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A glitch in the Matrix

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, May 6th, 2015 - 30 comments
Categories: john key, Media - Tags: , , ,

I’m sure there are rational explanations for the hilarious similarities between John Key (or at least, his office) stating that there is “no factual basis” to his allegations that the Snowden documents are fabricated, and a Republican senator called John Kyl excusing his allegations against Planned Parenthood by saying it “was not intended to be a factual statement” – explanations which don’t involve all human life being a computer simulation occupying our brains while robots leech our neural activity for a power source.

But that’s not nearly as much fun.

As the late, lamented Terry Pratchett wrote in The Truth,

‘A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.’

Some politicians have always dealt to people or organisations they don’t like by smearing them. It’s even easier in our ridiculously fast-paced media and online environment, where the damage is done almost immediately, and any retraction or fact-checking is left trying to catch up.

But the tide seems to be changing on Key. Whether it’s journalists (and bloggers) buying into the narrative of third-term arrogance and unconsciously reinforcing it, or whether the disastrous start to the year – Sabin’s resignation, the Northland by-election, Amanda Bailey, the unnamed Cabinet Minister with a brother facing sexual abuse charges – really is just that disastrous, Key’s shine isn’t as shiny as it once was.

Just look at how painstakingly the media are transcribing him now:

“Well, I hope not. I mean we live in a global world where you know all sorts of stories do actually go round the world in varying form. I mean I didn’t pick up any single newspaper in any country I was in and saw it. So, the fact that something goes round the internet is quite standard these days.”

Paraphrasing cannot save you now, John.

And journalists like Tova O’Brien are getting a lot less forgiving when Key brushes them off with non-answers, as in this report on the Cabinet Minister’s brother. It’s probably only a matter of time before someone goes full Ed-Miliband-on-striking-teachers on him. (Hope I didn’t blow your election chances, Ed.)

It’s hard for anyone to look credible when all their weasel words and nervous smirks are just being put out there, unfiltered. Even the clearest speaker can look like a numpty in such circumstances, and John Key – whether by nature or design – has never been the clearest speaker.

But is this the beginning of the end? Is the “honeymoon” finally over? God only knows, but I’m of a similar mind to @LewSOS. The end never comes swiftly. The polls never shift 10 points overnight on the basis of one story (or four). But he isn’t getting those free passes any more.

lew on key

(Original tweets start here.)

30 comments on “A glitch in the Matrix”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    ” The polls never shift 10 points overnight on the basis of one story (or four).”

    They did for Don Brash with the Orewa speech.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Lew was a regular here for a long time, and was always an insightful and cogent commenter. I’m inclined to give this line of thought some credibility.

    Stacked against this is Key’s extraordinary resilience in the polls. Key’s political management has been unique in NZ politics:

    1. He came with an intensive background in corporate politics; the ultimate training ground. Most New Zealanders have never encountered the likes of him.

    2. He ‘de-politicised politics’; eliminated the rhetoric, the ideals or any concrete plans and substituted a synthetic “I’m an ordinary Kiwi” facade that entertains and distracts, layered over the ‘amused contempt’ tone of the alpha male in the room.

    3. The on-going success of the two-track spin machine; the intensive brand-management, avoidance of any negativity that might stick to himself, while ruthlessly exploiting willing back-channels to do the necessary wet-work.

    This has been a powerful combination of skills, something the left has consistently underestimated to it’s cost. That some elements of the media are no longer quite so enamoured of it is of course a welcome thing. Their consistent failure to scrutinise and challenge this government on so many fronts has handed them three, if not four terms.

    But it is my gut feeling that there remains a broad swath of voters who remain emotionally committed to Key, for all the above reasons, and even if Lew is correct – the process of disillusionment may well be a lot slower than anyone here would like – unless we can find a way to give the wider NZ public a more lucid view of the who their Prime Minister really is.

