A tale of two Johns

Written By: - Date published: 11:36 am, November 6th, 2009 - 11 comments
Categories: brand key, john key - Tags:

We were offered two very different views of John Key PM yesterday. The first by a pair of love-struck journalists. We’ll start with them. Let’s have a big hand for Garth George folks!

Garth George: We should all salute our wonderful PM

It comes as no surprise that John Key and National remain top of the political pops a year into their reign. That’s pretty much all down to Mr Key, a Prime Minister the like of whom we have never seen.

But that really sums up Mr Key. He is a man of the people, as yet unspoiled by the poisonous atmosphere of power politics, and in spite of his position and spectacular wealth remains one of us. He is every bit at home in the company of a class of primary schoolkids as he is with the man and woman in the street, or in the company of the world’s high and mighty. He is amiable, engaging, good-natured, highly intelligent, humorous and, most of all, unaffected.

Multi-millionaire he might be, but the perception of the public – reflected in his high poll ratings – is of a fatherless state house kid made good, and, in typical Kiwi fashion, we say good on him for it. Unlike so many of our leading politicians in recent times, he has not graduated from the schoolroom or the lecture hall or the law office into politics, but has achieved significant personal success in the real world.

He doesn’t U-turn; he simply closes one door and opens another.

Ahhh, doesn’t that bring a tear to your eye? That post is impossible to satirise (I know, I tried, gave it up, can’t be done). And love-struck journalist number two? John Armstrong, in a piece only a little less “enthusiastic” than Garth’s:

National one year on: Key rewrites political rulebook

Dressed in a starched, light blue Rodd & Gunn shirt and crisply pressed, dark khaki chinos, John Key is the very model of the modern business executive sacrificing his Saturday at home to make headway on mounting paperwork at the office.

Have I stumbled on to the fashion page by accident? There’s two more paragraphs on Key’s dress sense before we get down to business…

He is anything but ordinary. The chief executive of New Zealand Incorporated is nothing short of a political phenomenon.

Key’s pragmatism, however, also marks a generational shift in New Zealand politics. Peter Dunne has remarked that the highly-talented 2008 intake of new MPs “reflect today’s instant world, where decisions are made quickly and decisively, based on a combination of intuition and diverse experiences, and often on a no-regrets basis where it is no big deal to admit things did not work out as intended and have to be changed, and then just move on without recrimination to the next issue.”. That is Key in a nutshell.

Though Goff is an effective communicator, Key operates on another level. Unlike some politicians, he never talks down to people. He instead likes to disarm his audiences – no matter how big or small – by kicking off proceedings with a witty anecdote. More often than not, the joke is at his own expense. And deliberately so. The self-deprecation helps to break the ice.

And so on. But contestant number three, Rodney Hide, has a different perspective:

Key ‘doesn’t do anything’ – Rodney Hide

Prime Minister John Key has done nothing except bring up the idea of a national cycleway, ACT leader Rodney Hide told guests at a party fundraiser. … Not aware that a reporter was also at the table, Mr Hide, whose party is a support partner in the National-led Government, said Mr Key “doesn’t do anything” and was highly regarded, while “ACT did everything and we are hated”. All Mr Key had done was the cycleway, Mr Hide said. “It’s amazing.”

It may be the first time I’ve ever agreed with Rodney, but his frank insider’s assessment of Key’s efficacy seems to me rather more realistic than those of our journo lovebirds. History will be the judge I guess…

11 comments on “A tale of two Johns”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    That would SIR Garth George by the end of news years day

  2. willaspish 2

    I think it’s about time we ‘kicked the tyres’ on John Key.

  3. tc 3

    Style over substance………repeat till you submit.

  4. Evidence-Based Practice 4

    I hate that expression New Zealand Incorporated. We are a country made up of big and small communities of real people living on a pretty little piece of land in the middle of the ocean. Not a business. We aren’t here just to see how much we can exploit our natural and human resources, and measure it merely in terms of some artificial monetary value.

  5. torydog 5

    Has Garth been hanging out with Millie Elder??? Make you wonder as one would have to be on something to cook up that crap!

  6. kaplan 6

    Here’s my tale of two Johns.

    John 1 (John Key). Takes you for a ride you don’t enjoy, pockets your cash for himself and his mates and rides off into the sunset.

    John 2. (A john). Takes you for a ride you don’t enjoy, hands you some cash and rides off into the sunset.

    The only difference appears to be the direction the cash flows.

  7. Scribe 7


    Not sure, but I think I might be a little younger than you. Muldoon is the first PM I remember, so we’re only retreating 25 years or so.

