Key losing his mojo

Written By: - Date published: 4:25 pm, October 29th, 2007 - 50 comments
Categories: john key, labour - Tags: ,

Pol science lecturer and commentator Jon Johansson has given a lucid and scholarly account of the inexorable decline of John Key and National’s prospects. In a speech to the NZ First conference at the weekend. Johansson told delegates that after a promising beginning, Key has started to “unevenly walk the new generation walk…”

An excerpt:

“In fact, and despite Key’s and National’s high levels of popular support, his performance has become, in some respects, quite mediocre, with a thoroughly forgettable conference speech, presiding over and contributing to the recent series of policy gaffes, and coming up with what I describe as his ‘blerts,’ not all of which survive scrutiny. As an outside observer it seems to me that National’s old template has snapped back into place. ‘No risks’ and ‘inoculations’ on the right, and unremitting negative attacks on the left. It has also gone unnoticed that National’s overarching ‘change’ narrative that Key had begun to carefully construct through his ‘Burnside’ speech and subsequent regional conference speeches has lost all shape and focus. It also seems to me that National’s current low-risk strategy takes it down one of the few paths where it could conceivably lose what should for it be, from its current position, an unlosable election.

Second, Key is faced with presentational problems which potentially undermine any future-oriented ‘change’ narrative that would, I think, comfortably prevail at the next election. Voters might well be seriously entertaining changing from Labour but Helen Clark will counter by saying to voters… sure, but change to what? Change that sees 1990s retreads like Tony Ryall in health, Nick Smith in the environment, English in finance, and then John Key also has his Williamson’s, Lockwood’s and McCully’s as ideological talisman from the 90s. None of these individuals have public appeal so Labour will be doing its utmost to isolate and then contrast the respective front benches as a point of difference in its favour.

Thirdly, National’s eventual policy mix remains a mystery. This poses a risk for National as accusations of ‘Hidden agendas’ remains viable currency for as long as a policy vacuum exists. Secondly, the threshold for scrutiny of National’s eventual policy mix, post-‘Hollow Men,’ will be higher than in ’05. National seem to feel they successfully inoculated against the claims made in Hager’s book once they replaced Brash with Key. Their tactics certainly gave the appearance of having worked given the lack of scrutiny of the book’s claims that ensued. But, I’d suggest, the lack of integrity that is at the heart of the ‘Hollow Men’ will be an important sub-text to analyses of National’s policy and Key’s campaign performance. Trust is conceivably the issue of the campaign. All in all, National remains fragile enough, and Labour patient, skilled, and ruthless enough, to think that this next election is far from being a fait accompli.”

50 comments on “Key losing his mojo”

  1. r0b 1

    I don’t usually look to a NZ First conference for insightful analysis, but that speech is spot on.

    To let National sleepwalk to victory in the next election on the basis of a fuzzy feeling of “time for a change” would be a disaster. The focus must be on policy, and the plans that a National government would have for NZ. I am confident that if those policies and plans become widely known, they will be soundly rejected by the NZ public.

    As Johansson points out, its the same old faces from the 90’s on the National front bench. What reason do we have for believing that they have anything but the same old agenda?

    We can only hope that the “mainstream media”, which seems to be wising up to the Key mirage, will not let National get away with hiding their agenda.

  2. i must says it’s been surprising just how unimpressive key has been as a supposedly developing leader – for an alledgedly smart guy, he doesn’t seem to have improved at all since taking the job. if anything has changed at all, he’s just exposed his weaknesses a bit more while failing to reveal any obvious talent.

  3. rOb
    i know what you mean about the oddness of agreeing with WP, he does it again here:
    http://thesprout.vodpod.com/video/373003-scarey-when-winston-makes-sense

  4. Santa Claws 4

    I’ve been waiting for you guyz to post this link, given how much you seem to be following the Oz elections

    BTW, good to see the JK obsession returning to TheStupid. Its been a bit quiet lately with nothing tagged as JK since 18 October.

    Did you realise that the Aug post count was 78% on John Key (must have been first month orgasm)? September was only 51%, and October back up to 56% when I looked a couple of days ago.

    As much as you guyz like to poke Farrar, I don’t think close to 50% of his posts are directly mentioning Helen Clark.

    I really think the authors here should be checked out for OCD!

  5. Robert Owen 5

    Thamx Sprout I really enjoyed that
    Fuck the national front bench were squirming

    Can’t see myself voting ever NZF though !

  6. i think that’s because Key is proving himself more and more irrelevant as each month goes by

  7. RO
    yeah, much as you have to acknowledge Winston’s ability, the guy and his party are still appalling

  8. r0b 8

    As much as you guyz like to poke Farrar, I don’t think close to 50% of his posts are directly mentioning Helen Clark.