    • Hanswurst 2.1

      1) and 2) are down to Key, although I don’t see any reason to assume that the blokishness is a “synthetic facade”. I imagine Key is just a fairly average joker by nature in his mannerisms, and that happened to be political gold during this period of NZ politics. 3) is not really down to Key, in fact I imagine he’s kept at arms’ length from it as much as possible. Any left opposition would have that machine to contend with, regardless of who is the leader.

      I imagine that that has probably been a large part of Key’s success over the years; he doesn’t need to get into complicated policy explanations or elaborate spin. He just needs to front up as himself with a couple of very simple soundbites accompanied by his own matey, rambling bullshit, and that looks likeable enough to keep him afloat. I imagine that he has considerable skills as a decision-maker and a people manager, but the key to his popular success is a simple formula that comes naturally to him.

    • greywarshark 2.2

      We might try reminding them that he is part of the National Party not a fun uncle visiting and handing out goodies and having adventures to tell the littlies.

  3. Skinny 3

    It’s over when Judith says it’s over. She has Key cornered, he has pretty much put himself in checkmate after Northland and ponygate. I think Key will be relieved to get out while the going is good. National know they are gone in 2017 and Key don’t want the job of turning hard right, gone by Christmas leaving Collins plenty of time to put things in place that will be hard for Labour to unbundle. The Tories in the UK have done exactly this as they get booted out of office today.

    • Sans Cle 3.1

      Bit of a tenuous connection, out of left-field , but every time (after Ponytailgate) I now hear Collin’s name mentioned, this article resonates!
      (not inflating Key to any status as ANY sort of philosopher, least of all Aristotle….but the pony link is glaringly there).

  4. North 4

    Red Logix – appreciate your careful analysis @ 2. However, unless New Zealand is unlike any other political community there is the matter of ‘the critical point’. There’s a maudlin’ old country song, from memory entitled “Angels Don’t Fly”…….”they just walk away……one step……at a time”.

    Even Churchill suffered electoral defeat in 1945. He was not gauche, nor a fake rugby boy, nor 11 years old. Have to say “eventually” but the embarrassment factor will become just too excruciating.

  5. Ray 5

    When is the Left and the so called “Loyal Opposition” going to realise while Governments lose elections there has to be a creditable government waiting to take power
    John Keys hair pulling is (to put the very best spin on it) unbecoming of a PM and most people would think worse than that
    But if “Dirty Politics” didn’t move the electorate this isn’t either, might be the start of the rot but who knows

    Rather it is time for the Opposition to show us how they are going to fix overpriced housing (hint, more tax and regulations are unlikely to work) and make life better for all most all of us or at least 50%

    • “..When is the Left and the so called “Loyal Opposition” going to realise while Governments lose elections there has to be a creditable government waiting to take power..”

      + 1.. no..hang on..!..make that +a few hundred..

      ..i dunno what the fuck labour are actually doing – but being an ‘efficient opposition party’ currently isn’t one of them…

      ..key screws up..people look over at little/labour – and go ‘yeah..nah..eh..!’..

    • lprent 5.2

      I’ll give you a hint, houses out in the back of beyond (Huapai is 27km from the CBD) with little or no transport won’t either. SH16 out there was full most days of the week back in the early 1990s when I last spent a lot of time driving there. The road up there is still 2 lane and doesn’t handle the existing traffic.

      The problem is that is the only idea that National seems to want to understand is to build Auckland without doing even the basic planning that is required. Instead they just waste time and money doing fuckall. They spend the existing transport taxes required to do most of the things required largely outside of Auckland.

      FFS The only new project that they have on the books at present for Auckland is a road that has nothing to do with Auckland. The holiday highway will be good for the North and a few holiday makers. But it does absolutely for Auckland.

      We already have more than enough roads out NE for people who want to pay for MacMansions and long drives. There are no funds for widening SH16, for putting bus lane up the Northwest, or anything for the greenfield estates Huapai way. And there are vast swathes of land out past Massey on the existing SH16 motorway. But guess what. People aren’t building there because people don’t want to drive that far.

      Meanwhile we don’t have the transport in the existing city to get around, especially the inner 10km suburbs next to public transport where people want to live (easy enough to see – just look at where the house and apartment prices are rocketing), and National spends nothing on the transport.

