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Brand Key & the supercity

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, October 14th, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: brand key, national/act government - Tags:

When you boil it down, John Key’s much-vaunted political nous is about keeping his personal brand clean. He farms out anything controversial to ministers and leaves them to it. The problem with that approach is muppets are left to run things with no oversight resulting in political cock-ups. Case in point: the supercity.

As even National pollster David Farrar admits, National’s prize asset is Key’s smile. To protect that asset, Key cannot have his brand tarnished by association with any policies that are unpopular. He has become the ‘do nothing’ ‘smile and wave’ Prime Minister, while ministers are left to do the work.

Key takes virtually no interest in the running of government or policy development, ministers are given a free rein. And because most of them are absolute twats, the results are often bad, not only for the country but (almost paradoxically) for National’s political agenda too.

Gerry Brownlee, for instance, was left to his own devices on the review of mining in New Zealand. Brownlee is a meathead. His bright idea was to open up everything for mining and bulldoze any opposition. It was a crucial misjudgment. Within months, the Government was facing the biggest protest in generations. Ultimately, the polling forced Key to intervene and make Brownlee (who still hadn’t understood that he was on a losing fight) to back down.

But it seems Key learned nothing. He made Brownlee dictator under CERRA after being told to cut himself out of the Christchurch reconstruction because of the dissatisfaction that will inevitably arise from the speed of the recovery.

Likewise, Anne Tolley has been left to handle national standards alone and created a revolt in the education sector. Rather than present his own economic vision, Key paid Don Brash to present his. When the prescription was totally untenable, Key had to bin it. We still don’t know what Key’s economic vision is, apart from gimmicks like the cycleway and the financial hub.

When it came to the supercity, Key gave Rodney Hide a blank canvass and said ‘deliver me an Auckland fit for a pro-corporate, pro-privatisation agenda’. Of course, Hide went too far.

His arrogance, and the hubris of the Right in general, led him to believe that he could get away with overriding the wishes of the people of Auckland (by denying them a referendum on amalgamation) and slanting the playing field for the Right with gerrymandered seats, powerless Local Boards, and the CCO structure designed for privatisation. In fact, it created a public backlash through the one democratic avenue that Hide couldn’t take away – the council elections.

The result was that the hard Right has been turfed out across Auckland, right-leaning constituencies like Papakura, Rodney, and Franklin are pissed off as hell, and Hide has handed Auckland to the Left.

A smarter strategy would have been less greedy. The government would have engaged in some geniune consultation. They wouldn’t have gone tried to have it all and would have focused on winning the elections, rather than being so arrogant as to alienate voters. A more moderate government policy in creating the supercity would have helped deliver a right-leaning council to govern it.

No wonder Key, who had just days before still been trying to drum up support for Banks, looked so sick on Saturday night. The supercity election results are not only a defeat for the Right and a big boost for the Left ahead of next year’s election, they point to the underlying weakness of Key’s political management.

It’s funny how a strength can become a weakness. Brand Key is so vital to National that their strategy is overly focused on protecting it, to the point where they stuff up the substantive things time and time again. Ultimately, National’s agenda has progressed far less than might be expected because of that.

Like Farrar says “John Key’s smile only goes so far”.

35 comments on “Brand Key & the supercity ”

  1. Greg 1

    Hmmmm, sounds like your advocating a Muldoon type of dictorial management. A suprising argument from the left.

    • Richard 1.1

      I think he is advocating, oh I don’t know, a government with actual policies which is run by competent people.

      There is a big gulf between, say, Muldoon, and Key. Saying that Key totally sucks, doesn’t mean that anyone is saying that Muldoon is great. There are other options.

    • Bright Red 1.2

      “A smarter strategy would have been less greedy. The government would have engaged in some geniune consultation. They wouldn’t have gone tried to have it all and would have focused on winning the elections, rather than being so arrogant as to alienate voters. A more moderate government policy in creating the supercity would have helped deliver a right-leaning council to govern it.”

      sounds just like Muldoon, dum-dum.

    • Ari 1.3

      Criticising a hands-off approach just means you want some degree of hands-on work, not that you want a dictator. There exists such a thing as grey.

    • That’s a bit harsh Eddie.

      In addition to being PM, Key also has the following porfolios:
      – Minister for Foreign Tourism
      – Minister for Maui Affairs
      – Minister for Cycleway NZ
      – Minister for “we want to see wages drop”
      – Minister for Spiders
      – Minister for US talkshows

      And he is the Spokesman for Smile and Wave.
      I think he has a pretty full agenda.

      Captcha: “Working”.

      • Irascible 1.4.1

        Add “Scuttling and running” to the portfolios and you sum Key up as the Pinocchio (he of the growing nose) Prime Minister.

  2. Bored 2

    Jeez that photo is a shocker, what a pair of total pillocks.