    I really think the authors here should be checked out for OCD!

    Like it or not, there are elements of the “presidential” style of politics in NZ. The leader is very important. People relate to people.

    Clark has had about 8 years of intense public scrutiny. (Like her or not – we know who she is and what she stands for.)

    Key has had a long honeymoon with almost no attempt to get past the superficial image.

    That imbalance needed to be addressed. People need to know what they are voting for if they vote National. A focus on Key at The Standard is entirely appropriate. He wants to be PM. I, for one, want to know who he is first.

  9. r0b 9

    Sprout – “i know what you mean about the oddness of agreeing with WP, he does it again here:
    http://thesprout.vodpod.com/video/373003-scarey-when-winston-makes-sense

    That man was enjoying himself far more than is decent!

  10. robinsod 10

    Hey Santa – don’t you have anything better to do than count posts at the stupid. I mean really, you should consider getting a life fat boy. Oh (and just for old time’s sake) fuck off.

  11. Santa Claws 11

    Takes a lot less effort to count them than to write them Robespierre

    And Robbo, you are right, we certainly know what Helen believes in – committing fraud, supporting corrupt MPs, promoting workplace (and school) bullying and violence, and stealing from the taxpayer to illegally fund election campaigns for a start.

  12. r0b 12

    “And Robbo, you are right, we certainly know what Helen believes in”

    I don’t think she believes in Santa, and I don’t think I do either. Back to Kiwibog where you belong…

  13. Robinsod 13

    hey santa` – you forgot to mention the EFB, speeding, selling the ACC policy to the insurance council, flogging public assets to mates and, no wait… those last two were National right? It’s not often I agree with the liberals Claws but this time I think they’re right. Take your sorry, catch-phrase obsessed arse back to kiwiblog where it belongs (I’ve noticed it’s declining into every shortening threads of deluded mutual onanism over there so a fool like y’self should feel right at home.) Oh yeah, before I forget, fuck off.

  14. Santa Claws 14

    Hey Robespierre, is there some reason that you don’t cast your pearls over at KB? I’m sure you’d do well there. Poor little Sambo is struggling to keep on message with his Labour Party spin today. Perhaps he needs some additional training

    Also you seem a little obsessed with Onanism. Have you been viewing that piccy of little Jimmy again?

  15. the sprout 15

    don’t the righties get nasty when they are scared – still, i suppose i would be too if key was meant to be my saviour. all that corporate power and they still can’t raise a half-way decent leader

  16. Robinsod 16

    Like they say bro call a spade a spade (or in the case of KB a bunch of wankers a bunch of wankers). I’d’ve thought a switched on cat like you would know that wee Dave has decided I should be banned from KB for a while especially in light of the whole knows “who’s naughty and nice” thing but still bro you do smarmy but not too smart very well. You’re not… Tony Ryall by any chance?

  17. the sprout 17

    he sounds more like bob clarkson to me – who also looks a bit like santa

  18. Robinsod 18

    Nah sprout Santa’s smarm is definitely more Ryallesque as is his constantly homoerotic (in a self-hating kind of a way) subtext and his vain attempts at erudition.

  19. Luke 19

    This blog probably has been mentioning Key a lot less recently because of his very lackluster performance. After his disastrous few weeks he has kept very quiet and has had very little media coverage on any issue. The only thing has been his double flip-flop back to being a climate change doubter, which probably didn’t to him any good amongst the liberal vote he is trying desperately to woo over.

  20. Santa Claws 20

    “spittle-flecked dog whistling” – I’m waiting for that one. Of course, being first used by that well known rightie – John Minto.

    Seems to me that Robespierre might have declaimed some pretty prose in his turn too. I’ve previously poked Sam for slipping in his self-proclaimed calm discussion standards too.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t call John Key a saviour, any more than Phil Who will be for Labour.

    BTW Sprout, kudos for linking to TheStupid for ‘revealing’ the membership of the New Zealand institute, a list that is available with 2 clicks on the institutes website. Stunning investigative blogging that. Obviously suits the readers who can’t feed themselves at dinnertime.

    I do get a laugh at your pigeonholing attempts though, so do keep them up boyz

  21. the sprout 21

    Secret Smile Tony Ryall.
    very secret after his health ‘policy’ announcement gaffe.

  22. r0b 22

    “the liberal vote he is trying desperately to woo over”

    Therein lies the problem for National. They need to stitch together a voting bloc out of two disparate groups – the true conservatives and the swinging middle class. That’s why they have trouble being honest about their policy. They can’t please one group without alienating the other. Rock and a hard place. Shame.

