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Written By: - Date published: 9:09 am, July 10th, 2008 - 58 comments
Categories: helen clark, john key - Tags:

On Tuesday, Helen Clark was asked what she thought of the fact that both John Key and Bill English have been unavailable for comment when the media have had questions about National policy this week (not being available for comment is a Crosby/Textor tactic for shutting down stories). Clark, who is renowned for the hours she puts into her job, remarked that it appears they put fewer hours into the job than Labour Ministers do. The comments weren’t publicly reported.

So far, so what. But Key’s advisors got hold of the footage somehow and saw an opportunity for a nasty attack.

Yesterday, Key, back from his holiday at his Omaha beach house, was on the TV saying ‘look, I’m a family man, I was spending time with my family, personal attack etc etc’. Of course, as Duncan Garner pointed out, Clark had made no mention of Key’s family. Garner said it was just an attempt to paint Key as the victim of personal attacks.

But there’s another subtext here: Key managed to mention his family four times in twenty seconds, why do that when Clark hadn’t mentioned families? Simple, the counter-point to Clark. Ever since Clark rose to promenience in politics, National and its allies have been attacking her for being a woman who doesn’t have children. Key’s comments were designed to attack in this mysogynist fashion once again.

It’s nasty, nasty stuff and I honestly believed National had grown past that. Turns out you can never expect too little from the Tories.

58 comments on “Nasty ”

  1. schrodigerscat 1

    I know some other people that don’t have children and are bloody hard workers and do very good work.

  2. I know. And an you ever imagine them making this kind of attack if Clark was male?

  3. So its all the fault of that nasty right wing media. And over at Kiwiblog: it’s all the fault of that socialist National Radio.

  4. It’s not the fault of the media, it’s National and Key who made this nasty attack.

  5. T-rex 5

    No, Bryan, actually it’s the fault of Crosby/Textor via their sock puppet John Key.

    edit: Backflip high five Steve.

  6. Steve: you gotta admit it’s “skating on thin ice” to go any where near any topic that could possibly be seen as an attack on “family values”. Of course National is going to jump on that and exploit for all it’s worth: just like Labour has done with John Key’s involvement with the rail sale.

    I used to respect Helen Clark as a clever political operator but she seems to be somewhat flustered at the moment. Maybe she needs to take a couple of days off ? Get down to her bach in Coromandel. Chill out with a good book and few bottles of excellent Kiwi wine.

  7. BeShakey 7

    An attack on his family is one thing, but National has been manufacturing attacks on his family. Key made money through his family trust — attack on his family. Key refuses to talk to the media — attack on his family.

    To me Clark doesn’t seem rattled at all. Shes launching her attacks on Key, some of which haven’t been that successful, but its now time for National to get a taste of the election and too see how resilient their manufactured leader is.

  8. mike 8

    “It’s not the fault of the media, it?s National and Key who made this nasty attack.”

    FFS what nasty attack Steve?

    Key has a family, clark does not – does this mean key cannot mention his kids for fear of being labelled “nasty”

    Also “The Dominion Post can confirm that Mr Key was returning calls on Monday while on his break.”

    So not really unavailable steve.

  9. higherstandard 9

    Having read this


    ..it appears Bryan has hit it on the head with the..

    “So its all the fault of that nasty right wing media. And over at Kiwiblog: it’s all the fault of that socialist National Radio.”

    Bit of a nothing story really, clearly little real news about for the blogs or the print media at present.

  10. It reminds me of that dogwhistle attack DPF did a couple of months ago:


    To her credit Helen has had this sort of shit directed at her for years but has only ever made passing reference to it. I’m sure if she were taking advice from CT there would have been a strategy in place to mention these attacks every time they happened and somebody would have highlighted every example to the media to establish a meme about National’s “politics of hate”. In fact the phrase “National’s politics of hate” (or something snappier) would probably be used by every labour MP every time National criticised the government until it stuck. Jeez the Nat’s are lucky Labour has such bad PR.

  11. Daveski 11

    Pot … kettle … black

    If nothing else, HC had my respect for being a smart political operator.

    It was her comment that she worked harder and surprised that they took time off. And it was on tape so don’t give us the crap that it wasn’t publically reported.

    Yet another nothing story trying to undermine Key … and what’s worse, making Labour and its Standard lackies looking like fools.

    You don’t need CT to tell you it’s dumb politics.

