It has been an interesting week for the leaders of the two main parties.
Key had a horrid week. His problems were self-inflicted. Following the deaths of two of our soldiers in Afghanistan, Key (with his usual ham-fisted international diplomacy) managed to insult Hungary, drawing a sharp diplomatic response, and possibly making life more difficult for our troops on the ground.
He then compounded his woes with a controversial decision to attend his son’s baseball game rather than the funerals of the dead soldiers. This sharply polarised reaction, all the way from the Herald’s loyal editorial: “Key does right thing being there for son”, to Kiwipolitico’s acerbic: “My kid is more important than your kid”. Interesting to note Shearer’s response:
A spokesman for Labour leader David Shearer reaffirmed he had nothing to say about Mr Key’s call… Blogger David Farrar credited Mr Shearer for not taking a stance, writing that “many Opposition Leaders would have used this tragedy to take a cheap swipe”.
Shearer is remaining true to his nature, and his objective, which is to be a different kind of politician, not buying in to “rival tribes” and “gotcha” politics. But Shearer had his own well publicised problems this week, with apparent internal divisions over David Cunliffe and gay marriage. Trying to span a middle ground is not playing well with many activists, who perceive Shearer as “beneficiary bashing” in a recent speech. (Matt McCarten questions whether Labour’s woes are due to Shearer, or the rest of the caucus failing to step up.)
In terms of these two leaders the 2014 election is shaping up as a contrast of styles between Key, by now very much a typical (and aggressive) politician with considerable “baggage”, and newcomer Shearer’s gentler approach, which may not be firm enough to weld his team together or fire up the base. We’ll see I guess, there are many long weeks to come before the election. But I think that this particular week is one that both leaders would rather forget.