"Yeah, look, I can't hide the fact that I've been successful," said Christopher Luxon when One News accused National's new leader of wealth. Who said we would never see another John Key?
Luxon sounds like he has closeted himself with video clips of Sir John Key and imbibed not only his phrases but his very voice. The audial similarity is uncanny, and it must be music to the ears of a party longing to be led back to power.
But the first thing Luxon needs to do with his caucus is instill patience. He was reluctant to stand for the leadership last weekend because the timing is not ideal for him. Voters used to remove Labour governments after three or six years but the last one lasted for nine and this one looks set for three terms too.
New Zealand politics seems to have settled into a stable nine-year cycle after the turbulent last quarter of the 20th century and the reason is obvious: we have a better economy now. Unless inflation returns, governments will probably last until voters are simply sick of their voice.
Key got out before that happened. He was still at the height of his popularity in National's third term and looking certain to win a fourth. National voters were stunned but practitioners of Key's previous art probably understood. He was exiting a position with the currency as high as it could probably go.
National's stock remained high for a long time after he stepped down in December, 2016. National was first past the post at the 2017 election and continued to lead Labour in polls through 2018 and 2019 despite the popularity of Jacinda Ardern.
But the stock crashed last year. The National caucus made a series of poor decisions, most obviously in its choice of leaders but also in its response to the pandemic. First, it criticised the lockdown for its likely economic damage, then, when it saw the public response, it switched to criticising gaps in the blockade.
It continued to change with the wind, demanding more stringent controls whenever the virus appeared, advocating relaxation as soon as it was suppressed. National quickly became incredible and irrelevant and each new leader was worse than the last. Simon
Bridges was not prime ministerial, Todd Muller was not confident, Judith Collins was not sensible.
Her decision to return to Parliament when the rest of Auckland was in lockdown was an act of ridiculous self-importance and dismal political judgment. She could have criticised the lockdown more effectively from inside it.
Luxon wants to "turn the page" on all of this. He was not in Parliament when National MPs made their poor appointments and vacillating decisions last year. Like Key, he timed his entry to politics perfectly, with the party at its lowest point of the nine-year cycle.
But Key came in with a couple of ambitious and better-known contemporaries, Don Brash and Collins. Key was content for Brash to step up in their first term when the caucus looked for fresh leadership from a member still finding his feet.
Brash never could find his feet in Parliament, but he tapped New Zealand's post-colonial tension to lift National to near-victory at the next election. When Brash self-destructed the following year, Key had the good fortune to take the leadership as the tide was turning against Helen Clark.
Luxon may have modelled his political style on Key but fate hasn't been as kind to him. The leadership has come sooner than he wanted, or Key reportedly wanted for him. But that could be a good thing.
Luxon has run big companies, he knows how to keep people busy, working in unison and focused on where they want to go. As a freshman in politics who has not yet tasted power, he might not suffer the frustration of Opposition.
National hates Opposition. Labour doesn't like it much either but for MPs who have come predominantly from the talking and writing industries of education and the public service, Parliament is not a bad place to be. You get to express the same cares and ideas in a stimulating environment. National's problem is that most of its members did not come to Parliament to talk.
They are managers by nature, accustomed to making practical and profitable decisions. They joined the National Party to make these decisions for the country, not ruminate on theories and visions.
They appear to think the fast road back to power is built on cheap publicity gained by reactive criticism of the Government whatever it does. Luxon might be different. Facing the likelihood of another five years in Opposition, he should give them all something to do.