  12. Ben R 12

    “Ever since Clark rose to promenience in politics, National and its allies have been attacking her for being a woman who doesn’t have children.”

    That may be the case, but it was a pretty obvious comeback when you’re accused of not working as many hours.

    It’s not just National who’ve mentioned the family thing, John Tamihere noted it also.

  13. ak 13

    Have a look and cheer up:


    (ta to truthseeker and OOB at No8)

    L24-N30, G4, 34% don’t know/wont vote

    Game on!

  14. Rob 14

    I was really surprised Helen Clark would even go there with that comment.

    She has always struck me as a very astute Politician and that was a very dumb comment that wont go down well with the general Public.

    I think UMR really failed on giving her that strategy I wouldn’t pay the bill for that bit of advice.

    Talk about lead balloons shooting yourself in the foot and all of those sort of comments.

    Wonder what is going to come out next!!

  15. Good one Ben R! Thanks for comig by and wowing everyone with your depth of insight.

  16. Rob, where did Clark ‘go’?

  17. T-rex 17

    She has always struck me as a very astute Politician and that was a very dumb comment that wont go down well with the general Public.

    Good grief – do you guys read all this stuff in a phrasebook? It’s like there’s an echo on this post.

    Steve and my doppleganger moment above notwithstanding 🙂

    Cheers for the link AK. ACTUAL RESEARCH!

    Looks like Labour were actually RIGHT when they said the polls were full of sh*t.

    Very sad to see the greens on 4 though. Come on people.

  18. Rob 18

    Has anyone seen or heard form Mike Willams lately or is he spending time with his Family (if he is allowed to)

  19. rjs131 19

    Shock horror, person with family takes time off during school holidays! Or are you suggesting that the timing of the school holidays is all a cunning ploy by Crosby and Textor.

    But hey i guess hes not as hard working as Dianne Yates, no doubt she is kept so busy from her board appointments that she would never dream o f having a day off ever

  20. Ben R 20

    “Rob, where did Clark ‘go’?”

    She commented on their work hours & allowed them to make the honest comment that they were spending time with family. Obviously family friendly policies are popular and is something Labour is supposed to be supportive of. So she kind of shot herself in the foot.

  21. Ben R 21

    “Good one Ben R! Thanks for comig by and wowing everyone with your depth of insight.”

    Well Felix hasn’t bothered to comment on the longer post I did under ‘Crosby/Drexer blueprint’. If you disagree with what I say, then say so. Sarcasm & insults are a little ironic given the title of this thread.

  22. Daveski 22

    Good grief – do you guys read all this stuff in a phrasebook? It’s like there’s an echo on this post.

    When the left agree on something, it’s called the voice of the people or democracy.

    Whenever there is a majority of views different to the Standard, it’s a conspiracy.

    I realise as an official publication of Labour’s views, it is different to be objective. But talk about leading with your chin!

    And all those polls with their underlying trends must be wrong too. The one poll that favourably reflects on Labour must be right.

    [lprent: it isn’t a publication of Labour’s views. If I tried to make it that most of the writers would walk. So you’re just being an idiot. Since that attacks the site consider yourself on warning and in moderation]

  23. Positive and ambitious 23

    I love how positive Mr Key’s campaign is looking. He’s a man of his word.

  24. I think UMR really failed on giving her that strategy I wouldn’t pay the bill for that bit of advice.

    I’m interested to see this commment. Are you suggesting UMR is the left equivalent of CT? Or are you just trying to insinuate that? Either way – you loser.

  25. T-rex. While it’s useful to know how high the undecideds are because it shows the public hasn’t made up it’s mind on who to vote for, if you want to know what the actual results would be from the TNS poll, you have to take out the undecided and won’t votes – doing that the results become:

    Nats: 45
    Lab: 36
    Greens: 6
    NZF: 5
    Maori: 5
    ACT: 2
    UnitedFuture: 2

    – of course the margin of error is larger.

  26. Rob 26

    Where is Mike Williams ? has he been told to be quiet by Heather Simpson??

    Some thing doesn’t seem right here. Maybe H2 has decided to assume full control!!

  27. higherstandard 27

    As there is no real news today and based on my completely unscientific poll of 1 my pick at 4 months out from the election is seats in parliament as follows.

