I see Key is due to fly in to help announce the bad news in Christchurch tomorrow only to fly straight out to India the next day. It’s seems to me the timing is all about keeping Key’s brand away from the bad news – he’ll do the sombre announcement and then leave others to deal with the fall out.
Much as he chose Australia as the place to announce his u-turn on pike. It’s easier that way: no hard domestically-informed questions, no-one to hold him to account, no chance he’ll look bad on the telly. Of course when the time came to answer some tough questions on Morning Report he wasn’t available (again).
And it’s important to keep him clean. To make sure his brand isn’t tainted by mishandled tragedy or by the policies that are failing New Zealanders so badly.
Because he’s the one and only hope for a National Party re-election. Just look at the way his PR team are starting to move him away from policy focused media and into relational media. The recent “get to know the real John” interview on The Nation, for example, or the oleaginous “world according to John” piece in the latest North and South.
The point behind these pieces is to build a living-room relationship with Kiwis because Key’s PR team know that policy talk doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the big chunk of disconnected swing voters that decide elections. They also know that nobody wants to make friends with the bad-news guy.
Keeping Key clean like this is a gutless strategy but it’s one that will work in the short term. For Key and the Nats that is. Not for New Zealand.