    I was surprised by the effusiveness of Garth’s piece yesterday, but he’s obviously entitled to his opinion. I think he’s right, though, that John Key is a unique PM. I’ve never seen anyone like him in my time, and I say that in terms of his ascent to the top, his lack of pretension, his casualness, his apparent humanness (“down-to-earthness”).

    I know you hate John Key and what he stands for, but can’t he be a lot of things that Garth and John say he is despite those concerns? I’m not a big Obama fan, but I can readily admit that he’s unique and “a [President] the like of whom we have never seen”.

    • r0b 7.1

      Not sure, but I think I might be a little younger than you.

      Lots of people are Scribe!

      I know you hate John Key and what he stands for

      I don’t hate JK at all, I’ve never met him, and truly it isn’t worth the effort. I learned that in younger days using up my hate against more worthy recipients (Muldoon and Thatcher). JK is just a politician, they come and they go.

      I do hate what JK’s party stands for. The enrichment of the already rich. The total disregard for the less well off. The destructive plundering of the environment, the ideological agenda that has no regard at all for facts, and the utter lack anything even approaching an understanding of long term consequences and planning.

      but can’t he be a lot of things that Garth and John say he is despite those concerns?

      Oh yes, he can be a snappy dresser have a “nice” guy image, be rich and folksy, he can help old ladies across the road and floss his teeth every night. That makes him popular and a good performer, but it doesn’t make him a good PM, and anyone who thinks it does is (pardon me) a nincompoop of the first order.

      In all matters of consequence Key is a terrible PM. He’s enabling the damaging Nat agenda (see above). He’s breaking promises and flip flopping all over. He’s running a government with a notable contempt for democratic process. He is allowing any kind of corrupt/unethical behaviour by his ministers to go unchecked. His coalition management sucks. He is (with one notable exception) avoiding the hard decisions. And he’s stuck in outmoded catastrophically short term thinking on energy, resources and the environment. For starters.

      Much of the country is happy, like Garth and John, to be schmoozed by the nice guy image. I don’t give a damn for it. I want results for ordinary people and a sustainable future. I want a PM, not a show pony.

  8. ghostwhowalksnz 8

    This was part of the Heralds ‘anniversary’, but of Labours win, in Nov 2000.

    By JOHN ARMSTRONG political editor

    National has narrowly overhauled Labour in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey as voters tell Helen Clark to get to grips with economic problems on the anniversary of last year’s election victory.

    Many more voters are expressing pessimism about the economy than in a poll taken in March during the heady days of the Coalition’s “honeymoon.”

    The period since March has brought rises in petrol prices, a backlash from business, plunging economic confidence and a new low for the dollar.

    But Labour and the Alliance now feel they are through the worst as they mark their November 27 victory anniversary – and other opinion polls have reflected a subsequent bounce-back in economic optimism.

    Many voters in the DigiPoll sample still query the Government’s economic competence. Nearly 50 per cent of those polled over the past 10 days doubt the Government is getting to grips with economic problems, against 39 per cent who feel it is.”

    Funny there was no huge beat up then, and the economy was a ripper compared to now. Maybe the Herald does its own icing of the birthday cake for National

    Later in June 2001 Armstrong is less upbeat 6 months later even though Labour is riding high in the polls- it seems than when its Labour they cant do it all right so its not good. A complete reversal to National who who have the same misteps but are ‘all good’

    The Crete trip, however, was an apt illustration of how time in power slowly erodes a government’s standing. As a new Prime Minister, Clark basked in the glow of last year’s 85th commemoration of Gallipoli. A year on, coverage of the Battle of Crete anniversary was more low-key, upstaged by her own stuff-up as ministers back home struggled to contain the John Yelash affair, an Opposition-fuelled distraction that exposed Clark’s contradictory stances on confidential payouts.

    This is a vulnerable time for Labour. Midway through the life of a parliament, cabinet ministers can become lost in the detail of their portfolios. They have been long enough in the job to be prone to the arrogance of office and believe in their own infallibility. Bureaucrats fawn. Discipline loosens. Mistakes compound.

    In Labour’s case, the opinion polls are a recipe for complacency. The centre-right parties have not overtaken the centre-left since the last election. The gap narrowed briefly last October following the so-called “winter of discontent,” only to widen again as Labour turned on its “charm offensive”with business.


  9. Cal 9

    Ugh, gag me with a spoon! Garth George has his head so far up JK’s backside I’m surprised he know’s what year it is.
    And for the record, my feet are feeling a little chilly as I too am agreeing with Rodney Hide for the first time ever.

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