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Bill’s big wink

Written By: - Date published: 1:51 pm, August 12th, 2008 - 44 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, national - Tags:

‘No ifs, no buts, no maybes’ – that’s the phrase Bill English chose to use when denying he had any intentions of launching a coup against John Key after the election. It’s a phrase that is burned indelibly into many New Zealander’s memories, not least of all English’s; a phrase heavy with connotations of deceit.

See, ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes’ was the phrase Jim Bolger used before the 1990 election when promising to abolish the hated superannuation surcharge. Only months after the election, not only did National renege on that promise, it passed legislation that cut super and benefits. The phrase ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes’ became synonymous with broken promises and betrayal. One of the MPs on the select committee that heard submissions on that legislation was a rookie backbencher called Bill English who supported the cuts but apperantly did not enjoy hearing beneficiaries and superannuitants begging for their incomes. The phrase sums up an unpleasent time for English and the first time he was part of breaking a promise as an MP.

So, what was Bill English really saying when he chose to promise fealty to John Key with ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes’, a phrase he associates with betrayal? And who is he speaking to?

44 comments on “Bill’s big wink”

  1. IrishBill 1

    Heh, I thought the same thing. Some of our older readers may recall that the phrase became a regular taunt shouted across the chamber in the early 90’s. Bill will certainly remember it as it was as specifically attributable and coloured a phrase as “I did not have sexual relations” and “read my lips” became a few years later.

  2. monkey-boy 2

    I thought you’d be more concerned about Helen’s chances of longer-term survival at this stage of the game.
    ‘No if, no but, no maybes’ sounds much more definite than Goff’s ‘No intentions [to challenge Helen] at this time’.
    I’m actually of the opinion that Helen Clark, even if she were to win the next election, would not see out the term, and would hand it over perhaps to Goff or Cullen, and retire unhurt.
    Of course it would be electoral suicide to suggest this pre-election, so they are keeping it to themselves.

  3. Rex Widerstrom 3

    Well done Steve. I’d have thought you were too young to remember the phrase and its connotations at the time (clearly IrishBill is as crusty as I, though) so presumably you had to do a bit of research (or someone much older just tipped you off, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt 😉 )

    Now this is what blogs can do so well… contextualising and raising questions that the MSM mostly don’t have the time to do any more. And why I worry when I see reporters in the Gallery who have known no other PM than Clark. That’s not a lot of experience on which to base penetrating questions.

    So yes, I wonder if English knowingly uttered the phrase as a sort of insider code or whether something in his subconscious tapped into that particular mantra when he was put on the spot? Either way, I don’t think anyone believed a word of it.

  4. Rex. i have to admit, I knew it was a phrase from the 1990s when I read it but didn’t get the significance until someone wrote to me.

  5. Scribe 5

    SP,

    Do I need to remind you that the promises were made by Bolger based on false information on the state of the Treasury’s finances?

    And I have no doubt English used the phrase intentionally to wind up people like you (or the people who email you and feed you talking points).

  6. Lots of people write to us, Scribe, we’re popular folks.

  7. monkey-boy 7

    “we’re popular folks”

    no ifs, no buts, no maybes eh?

  8. rob 8

    Great article on Ruths new Social Engineering endeavours from the Department of Social Engineering and Development

    Isn’t it interesting as soon as questions started to be asked Labour pulled it from their Website obviously not to confident about the Public confidence don’t want to frighten the horses!!

    Wishart was to clever though and pulled it from the Google cache isn’t it great to have some one keeping Helen and Heather honest.

    So it must be said then that Labour has more hidden agendas on Social Engineering and if they aren’t hidden they certainly don’t want to much public scrutiny or news about them. Rather hypocritical to talk about the hidden agendas of others!!

    http://www.investigatemagazine.com/tgif8aug08.pdf

  9. Not exactly hidden if they are publishing it on thier department website eh?

  10. rob 10

    Killinginthenameof

    Why pull the sppech off the website within two hours after questions are asked about it if you are so proud of the Social Direction you want to take the Country in

    The order must have come from Helen and Heather dont want to sacre of the voters with the truth!!

  11. lprent 11

    Blar: You are banned. I just nuked your comments. Silly bugger didn’t even change his IP and I’m pretty annoyed by the email you used as well. As far as I’m concerned you just tried an identity fraud. Now you know why the identicons are tied to the e-mail.

    FYI: It is entirely likely that the press release was sent to Steve. God knows I get enough of them.

    Bugger off and stay away.

  12. Ari 12

    Whether it’s English or someone else, John Key is leading on borrowed time.