    Nats: 57
    Lab: 44
    Greens: 8
    NZF: 1
    Maori: 7
    ACT: 1
    UnitedFuture: 1
    Progressive: 1

  28. IrishBill 28

    You do realise you’re picking a Labour-led government there, HS?

  29. 62 vs 57 by my count. Labour would win a 4th term 🙂 .

  30. Where’s Judy Kirk? Oh right she got the job because she promised to stay out of the news and routinely refuses to talk to journos, if Mike Williams has belatedly decided to do the same, so what? he’s not elected by the public.

  31. Felix 31


    I don’t know why you brought up my name, but any reasonable observer would note that I haven’t replied to your comment because you seem to have been smoking crack when you wrote it.

  32. gobsmacked 32

    Campaign Debate Latest:

    Reporter: “Mr Key, Helen Clark has said that you don’t actually have any policies to do anything at all about the steep price rises you’ve been blaming the government for. What is your response?”

    Key: “That is a disgraceful personal attack. I know all about coping with price rises, because I have a family. We have to budget carefully, just like other hard-working Kiwi families. If Helen Clark had a family, she would understand this. She should stop making these personal attacks on my policies … er, on my family (which I have).”

  33. Anita 33

    Mike writes:

    Key has a family, clark does not

    No, Clark and Key both have families. Key has children, Clark does not.

    Having a family, being part of a family, being a family person is not restricted to people who have children. Many of the rest of us are very much part of families, love our families and live our lives within our families.

  34. outofbed 34

    my pick at 4 months out from the election is seats in parliament as follows. with a 5 seat overhang

    Nats: 59
    Lab: 45
    Greens: 11
    UTD: 1
    Maori: 7
    ACT: 1
    Progressive: 1

  35. Felix 35


    Absolutely, I could be considered a member of 3 families. I’m very much a family person and I don’t even like children.

  36. Matthew Pilott 36

    Rob, if you followed politics at all you’d be fully aware that after Williams messed up a few times, he decided (or had decided for him, I’m not sure which!) that he would no longer talk to the media, just like National’s party president.

    But feel free to parade your ignorance further for my edification, if it floats your boat.

    P.S. how is that big cry going over at Stuff, are you still at it?

    rjs131, you can equate it all to the school holidays, but Clark said that they weren’t that present over the ‘weeks and years’. So the comment had nothing to do with school holidays and this particular incident – Key attempted to paint it as such and pretend that Clark was criticising him for taking time off. I always wondered who falls for Key’s type of empty lines, I guess some people just don’t want to think about it too much.

  37. Ben R 37

    “I don’t know why you brought up my name, but any reasonable observer would note that I haven’t replied to your comment because you seem to have been smoking crack when you wrote it”

    Felix are you 11 years old? Is that the best you can do?

    It’s disapointing that you look for some intelligent comment on these sites & get ad hominem attacks, playing the man rather than the ball etc..

  38. Rob 38

    Thanks for that Mathew it appeared that most people on the Stuff website were of the same opinion and I see that the Standard is actually letting people have a different opinion now. So in that respect I guess it worked I can thank Crosby Textor for that cheers!!

  39. Anita- I am so glad you said that. It was grating on me too!

    Clark is actually really family orientated. She gets on well with her sisters and nieces and frequently has them to stay. She also has a husband and she is part of his extended family. The delightful suggestion that unless one has kids then they are not ‘family’ orientated is laughable.

  40. gobsmacked 40


    As pointed out yesterday, most of the people on Stuff were indeed of the same opinion … the one that was sent to them by National HQ.

    Hence the repetition of exactly the same phrases, in posts which appeared at the same time.

    The crucial difference between Stuff and the Standard is: at Stuff, comments are often held in moderation for a long time, so people can post a comment without knowing what others have just said. Then all the parroted comments appear at once, all repeating the same lines – to general embarrassment and/or amusement.

    That’s why they all got caught out yesterday.

  41. higherstandard 41


    Do you realise you’re taking the Maori Party and Greens for granted ?

  42. LabourMustBeLiquidated 42

    [lprent: it isn’t a publication of Labour’s views. If I tried to make it that most of the writers would walk. So you’re just being an idiot. Since that attacks the site consider yourself on warning and in moderation]

    Its hilarious how thin skinned you guys are! All defensive now that the ships sinking eh?

    [lprent: Not really. I’m just a bastard sysop and I don’t like comments that attack my site or trolls (which is what I think you are). I like to play with my prey – which is why you are moderated.]

