Guyon Espiner isn’t exactly what you would call a critic of John Key’s government, so when he has a blog post titled “John Key’s sloppiness as costly as it is charming” you know things are bad. The post starts with an example of how That Nice Man Mr Key works over journalists:
“In his speech opening Parliament a week ago John Key argued the case for more mining, claiming just 40 square kilometres of New Zealand’s land mass is subject to mining operations.
So at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference the question was inevitable. It came from the back row and it was blunt: “Where did the 40 kilometre figure come from,” a radio journalist asked. “From my speech writer,” the Prime Minister replied.
Accompanied by the usual carefree grin the response went down well”
Why did it “go down well”? I thought journos wanted to uncover and relate information – speak truth to power and all that. I thought they were affronted by attempts to distract them and had a keen nose for when someone is hiding something. Just refuse to be taken in and it will stop working.
“He doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t pretend to. He isn’t a show off and he can laugh at himself.
At his best those qualities are deceptively powerful. It plays beautifully to the Kiwi psyche and wrong foots his opponents in the media and in politics, deflating egos, arrogance and pomposity.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like someone to make me laugh as much as the next person but I don’t want a PM who spends his time being a clown any more than I want Ricky Gervais to be Prime Minister (who am I kidding? I’d vote Ricky in a heart-beat)
“there’s a difference between being relaxed and being sloppy and the government has crossed that line several times already this year.
Take the GST rise . A resourceful and prepared government would have been aware of comments from both John Key and Bill English prior to the 2008 election, when they effectively ruled out raising GST.
A better prepared Prime Minister could have said in his speech last week that despite reservations prior to the election, raising GST was now being considered.
Had he done that the emergence of pre-election footage of National saying it wouldn’t raise GST would have been much less embarrassing.”
Rather than giving the PM spin tips, perhaps we should consider why the government was so unprepared on GST. Could it be that the decision was taken at the last moment, for instance?
“After his difficulty with Tranzrail shares in 2008 it wasn’t particularly smart to hold on to shares in an Australian mining company when he is arguing the case for opening up more of the DOC estate for domestic and international companies to extract minerals. The fact that the company, after a merger he was unaware of, now has substantial interests in uranium mining, is just plain embarrassing for the leader of an aggressively nuclear free country.”
No but he did it because he honestly thinks that he won’t get caught and there won’t be any consequences if he is caught.
“Perhaps more significantly, sloppiness is creeping into National’s management of its relationship with the Maori Party.
Backbench Maori Party MP Rahui Katene claims the party is considering walking out of the coalition over a rise in GST. Hone Harawira puts a bill into the ballot calling for entrenchment of the Maori seats and then withdraws it realising it is in breach of the confidence and supply agreement between National and the Maori Party. Neither Key nor Tariana Turia appear to remember what is in the five page document.
Turia and Key also appear at odds over the Whanau Ora policy – a revolutionary new approach to delivering social services.”
What is that approach? Someone – anyone – give me a concrete definition of Whanau Ora. I’m surprised any journalist will listen to a minister spin on the subject while there is no definition on the table.
“Such sloppiness mattered less in National’s first year. In 2010, when it’s making the hard decisions unnecessarily burning political capital is foolhardy. National needs to sharpen up.”
The sharpening up won’t happen because this government doesn’t have the capacity to be a real government. Key reflexively resorts to humour when he doesn’t have anything else – no facts, no argument. And you’ll have noticed he’s resorting to humour more and more these days.
As the troubles mount, you’ll see more smart arse cracks and goofy PR stunts. What you won’t see is a serious PM dedicated to resolving the serious issues that face New Zealand and its 276,000 jobless workers.