      Instead the National fuckwits try to stop the Auckland Council from doing its job – putting up medium density housing in town. Basically we should kick the central government out of Auckland province, raise our own roading taxes, and put in what we need rather than what some dickheads from Nelson (Nick Smith), or Christchurch (Brownlee) or Tauranga (Bridges) think we should do. That is what Labour should suggest…

      In fact that was what they’d gotten to back in 2008. It was what the regional fuel tax was for.

      • greywarshark 5.2.1

        I have heard the story of bad suburban planning before. Here’s a piece from Te Ara on 1950-1970s problems that foretell what will arise from National’s juvenile policies today.

        By the 1970s, however, many new suburbs had come to be seen as boring and depressing places to live. Part of the problem was the lack of community facilities. After the Second World War the urgency of the housing shortage meant that nearly all development funding went into building houses, and little attention was paid to supplying the new housing estates with community facilities or public transport.
        http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/suburbs/page-5

  6. Ray 6

    Not often we agree Phillip!
    But I will say that will Labours new leader and a few more Nat stuff ups we will have a change of Government come next election
    Mind you I thought/hoped the same last time but that was before the Dotcom stuffup and the scandal surrounding Cunliffe scared the voters Right

    • but if we get ‘a change of government’ that is no better than that fucked-up clark/neo-lib model..that came before..

      (and going on their election ’14 policies – they wd have been just that..)

      ..and given little vowed to get rid of the ‘radical/lefty’-policies of that ’14 camapaign..(!)

      ..ya hafta wonder – (but not for too long..)

      ..tweedledee meet tweedledum..

      ..new boss – same as the old boss..

      • Bearded Git 6.1.1

        You really are a grumpy old man Phillip. Positive suggestions are what Labour needs.

        Twyford destroyed Dr. Smith’s housing policy on MR this morning. Providing Labour sticks with it’s policy of major house building of affordable houses this is fertile ground for votes.

        Key sounded like a jerk on MR on Monday-he is starting to lose it big time.

        Yet another drop in dairy prices this morning-the Nats policy of relying on one commodity coming home to roost. Several journos have started talking about the end of the “rock-star” economy.

        Little is careful and competent and in Northland showed some tactical nous.

        Governments lose elections. The 4 factors above give grounds for optimism, and the Greens will push Labour further to the left in or out of coalition.

        • phillip ure 6.1.1.1

          re-thinking/new policies that clearly address what they have neglected since the neo-lib revolution ..

          ..’are what labour needs’…

          what fucken use to anyone will another drilling/mining/fuck-the-poor labour govt. be..?

          ..a clark redux – no thanks..!

          ..and once again – going on their ’14 election policies..

          ..that is all they are promising..(minus the ‘radical’-bits – like a capital gains tax..f.f.s..!..)

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.2

          Positive suggestions are what Labour needs.

          You mean like this one?

          • higherstandard 6.1.1.2.1

            Yikes I’m in agreement with both Phil and DTB …it must be the end times.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.3

          Here’s a few more suggestions about what Labour and the Left in general could be discussing:

          Even these issues are trivial by comparison to the unacknowledged cloud that hangs over our politics: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. All major parties and media outlets are committed to never-ending economic growth, and use GDP as the primary measure of human progress. Even to question this is to place yourself outside the frame of rational political debate.

          Monbiot has more, lots more, that needs to be addressed here as well as in the UK.

  7. Tracey 7

    “I mean I didn’t pick up any single newspaper in any country I was in and saw it”

    This is classic Key. If you read it again it could read, with the help of a single piece of punctuation

    I mean I didn’t pick up any single newspaper in any country I was in, and saw it

    So, it’s not that it wasn’t reported it was that he chose not to read a single newspaper in any country he was in.

  8. SMILIN 8

    ”A single newspaper” would have done but it shows the character of a creative merchant bankers zeal to achieve a profit under pressure bound to complicate it for someone, the poor probably, or in this case the readers.

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