by cancelling their advertising and just getting on with the job behind the scenes for a while, working with those they most need to reassure.
Luxon too needs to start again, not by talking to the Herald but with the ordinary National Party members who will decide his fate.