  23. Sam Dixon 23

    Jon disappoints me with this line:
    “It has also gone unnoticed that National’s overarching ‘change’ narrative that Key had begun to carefully construct through his ‘Burnside’ speech and subsequent regional conference speeches has lost all shape and focus”

    as if burnside was ever anything more than Owera but targeted at liberal women.. it was just another hollow PR effort, nothing to do with poicy or ‘narrative’ just hollow politics

  24. Robert Owen 24

    So basically without being “economical” with the truth.
    They are unelectable. What a sorry sate of fucking affairs

  25. Sam Dixon 25

    Santa why would The Standard cover an online election cartoon that doesn’t actually attack Rudd on his positions but only by conflating him with Chairman Mao, and slips in some racism at the same time… I think The Standard only covers the quality stuff.

  26. r0b 26

    “as if burnside was ever anything more than Owera but targeted at liberal women.. it was just another hollow PR effort”

    Yeah – good catch Sam. And unlike Orewa, “Burnside” has disappeared without trace…

  27. Luke 27

    “They need to stitch together a voting bloc out of two disparate groups – the true conservatives and the swinging middle class.”

    The real problem is that most of these people do not like neo-liberal
    liberal economic policies that are promoted by many in the National Party. National know they can never win by showing their true agenda and instead have to pretend to be ‘Labour lite’, or find some other distracting issue such as race.
    Interestingly many of the ‘true conservatives’ are old fashioned type and do not like neo-liberal economics, but of course hate Labour as well. Many of the older ones amongst them probably want the country to return to the Muldoon days. There’s certainly a decent element of soft vote that NZ First could pick up if they remove themselves from Labour’s shadow and get some coverage. The have been doing very well after their conference this weekend but this momentum is very hard for them to keep going.

  28. the sprout 28

    “That’s why they have trouble being honest about their policy”

    well yes, that and the fact that if the majority of the country really understood what their neo-con agenda meant for the country, they’d never get elected again.

    “many of the ‘true conservatives’ are old fashioned type and do not like neo-liberal economics”

    for sure, because neo-conism is actually pretty radical and has nothing to do with preserving the status quo, or even restoring a prior state – unless we go all the way back to feudalism, but with corproates instead of gentry ruling the serfs.

  29. Monty 29

    Well it seems that you guys better start hitting your heads against a brick wall again – National maintain their lead in the latest poll (NZ Herald out this moring) and can rule alone – your obsessive attacks on Key and National are simply not working –

    Your problem is that you exist in a small cell and while you all agree with each other, outside your cell you have no appreciation of how people are so over this corrupt and self-serving government.

  30. Susan Deare 30

    Monty – According to the poll, Labour has moved from 39.6% to 38.8%. Hmmmm, I’d say that 0.8% drop is hardly noteworthy.

    Also. While Helen Clark scores 50.8%, John Key drops (as he bloody well should, the useless prick) to 37.3%.

    If I were National I’d be worried where my votes are going to go now that everyone is realising John Key sucks. There’s a certain leader of a certain minor party who’s going to be carrying his trademark smile right now.

  31. rjs131 31

    “If I were National I’d be worried where my votes are going to go now that everyone is realising John Key sucks.”

    So are you saying that all those people that are supporting national in these polls dont realise that John key is the leader??? last time i checked people dont vote for their preferred prime minister they vote for the party….

  32. insider 32

    What’s the secret of good comedy? Timing.

    Isn’t this a continuation of Johanson;s election time theme which was a bit wrong?

  33. Given that you placed so much emphasis on one poll just a few days ago–the Roy Morgan–I’m expecting you to similarly place just as much credence on the one poll out today.

    Which would refute all your claims about Key losing his mojo. Herald digipoll says he can govern alone.

  34. the sprout 34

    the same poll says Key’s credibility as a leader has taken a nose-dive.

  35. r0b 35

    Monty – “Your problem is that you exist in a small cell and while you all agree with each other”

    Almost all blogging exists in a small cell, and there are a range of views (such as yours) expressed at The Standard.

    “outside your cell you have no appreciation of how people are so over this corrupt and self-serving government”

    Oh bollocks. Labour’s support remains almost unchanged from what it was when it was elected in 1999. What has changed is that a lot of small party voters have gravitated to National for a bit, bringing their polling up. But they are soft numbers – support always moves from large parties to small ones during an election campaign.