  13. Anita 13

    Scribe,

    Do I need to remind you that the promises were made by Bolger based on false information on the state of the Treasury’s finances?

    You need to remind me 🙂

    As I’ve said before, I’m surprised by this as I thought it was prevented by the Public Finance Act which was passed in 1989.

    Can you point to a reference for the false information? Ideally a link about how it happened despite the PRA, but I can probably work from evidence of false information.

  14. coge 14

    Ari, that’s very deep of you. Everybody is on borrowed time!

  15. fiona 15

    Does Key actually want to be PM or just win the election? How would he cope as PM – Crosby / Textor can’t feed him lines for everything. He might have to use his own voice, which on the odd occasion we hear it is less than impressive. Surely even he doubts whether he is up to it.

  16. “rob
    August 12, 2008 at 4:21 pm
    Killinginthenameof

    Why pull the sppech off the website within two hours after questions are asked about it if you are so proud of the Social Direction you want to take the Country in”

    It was a fairly comprehensive list, you seem partiularly sure it only ment that one item on the list though?

    Are you paranoid and delusional? or just ideologically stunted and looking for political point scoring?

  17. Mark 17

    I’m just wondering what the point of this (and other blogs) website is. If you’re a Labour supporter you come here to read post after post attacking John Key and thus get excited and start congratulating the writer. If you are a National supporter you come here to write smart alec comments about “Nanny State”, “Helegrad” etc. But this website is changing no one’s minds. Outside the incestuous political blogosphere and the Wellington beltway, no one cares.
    This website, Farrar’s website, NRT etc are not going to make a blind bit of difference to the swinging voter because they don’t read them and, even if they did, they will see through the blatant bias and take the whole thing with a grain of salt. So again, what is the point apart from them being an echo chamber where you feel slightly better about yourself because there are a few people who think the same way as you? I assure you, the average NZer does not care about the finer details that you (right and left) desperately dig up to show your blog reading mates.

    [lprent: I wouldn’t be too sure of that.

    Firstly there are a *lot* of people reading the site and not commenting – the lurkers. There are many more of them than the people who comment. Presumably they have a reason to read the site. You tend to find some of the arguments from the comments sections being picked up by MSM, and for that matter via family/work contacts.

    Secondly – have a look at the US political scene. It is in advance of us but we seem to be following the same kind of path for the blogs to gain importance for opinion making.

    I thought that blogs would start getting important here in 2011, but it seems to have gotten quite important in this election.

    ]

  18. r0b 18

    Is Rob (who is not r0b) all hot and bothered about this?
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10526557

    That the best you got? National is caught out in an orchestrated litany of truth, and this you think is somehow equivalent? Tee hee!

  19. r0b 19

    This website, Farrar’s website, NRT etc are not going to make a blind bit of difference to the swinging voter because they don’t read them

    I used to think that too. Changed my mind.

  20. vto 20

    It’s not quite like that mark you egg, I’m just here to convince them of the few errors of their ways.

  21. Phil 21

    Political blogging (excluding the most extreme nut jobs in either side) strikes me as a bit like sibling rivalry – you fight tooth and nail when it’s just you against them – but if someone else starts beating up your little brother, you’re the first to leap to his defence.

  22. rob. the speech was never given and the triples thing isnt labour policy… see – http://www.3news.co.nz/Dysonrejectsclaimsshespokeinsupportofpolygamy/tabid/419/articleID/66446/cat/67/Default.aspx

    personally, i have nothing against polygamy or any form of relationship between consenting adults but it’s clear labour has no policy on extending relationship rights to polygamous relationships.

    I would be surprised if there is more than a few dozen polygamous relationships in the country but I can see why people like rob are excited about this – being bigots themselves, they hope the wider public would also react in a bigoted manner to the idea. Not going to happen, of course, because it’s not Labour policy.

  23. mark’s right that the blogosphere is not mass media, but it is heavily used by the political elite and the media, a new and smarter version of talkback radio with some investigative journalism and research pieces thrown in, and material and memes from the blogosphere flows through into the wider discourse.

    There is a lot more activity on the blogs than you would think just going off comments. We get something like 50 to 100 page views per comment, and that doesn’t count RSS.