  3. Makes you wish Helen was still PM.

    She was the exact opposite of Key. She was organised and intelligent. She knew many portfolios better than the Minister responsible and she had this unerring ability to sniff out problems before they arose.

    She was Labour’s biggest asset and the Nats knew that to beat Labour they needed to take Helen out.

    Key was their answer. He was fine for the task itself but as he is finding out now this leadership thing is not easy.

    • Ari 3.1

      Yep, I think we all knew when they went policy-light that they were focused on getting a good showing on election day rather than thinking at all about what might happen if they actually won. It’s been like watching a dog that actually caught their own tail and now doesn’t know what to do with it. 😛

    • Dilbert 3.2

      The problem is Micky is the she also isolated herself large portions of the community she was meant to be leading which resulted in being voted out..

      Instead of replacing Key with Helen again I would much rather a leader who can bring both John Key’s personality ability to united the community which I believe is the main reason for both the high rating of both himself as PM and the National Party generally and inclusiveness and Helen’s political qualities.

      Unfortunately I don’t believe that there is anybody currently involved in politics who possess such qualities however I believe that the typical voting patterns where voters have blindly voted down traditional party lines are changing. As a result the potential for a new party positioned in the middle of the political spectrum to succeed is better than ever with the ability to leave only the die hard Left/Right voters supporting the current parties.

      • KJT 3.2.1

        Don’t you mean the die hard right and slightly less right.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.2.2

        Yeah Key the great uniter! He certainly did that for the Auckland elections -Maori Party, Green and Labour all backing Len Brown. I’ve never seen the left so focused and harmonious for years.

        • Dilbert

          The problem is Zaphod most people don’t care about left or right so while a lot of media time has been achieved with the local body elections and the swing to the left I don’t believe it will make one ounce of difference to Nationals poll ratings or their chances of re-election next year.

          National will win not because they’re the better party but rather they will have made the best connection to voters and despite some good efforts to try and reconnect to the voter the fact that Labour have been struggling in the polls for over 2 years now which would indicate that they have been unable to.

      • mickysavage 3.2.3


        The problem is Micky is the she also isolated herself large portions of the community she was meant to be leading which resulted in being voted out.

        I do not think she did. I saw her often at public gatherings and meetings and she was very approachable and down to earth.

        A portion of the population believed that she isolated herself. This was a credit to the National Campaign and Key’s publicity machine.

    • smhead 3.3

      No, it makes YOU wish Helen was still PM mickeysavage. Along with 2% of NZers in the last poll. Last poll also says more than 50% of NZers want John Key as PM.

      Sucks to be a Labour apologist always looking backward eh.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.3.1

        What about the 50% who don’t?

        • smhead

          No you should be asking what about the 98% who disagree with mickeysavage about Helen Clark being the best PM, or 92% who disagree Goff should be PM.

          • Bright Red

            clark isn’t running to be PM. the fact that anyone says she’s their preferred candidate when she isn’t even in the country or in parliament.

          • Irascible

            Throwing up “poll results” to argue against analysis is the level of argument one expects from Henry, Banks, Laws and company – the empty vessel talk back hosts.

      • Colonial Viper 3.3.2

        Wanting John Key to be PM is quite distinct from supporting a National Government. We get that.

      • Deborah Kean 3.3.3

        That simply shows that 50% of NZers are apathetic and or gullible.. 🙁
        Captcha : hells – yes!

    • M 3.4

      ‘Makes you wish Helen was still PM.’

      Amen to that – her detractors most oft quoted criticism is that she was childless or a lezo – I couldn’t give a flying fart about either, it was about how she ran the country and treated people. She and Michael were an unbeatable tag team who did much to alleviate suffering of families and were prudent enough to not hand out large tax cuts to pump up mindless consumption. If Labour had rolled out huge tax cuts like National wanted our eCONomy would probably be getting the last rites like Greece is now enjoying.

      Only when it’s too late will the nuts who voted this razor gang in realise that they sold their collective soul for a lousy tax cut. I’d rather have strong, fair communities where people can live in some decency and comfort with the odd modest entertainment.

      I really hope Key is kicked out next year and that he sinks without trace as he shares the same personality flaws that George Bush did – arrogant and dumb with it

  4. tc 4

    Come on Sideshow’s a successful aspirational kiwi who’s story can inspire a genearation, his style is a reflection of his corporate techniques so we should all be grateful he’s applying these corporate management skills to lift us to a level of high growth, transaparncy and world class governance like the finance industry that schooled him……hang on…..oh shit…..HELP !!!!

  5. ianmac 5

    “The supercity election results are not only a defeat for the Right and a big boost for the Left ahead of next year’s election, they point to the underlying weakness of Key’s political management.”
    Answer coming up:
    Suspend the Super City Election for three years. Put in a handpicked management team, because clearly the task ahead will be too hard for elected people. Well it worked for ECan didn’t it?

