Key’s best trick is to answer questions with impressive or technical sounding assertions that stop the line of questioning but don’t actually tell us anything. When he does that, interviewers need to push him to explain himself. Here’s a few paraphrased examples from the last couple of week:
Q. ‘What don’t you like about the Labour tax cuts?’
A.’The size and structure’
Now, ‘structure’, is meant to sound terrible impressive and technical, but all it really means is Key would rather the tax cuts were distributed differently, ie. more for the rich, less for the poor. The second question ought to be ‘what would you change about the structure?
Q. ‘Where will you find the money for more tax cuts?’
A. ‘National will be able to improve efficiency, cut public sector waste.’
So, we’re meant to believe that some guy with no experience at all of running a large organisation, who hasn’t even been a minister before, will be able to identify and cut waste where Labour hasn’t been able to. And, at the same time, we’re meant to believe that Labour loves wasting money that they could be using for vote-winning public service improvements or tax-cuts. The second question should be ‘why should we believe you are better able to cut waste than Labour’s experienced ministers?’
Q. ‘What would Key have done instead of buy back rail?’
A. ‘Negotiate a rail access agreement with Toll, which Labour failed to do.’
OK, first there was a rail access agreement, Toll just didn’t want to abide by it, but why should we believe that Key would be able to do that? The second question is ‘ How do we know would you be better able to negotiate a rail access agreement than Labour?’
Every time he speaks, Key makes some kind of bland assertion that National will do the same but better. We are starting to see this challenged, Guyon Espiner’s interview of English and Campbell’s interview of Key were good, but the public deserve to have a prospective Prime Minister’s claims questioned more often. Here’s a challenge for the media: next time you’re interviewing Key and he fobs you off with an impressive sounding but hollow answer, ask the second question.