    [lprent: You mean on the days that the MSM don’t notice us and the CPU idles at an average 2% with peaks to 50%. On the days that there is publicity in the MSM for any reason, and the CPU starts averaging 10% and strong peaking at 100%. Then that multiple can really go up a lot – usually well over 500 and the bandwidth consumption starts going though the roof. Those are the days I wish I had more grunty resources …

    Oops – sysop moaning for all the wrong reasons…]

  24. Gosh how embarasing that would be for mr Wishart, pity he has no shame.

  25. pinetree 25

    ….it’s remarkable isn’t it, replace Wishart with Hager, replace “triples” with “privatisation”, issue a denial, and nail the messenger, albeit on this blog as a bigot (he may well be, who knows…)…

    Crosby/Textor play #, what, 5 is it….deny, deny, deny…attack, divert, nothig to see here, move along…

    …aside from the fact that it’s a p*ss weak nothing story….there’d be uproar amongst some on this site, with just a wee tweak of circumstance and a different party in the mix…

    Still, an interesting set of views held by officials that must have seen such a draft speech written…..not the type of c*ck up that well oiled Lab comms machine would tend to let slip through….

  26. randal 26

    i-blog…therefore I am.

  27. Razorlight 27

    Bill English. That man who led National to their worst electoral defeat in history. Yeah ok, the caucus is really going to get in behind him again.

    Come on. I am a National Party member and everyone admires Bill for the work he does and the way he has moved on from his humiliating failure. But there is no way a majority of what will be a very big National caucus will roll Mr Popular for someone as tainted as Bill. Especially when he is doing the grand job he is as Deputy.

    If in the next six years there is the need to change leader I will bet a small house deposit that Bill does not replace him.

  28. Anita 28

    Razorlight,

    So if Key needed to be replaced in the next six years who do you think would replace him? I don’t see any immediate contenders other than English.

  29. Razorlight 29

    Anita

    To be perfectly honest I do not know. The thought of Key being replaced has not entered my head nor many others on the right. Not that I speak for anyone other than myself.

    All I can say is English is in my opinion a very effective Politician. He is a hard worker and is very intelligent. But there is something about him that simply does not get the electorate excited.

    He has the capability to be an effective leader but not the charisma to attract the support. National are not stupid enough to repeat that mistake again.

  30. Kevyn 30

    Plurals in New Zealand, committed to their partners, and including those raising children, are not asking for any special privileges. Rather, they are asking for the right to be treated equally under the law. This means not only to receive the rights and privileges which couples take for granted in their everyday life, but also to accept the responsibility and obligations which are part of the package of equality.

    Is it true, as Steve intimates, that this secular Labour government will not repeal this Victorian Christian law simply because there is no more than a few dozen polygamous relationships in this country? Not enough votes in it? Or just a classic case of the squeky wheel problem. While de facto’s and homosexuals have been actively lobbying and making their voices heard on marriage law reforms bigamists and polygamists have had to stay mute in fear of being imprisoned. Did Labour simply get distracted and forget to include plurals in the marriage equality reforms? I certainaly hope so. And I hope this dummy run hasn’t frightened Labour away from finishing the job they started.

    This isn’t sarcasm. I was genuinely surprised when Labour’s extension of the full rights and responsibilities of marriage to de factos after two years didn’t adress this issue. While Steve is probably right that there very few people who are deliberately committing bigamy or polygamy there might be an awful lot who have done it accidentaly through being in an adulterous relationship for more than two years.

    Admittedly rhe run-up to an election is not the time to be discussing a policy oversight but it something that really does need to be on the agenda aftre the election. I have no idea whether the sort of people who oppose homosexual marriages would have the same opposition. Polygamy seems to have been rampant in the old testament and, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not one of the things that’s outlawed in Leviticus. Maybe conservatives will object to it because it goes against “traditional” values but I can’t see any logical or moral argument against. The only difference from a conventional marriage is the number of partners. Hardly something to afraid of.

  31. sdm 31

    I coach a sports team and have done so for many years. Groupu dynamics are interesting, to say the least. Now the parallel between politics and sport is obvious – you play to win.

    Now there is a direct relationship between unity and sucess. When things are going well, everyone seems on the same page (well, thats the impression) Lose a few games and the BS starts, the factions emerge, tensions come to the service.

    The recordings aside, the national ‘team’ is going well. Ahead in the polls, a government that looks tired, everything seems. National is therefore united.

    The question is: What happens if they lose? An equally valid question is, what happens if Labour lose? I doubt either team would stay united…….

  32. lprent 32

    You try to win, yes. The question is if you want to win the ‘war’ or a ‘battle’. In this case about the longer term future in NZ.

    The long-term problem I have with National is that I’ve never seen National do anything useful for the long-term. They usually just dick about with short-term micro-management. Lots of activity, and few substantial long-term results of any great benefit.

    Labour generally does all of the substantive changes.

