Ever noticed how the big political journos will do a scathing attack on one major party then, the next day, one on the other major party? It’s about maintaining access. If you only run attacks on one party, you’ll stop getting stories from them (nearly all political stories come from the opposing party). After this, it was Labour’s turn in Armstrong’s sights today, or is it?
At first glance, the piece certainly seems to be pro-Key (note how it’s Key, not National) and anti-Labour. I’ll admit that when I first read this, I was pissed off at what I thought was another Armstrong hatchet job on Labour but when you dissect it, Armstrong is actually ‘praising’ Key for being an aggressive lair who will do anything to keep power.
Lets look at some of the quotes:
“During one question time this month, Phil Goff asked Key what responsibility he took as Prime Minister for the forecast deficit ballooning out from the original estimate of $2.4 billion to a whopping $16 billion.
For once, Key’s guard dropped. The House got some rare, undiluted passion from the prime minister.
Yes, he took full responsibility. He took full responsibility for helping the people of Christchurch.
He took full responsibility for preserving social programmes that helped people get through the economic recession.
And he took full responsibility for keeping unemployment low, unlike in other countries hit by the global downturn.
What was apparent was that Key had instantly and effortlessly shifted up a gear – one rarely witnessed in public and which left Goff trailing like flotsam in his wake.”
‘Yeah, Key took Goff to school!’ but wait:
“For once, Key’s guard dropped” – the Key we see is actually usually fake.
And then the substance: “Yes, he took full responsibility. He took full responsibility for helping the people of Christchurch. He took full responsibility for preserving social programmes that helped people get through the economic recession. And he took full responsibility for keeping unemployment low, unlike in other countries hit by the global downturn.” – But everyone knows that Key has cut important social programmes, done bugger all for Christchurch, that unemployment is high and climbing. See what Armstrong did there? He brought Key’s lies to public attention without directly criticising them. He damned Key with his own words while apparently praising him.
“Labour should be afraid, very afraid. Behind Key’s affable facade lurks a politician as utterly single-minded, focused and merciless as Clark was and Lange wasn’t.” – the affability is simply a facade. Key is a politician like any other. Not the nice guy of PR.
“Labour’s efforts to look fiscally responsible have been leg-ironed by National resorting to such skulduggery as “banking” the proceeds of its part-privatisation of some state companies in the Government’s accounts before the shares have even been sold.” – See, at first glance, Armstrong’s praising this. But do you praise someone’s actions by calling it skulduggery. Armstrong didn’t have to lay out National’s deceit in asset sales for the unaware public, but he has, while appearing on the surface to praise it.
“Key circled Labour’s congress like a Great White Pointer waiting to strike and chomp Labour off at the knees while Goff was still persuading the public his party was standing on fiscally balanced feet.” – Goff is being portrayed on the surface as at Key’s mercy, but which one of them is Armstrong saying is a responsible leader explaining his policies to the public and which is just interested playing politics? Comparing Key a shark isn’t exactly favourable.
“Delegates had barely wound up last Sunday when the Prime Minister was slamming Goff’s promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and reintroduce tax credits for firms with research and development programmes, the latter being funded by bringing agriculture under the emissions trading system in 2013 rather than National’s (now moveable) date of 2015.” – a nice precis of Labour’s policy announcements and a subtle dig at National’s lack of commitment to making farmers pay for their pollution but wrapped up as if Key is doing well. This is clever stuff from Armstrong.
And then there’s wonderful passage where Armstrong shows that Key is all spin and all lies:
“The following morning, the Beehive spin-machine was at full throttle pulling predictions out of Department of Labour documents showing job losses of 4000 to 6000 workers from a $15 minimum wage.
Moreover, incorporating agriculture in the ETS would spark price rises for milk, butter and cheese.
As for the R&D tax credits, Labour’s estimate of the maximum cost for the open-ended scheme of no more than $200 million a year was significantly below the levels Labour itself had budgeted for just before losing office in 2008.
This was classic attack politics. You get in first with your version of events. You paint the worst possible scenario as the inevitable consequence of what your opponent is proposing. You leave the facts behind. You know in a sound-bite democracy, no one remembers your opponent’s rebuttal.
So Key didn’t mention that the Labour Department had told ministers international evidence of the impact on the job market of raising the minimum wage was mixed and that most businesses simply absorbed the cost.
As for dairy prices, Key was swiftly reminded National had insisted they were set by the international market.
Key can’t have it both ways. But that won’t stop him saying prices across other sectors such as transport would have been even higher had National not revised the ETS.
Key was also on weak ground with the R&D tax credits. Two months ago, Science and Innovation Minister Wayne Mapp was hailing Statistics NZ figures showing a “dramatic” increase in spending on R&D since National took power.
In fact, our level of R&D spend remains pitiful – just 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product, below the 2008 OECD average of nearly 2.3 per cent and hopelessly adrift of Finland (3.45 per cent) which New Zealand politicians hold as a role model.
National abolished the tax credits in part to fund its personal tax cuts, finally persuading the Treasury that would do more for economic growth.”
I love how Armstrong lays out Key’s attack lines, explains the dishonesty at the heart of this brand of attack politics, and then details the lies Key has told, all while apparently framing Key as the winner in the exchange. It is a brilliant dismemberment of Brand Key.
There’s been a hell of a lot of criticism of Armstrong on this site over the years, much of it deserved, but I’ll take my hat off to him this time. It’s a cunning journo who can write a story seemingly in praise of a person while, in reality, exposing them as a lair and a fake who is only interested in power for its own sake.