A candle in the wind

Written By: - Date published: 2:11 pm, September 13th, 2007 - 6 comments
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He’s been thieving her policies and now he’s thieving her words. When will John Key say something original?

Colin Espiner notes that while for days, Key has been baying for O’Connor’s blood, yesterday on Breakfast Key did an abrupt about-face. As if to signal what a massive change of direction it was, he even stole the Prime Minister’s exact words! He’s now shifted to saying that O’Connor’s decision “Isn’t a hanging offence”. The video evidence is below.

What’s staggering though is that not only does he seem incapable of making up his own mind on issues, even when he looks like he’s decided he really hasn’t. I’ve mentioned before that Key appears to have no compass. The longer I watch the more I think he’s really more like a candle in the wind of public opinion. He wants to be everything to everybody, to have his cake and eat it too.

The problem in politics John, is that at some stage you’re going to have to get down off the fence. I suspect that it’d look more dignified than falling with a thump – after all, you’re a ways up. Sooner or later the balancing act’s going to come to an end, either the wind will shift or someone’s going to give you a filthy great push.

6 comments on “A candle in the wind”

  1. If John Key truly is a candle in the wind of public opinion – and I agree he is – then he’s learnt everything he knows from watching Helen Clark, who’s the *original* candle in the wind. The main difference is that she does it much better! It’d be hard to find a more pragmatic and poll-driven fruitcake than Clark.

    And in terms of National stealing Labour’s policies – which I again agree with you about – I’d paraphrase a quote from a NZ political commentator that “If National and Labour are so keen to avoid the other stealing their political clothes, then they should make sure their names are firmly attached to them”. Basically, National is so easily able to steal Labour’s policies because Labour has moved so far to the right! Labour should be embarrassed that all their policies are so easily adopted by such a right-wing party. Clearly Labour stands for pretty much nothing these days, and National is little different.


  2. Benodic 2

    But of course, the Nats don’t actually believe a word of it. They’re merely saying they agree with Labour’s policies in order to get elected because they know their real agenda – restarting the revolution – would be deeply unpopular with the NZ public.

    I imagine Labour would like to do a lot more to help working NZers, just as the Tories would like to do a lot more to screw working NZers and boost the profits of their big business backers.

    But we have an electoral system that encourages parties to pander to swing voters while slowly shifting the centre in their own direction, and that that means you have a Labour Party that is limited in what it can do and a National Party that lies about what it wants to do. That doesn’t mean there’s no difference between the two.

  3. all_your_base 3


    First, I expect a good leader to know when to respond to public opinion and when to lead it. I don’t reckon Key’s got the mettle.

    Second, take a look at the kinds of policies he’s adopting. Nuclear free, independent foreign policy, climate change. He’s playing small target politics but that doesn’t mean that he’s not still wedded to privatisation and spending cuts.

  4. The problem here is that Labour in government has actually retained most of the privatisation and spending cuts of previous Labour and National governments. So what’s the difference? Not much. This is still a neoliberal economic government. Structurally, the economy has been pretty much left alone since 1999, and any reforms dealt only with peripheral matters. The overall economic approach is still based on a belief in the market, leading to few reforms. If there was any anti-market reform, it was merely making correctives to the discredited neo-liberal project, rather than actually reversing such reforms. Thus, Labour has not actually removed every trace of the Employment Contracts Act, nor did they restore strongly progressive income tax scales. Labour under Clark and Cullen has been incredibly fiscally conservative. I think Cullen is probably still spending less per capita than even Ruth Richardson did!

    In case you think I’m making all this up, here it is from Helen Clark herself: “Yes, we have made moderate policy corrections in areas like industrial relations, but what is of far greater significance are those economic fundamentals which have not changed. For example: the Reserve Bank Act has not changed; the Fiscal Responsibility Act has not changed; the government has budgeted for good surpluses and will continue to do so; government spending is actually decreasing as a proportion of GDP, and; the government is committed to promoting open world trade”


  5. Sam Dixon 5

    Benodic hits the nail on the head.

    Also, you can always tell when someone, especially someone who doesn’t believe what he is saying or really know much about the issue (or is just dmub), has been given a meida spin line to say – they tend to repeat it unnaturally, like Key’s repeated uses of ‘hanging offence’ in that clip.

  6. AncientGeek 6

    I’d agree with Sam – Benodic does hit the issue on the head.

    MMP encourages a political strategy of winning the war, not the battles. You want to keep moving in the right direction – but you don’t have to win all of the battles to do it.

    You can’t move too far in advance of considered public opinion, and notice the word ‘considered’ there. If you strike a vein of blind emotional reaction on something; that isn’t a core commitment, or a requirement of public policy; then back off. You can always come back to the issue when the hysteria has died down, people have had time to think it through, and look at it again.

    With MMP you have to be able to get support from the minor parties to pass the legislation. So that is usually the constraint. I wasn’t too fussed about MMP when it came in. However I like the way that there is steady movement all of the time on policy objectives.

    Some parts of the Nat’s may finally be starting to realize that. But at present I still see their underlying system of thought as why their spokespeople sacked. They get dumped because they disagree over policy with whoever is currently top of the hierarchy. It is a rather strange way of thinking – that you have to agree all of the time.

    Labour doesn’t do that – dissent is accepted – I know, my opinions aren’t exactly popular inside the party. They dump because people do something stupid. Either in their portfolio’s or in their current uncompromising stance (and the word there is uncompromising). Maybe Bryce should consider that word.

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