    With National, the usual problem is what happens if they win. That is usually when the faction fighting really starts.

    Labour learnt the lesson of unity big time in the 80’s and 90’s. It isn’t something that is an issue now. Anyone that was going to leave has.

  33. randal 33

    the difference between sports and politics is that a win in politics usually means a term of some years while the government implements policies to govern unruly mobs of voters. sports is over when the final whistle blows and then after several concussions and a few beers sportspeople think they have the nous to play politics as well!

  34. Felix 34

    Razorlight:

    there is something about him that simply does not get the electorate excited.

    He has the capability to be an effective leader but not the charisma to attract the support.

    That’s exactly why they aren’t running him – and why they’ll install him in the job once Key has won the race.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Key has the exact opposite qualities.

  35. Scribe 35

    kitno,

    Gosh how embarasing that would be for mr Wishart…

    Not very. More embarrassing for the person who put a speech that was (allegedly) not delivered on a website.

    Journalists shouldn’t have to confirm that a speech uploaded to a Government website is the one that was delivered.

  36. Phil 36

    Sure Felix, because you don’t need to be an effective leader to run a major unit in a multi-national company…

    New Zealand has a recent history of electing uncharismatic bore-fests to the role of PM – none of Clark, Brash, English, Shipley, Bolger are in any way exciting.

    Moore, Lange, Muldoon might have been of variable quality, but they had an undeniable stage presence and personality. I suspect that we’re coming full circle in this sense – helped along by the international influence of guys like Obama and Sarkozy.

  37. lprent 37

    Phil: Are you trying to say that Key has any presence? Disagree with that – he looks very colourless.

    I’d agree that he does seem to have the variable quality though including a new level of vacillating.

  38. “Scribe
    August 13, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Journalists shouldn’t have to confirm that a speech uploaded to a Government website is the one that was delivered.”

    It’s fiarly unusual to have a speach removed from a website like that. If Ian Wishart was a real journalist not an agenda pusher pretending to be a journalist he would have enquired why, dut it sure doesn’t look like he did that.

  39. roger nome 39

    Anyone else remember the protest chant in response to National’s (more specifically Lockwood Smith’s) reneging on its promise to scrap tertiary fees (and continual increase of them)?

    No ifs, no buts, no fees, no cuts!.

    Classic.

    But you can’t go past the simple, yet effective:

    What’s the story filthy Tory? Out! Out! Out! (when we occupied the National Party offices in 1999).

  40. Phil 40

    Lynn,

    Felix was the one suggesting that Key had charisma. I was merely pointing out what I consider to be an international trend. I don’t rate Key as especially charismatic in and of himself, but in comparison to Helen…

  41. lprent 41

    On TV you mean.

    I’ve never seen Key in person or in a meeting.

    But I have seen Helen many times in person and meetings. She tends to hold peoples attention rather strongly. For some reason it doesn’t go through TV.

  42. Frank 42

    I’ve met and conversed with both personally and watched them speak publicly and can make the following observations.

    Clark is a more powerful and impressive personality but Key is more amiable in the first instance.

    Once you engage with them Clark is much more interested/interesting and is way more willing to discuss detail than John. The sense I’ve got in the few times I’ve met him is he has his patter and then runs out. Helen is also more willing to let you lead the conversation in terms of topic. I suspect this is because she is comfortably across most issues.

    Clark holds a room’s attention much more than Key. In a formal situation he does okay because his presence is handled (this is happening more and more, even in “social” situations). When they work a room the main difference is Key will wait for people to come to him while Clark will get out and start talking with people.

    On balance I’d say Clark has a lot more charisma than Key but I’m not sure that’s what the electorate wants. Key initially comes across as much more of a nice guy you’d meet at a barbecue type but only in limited bursts. After that he starts to seem like he’s running out of script and I’ve never heard him speak and had the sense he’s doing so candidly. Will Key’s persona be enough to satisfy the electorate? Who knows.

  43. Jasper 43

    John Key has all the presence of a wet lettuce leaf. In contrast, Bill stands tall and is definitely noticeable (if a bit like a cold fish)
    Has anyone else shaken Key’s hand? It has all the grip of a fern leaf.
    You can tell a lot about a man by their handshake (and some women too)

  44. Felix 44

    Phil:

    I don’t find Key to be at all charismatic either but he seems to have impressed a fairly large sector of the electorate. Perhaps you’re right and it’s his lack of charisma they like.

    As for his leadership skills I don’t believe that they’re as transferable as some would hope. Some skills are universally transferable, many are specific to environment. He’s in a very different world now and everything’s different when you have do it in public.

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