    Though of course the bulk of the money spending is in the hands of others instead of the Super-City Council anyway.

  6. Craig Glen Eden 6

    “Rather than present his own economic vision, Key paid Don Brash to present his. When the prescription was totally untenable, Key had to bin it. We still don’t know what Key’s economic vision is, apart from gimmicks like the cycleway and the financial hub.”

    From The Granny Herald
    The government’s deficit shrank as bigger returns from the ACC and New Zealand Superannuation Funds bolstered sagging revenue streams.

    Thank God Cullen new what he was doing with the economy imagine if we had no Cullen fund and ACC had been privatised? Shit it just dosent bare thinking about does it.

    Anti spam word MESSS !

  7. Carol 7

    Another unexpected consequence of Hide’s supercity arrangements (a least not expected by NACT), is the rise in union membership by Auckland Council workers. This is at a time when unions are under attack by NACT. But many workers in Auckland have now learned how important it is having a union negotiating for them, when wages and job descriptions across the supercity council are being “harmonised”.

    The consequence of the arrangements being rushed, is that many workers are unhappy with their new job description and salary banding. I gather that the PSA has been, and is still, working hard on negotiating this and trouble-shooting a load of member complaints or concerns.

  8. nic 8

    I’m only slightly left leaning, but I desperately hope National get turfed out in 2011 due to a combination of Tory smugness and Tory incompetence.

    Having said that, I think the supercity left-swing will backfire. Had the right won the election, 2011 could very well have turned into a referendum for Auckland voters on the success of the supercity. A year of useless Banksie in charge of greater Auckland could well have resulted in the destruction of the Act party and a big Auckland-based swing away from National.

    Now that Len Brown is in charge in Auckland the Left have some skin in the game.The other side of that coin is that Nact have a scapegoat to share the blame with if/when it all turns to custard.

    All things considered the people of Auckland may be happy to have a left-wing Mayor under a National government. But as someone from Wellington, now living in Dunedin, I would have preferred the Right to wear full responsibility for the supercity, and for any failure to bring down the government in 2011.

    • Carol 8.1

      I agree there is a possibility that Brown & the left will get blamed for any problems with the supercity. However, for those of us living in Auckland, having Banks run Auckland could have created more problems in the long run. He would have rubber stamped anything that Hdie, Key & NACT wanted.

      Now we have the possibility for Brown, Penny Hulse and co to work towards a more democratic structure. It i up to them and the left parties nationally, to front foot any problems that are due to Hide & NACT’s policies. And to promote democratic policies for all the cities and regions in NZ.

      Also, if the voters had not come out to show their discontent with Hide’s supercity structure in the local council elections, it would have meant they aren’t too bothered with Hide’s supercity structure. And they would have continued to support NACT in the parliamentary elections next year anyway. ie it would have shown there was no mandate for a more democratic Auckland, with a focus on public transport. It would have given the right a lot of momentum going into the parliamentary elections.

      • Graham 8.1.1

        “… having Banks run Auckland could have created more problems in the long run. He would have rubber stamped anything that Hdie, Key & NACT wanted.”

        What, like the so-called “holiday highway” from Puhoi to Wellsford, that Len Brown is now giving his support to?


        • Carol

          Argh. Shame. But it could just Brown being pragmatic about how much he can resist the government. The highway is clearly on the NACT agenda, and not the priority for Aucklanders. And that’s what the left nationally needs to make clear to the public.

        • Bunji

          “Clearly the Government have got the bit between their teeth in terms of Puhoi to Wellsford,” Mr Brown said. “It’s a road of national significance. I’m not going to get myself overly involved in that debate.”

          Hardly sounds a ringing endorsement. More: National are going to do it anyway, I have more important battles to fight.

          • Graham

            Agreed, not a ringing endorsement. But not a good example of starting out the way you mean to go and showing some leadership.

            I see comments all the time that John Key doesn’t show leadership, and Carol commented that John Banks would have rubber stamped anything the current Government wanted. Hard to see how Brown is going to be different so far …

    • Jum 8.2

      Agree, but with three years to do real damage to New Zealand’s assets and New Zealander’s quality of life we needed a watching brief. Only a left-leaning team could do that credibly.

  9. Jum 9

    “Jum 8.2
    15 October 2010 at 9:19 am

    Agree, but with three years to do real damage to New Zealand’s assets and New Zealander’s quality of life we needed a watching brief. Only a left-leaning team could do that credibly.”

    (In case anyone was wondering) I was agreeing with Nic 8.0 that NAct would try to blame Brown for any shortcomings in Auckland and Carol 8.1 that the damage Banks would have done would have been far more of a problem.

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