Two weeks ago John Key was in a corner for failing to act to represent and protect the rights of Kiwis detained by Australia on Christmas Island. As usual he went on the attack, but this time he went too far, ranting that Labour was supporting rapists and murderers. Key was called out for introducing a “new level of brutality” into debate in Parliament.
Some seasoned observers suggested that this was a deliberate tactic, a “dead cat strategy”:
Today, John Key threw a dead cat into the middle of New Zealand’s Parliament.
So Key decided to get rid of all those long-term negative headlines by gifting the media a short-term negative headline instead. That’s the strategic thinking behind Key’s disgraceful performance in Parliament today, when he said any politician looking for humane treatment for detainees on Christmas Island was “backing the rapists” and “putting yourself on the side of sex offenders.”
Unfortunately for Key the backlash was strong and sustained. Audrey Young tried to draw a line under it in the weekend:
A week’s a long time in politics
It is a frosty start to a long week with John Key. Several of the travelling media, including me, have been highly critical of Key, not so much for accusing the Opposition of backing murderers and rapists but refusing to apologise after offence was taken.
The outwardly pleasant and relaxed Prime Minister has a bloody-minded streak to him and when that switch is on, he digs in and thinks it will all blow over, and it eventually does.
[Key] is down the back of the plane having “ice-breaker” conversations. He works the pack: Newstalk ZB, RNZ, TV3, Sky News, NZ Newswire and the NZ Herald, talking about nothing memorable. Just talking. Trying to neutralise any lingering hostility towards him at the top of the trip and eliminate any sense of awkwardness Not a word is said by him about rapists and murderers. There is no point asking him to rationalise his own bloody-mindedness.
It is left unsaid, but the visit to the back of the plane closes that chapter, for now. Time to move on.
Time to move on? It seems that sone of Audrey’s colleagues didn’t get the memo. In reaction to the 3 News poll last night:
National still ahead in polls despite ‘rapist’ remarks
The latest 3 News/Reid Research poll shows National is unscathed by John Key’s “rapists and murderers” Parliamentary attack. Although the Prime Minister’s personal popularity has taken a hit.
Mr Key has been completely unrepentant since he made the remarks, and says he’d do it all again.
The remarks seem to have had an effect, Mr Key is still the preferred Prime Minister but he has taken a 1.2 percent dip in the polls. He now sits on 38.3 percent. …
‘Rapist’ comments don’t dent National – poll
National’s support remains strong despite controversy over deportations from Australia and Prime Minister John Key’s assertion that the opposition was backing “rapists and murderers”.
Support for Mr Key as preferred Prime Minister did dip slightly to 38.3 per cent (down 1.2 per cent since September) in the latest 3 News/Reid Research poll. …
So, still very much a live issue, still in the headlines, and suggested to have cost him in the polls. If it was a deliberate dead cat strategy by Key (and it probably was) it backfired badly. Maybe the next one will too.