    Labour’s support base is solid, have been through the fires of 8 years of government. National’s support base is recent, and soft. I look forward to seeing it evaporate as Key’s honeymoon is over, and the focus is going on to National’s regressive and unpopular policies…

  36. the sprout 36

    interesting Key still can’t seem to dupe the women folk
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10472850

  37. Sam Dixon 37

    rjs131 – preferred pm and party support generally track very closely.. After all people realise that a vote for a major party is effectively a vote for that party’s leader to be PM..

    .. which makes this poll strange.. we would not expect to see a party’s support grow while support for that party’s leader being PM shrinks or vice versa.

    We also wouldn’t expect a change in the current trend (Labour up, National down) without political events that cause people to change their minds. The latest budget figures are the only event I can think of that might have turned people back to National but usually budget numbers have no real impact on polls.

    Now, a poll has a margin of error – 3.1% in a 1000 person poll. That means that the total error between parties’ support levels in the sampled population and the total population will be less than 3.1%, 95% of the time. However, 5% of the time the polling error will be larger than that – a rogue poll.

    A good indicator of a rogue poll is numbers that don’t make sense – like the PM numbers moving in the opposite direction to the party numbers.

  38. insider 38

    I don’t agree Sam. The incumbent PM nearly always beats an opposition leader. and minor parties leaders’ numbers are all over the place. Look at the relative numbers for fitzsimons and Peters and Greens and NZ first.

    Incumbency is very powerful advantage as it is easier to go with what you know. And whether you like Clark or not she is very effective in presenting herself as a leader. She should be worried that some polls have had her and Key much closer – wasn’t she even behind in one?

  39. r0b 39

    I don’t know why we get excited about polls one way or the other. They were so ludicrously inconsistent last election that I lost all faith in them. Though as I recall some combined averages (over a reasonable period of time) were much more accurate.

  40. insider 40

    rob

    BEcause they provide easy news for Gallery reporters in a week when the house isn;t sitting. Otherwise they might have to go to a select committee and write notes or something rather than just interview their typewriter or get some low energy lightbulb newsreader to ask them patsy questions.

  41. Sam Dixon 41

    insider – I’m talking about movements between polls – the major parties’ leaders moved in the opposite direction o their parties, that’s a strange result

  42. Oh, right, Sam. So the Roy Morgan poll, which was inconsistent with all the other polls, was valid, but the Digipoll which was consistent with all the others, detailing a 12 point lead for National, was a rogue poll.

    I get it.

  43. IrishBill 43

    IP – you don’t get it it all stop boasting. Nobody’s impressed.

  44. r0b 44

    Digipoll has been consistent with itself, which is some kind of reliability , but that says nothing about validity . (If their sampling is flawed then the results are meaningless). And there isn’t that much other polling going on right now for Digipoll to be consistent with. It isn’t consistent with Roy Morgan (which did the best job of predicting the 2005 election).

    There’s a useful (post 2005 election) article on the complexity and noise of political polling here:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10347022

    But seriously – why get excited about polls?

  45. r0b 45

    Apologies, according to the article it is TNS Research (TV3) which was the most accurate preditor in 2005.

  46. Simply not true, rOb. There have been five regular polls going on, with their results publicly released. They consistently show National leading by a twelve point margin.

    Who gets excited by the polls? Well, the Standard did, just the other day, when it pointed to one Roy Morgan result as an indication of National in free-fall. Suddenly another poll comes out that is consistent with everything except the Roy Morgan poll, and yet it is the digipoll that is described as “rogue”. Brilliant.

    I’m sure John Key will be devastated that his party continues to thump Labour in the polls.

  47. r0b 47

    “Simply not true, rOb. There have been five regular polls going on, with their results publicly released.”

    My mistake then – I really don’t pay attention.

    “Who gets excited by the polls? Well, the Standard did”

    Which just goes to show they aren’t perfect! Sorry – I realise I may be in a minority of one in being unable to take polls very seriously.

    “I’m sure John Key will be devastated that his party continues to thump Labour in the polls.”

    If that is the sum total of the depth of his thinking on the matter then it’s fine with me.

  48. IP:

    The herald digi poll is notoriously dodgy – best to look to the roy-morgan and TV3 TNS polls for accurate polling. After all they were both on the money when it came to the 2005 election.

    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3898/

  49. IP only a novice would quote the herald dodgipoll as an authoritative source. TNS and Roy Morgan are the ones that the serious pollsters (including DPF – when you press him on the issue) look to for a reliable indication of where the electorate is at. Look at the 2005 election for example.

    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3898/

  50. Um – looks like my 2:55 pm post disappeared and re-appeared – sorry about the double post.

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