  43. Ben R 43

    “The delightful suggestion that unless one has kids then they are not ‘family’ orientated is laughable.”

    Doesn’t this suggest then that Steve P’s original point is incorrect? If Key only said he was spending time with family, then how is that attacking Clark? As you rightfully say, Clark has family too.

  44. IrishBill 44

    HS, having had quite a bit to do with the Greens, and to a lesser extent, the Maori party I’m pretty comfortable they would go with Labour.

    Indeed, I would hope that the greens in particular would do so with enough seats to give the “red tories” a firm shove to the left! I’d also like to see the maori party get enough sway to force the repeal of the foreshore and seabed legislation. And don’t even get me started about the “terrorism suppression” laws.

  45. Matthew Pilott 45

    Rob, to be blunt, people can have different opinions, not stupid ones (well that’s my interpretation)! I.e make a good point if you will, but don’t come in repeating the talking points of the RWNJ brigade. Believe it or not, I’d prefer some healthy, opinionated but intelligent debate, over no debate, or arguing against the same empty, mindless liness endlessly repeated on Stuff.

    You’ll notice that very little debate on ‘on the house’ has anything to do with Espiner’s posts, there’s usually the most tenuous of acknowledgement, followed by the usual vacuous linking it to ‘out of touch’, ‘time for a change’ type of nonesense – what is the value in that?

    Suppose things go off topic here, but onto other (and interesting) topics.

    Gobsmacked – who got caught out exactly?

  46. Anita 46

    Ben R,

    I think Steve’s point is based on the point that National uses “family” as a code for a particular kind of family. That is that they use statements about Key’s family to deliberately highlight Clark and Davis’ lack of children – they don’t say “look, she’s childless” because they know that they can say “family” over and over and signify the same thing.

    Some people get pissed off about that because it’s a dogwhistle attack and deliberately opaque, and politics should be more honest than that.

    Some people get pissed off because it’s a personal attack, and politics shouldn’t include personal attacks.

    Some people get pissed off because it has an implicit negative judgement of women who don’t have children (by choice or otherwise).

    Some people get pissed off because it implicitly devalues the families they have and love.

    Some people love it because it’s sneaky-clever and they enjoy the game which allows someone to make that kind of personal attack while pretending to have clean hands.

    Some people support it because it reflects their personal values about families, women who take on roles outside the home, and women who don’t have children.

    Some people support it because they’re anti-Clark and/or pro-Key for whatever other reasons and they see this advancing their cause.

  47. higherstandard 47


    You forgot the some people that don’t give a damn.

  48. Anita 48


    *laughs* true

    Some people watch politicians and journalists waffling on on the telly about who said what about whom and when and wish that someone would make them shut up and go away 🙂

  49. Ben R 49

    “That is that they use statements about Key’s family to deliberately highlight Clark and Davis’ lack of children”

    So if Phil Goff was the Prime Minister, you think Key wouldn’t have said he was away spending time with his family?

    I agree that you can read some of those meanings into it, but I think the word ‘family’ has such positive connotations that it’s something most politicians would refer to regardless.

    The only really offensive thing I can remember was when Paul Holmes brought it up in a leaders debate in 1999.

  50. Daveski 50

    [lprent: it isn’t a publication of Labour’s views. If I tried to make it that most of the writers would walk. So you’re just being an idiot. Since that attacks the site consider yourself on warning and in moderation]

    Its hilarious how thin skinned you guys are! All defensive now that the ships sinking eh?

    I should take exception to the fact you have chosen to mod me on the same day as I’ve actually agreed with SP on a couple of points.

    But it’s your site and you can do what you like, quite obviously.

    However, given my usually moderate expression of views different to yours, this comes across as overly heavy handed and petty. But I can accept your right to be the BOFH.

    [lprent: I don’t really ‘read’ comments – so I’m unaware of agreement with anyone. I scan for particular things. You happened to trigger one, which is the persistent attempts to tie this site into Labour. As far as I’m aware out of the writers, moderators, etc there are only two of us who are Labour members (including me).

    On this site we often have commentators indignantly saying they are not National supporters. I do exactly the same – just my techniques are a bit more direct because… well because I can.

    Removing you from moderation.].

  51. Anita 51

    Ben R,

    If Goff was unavailable because of a family holiday and Clark said that I’d not even blink (similarly if Cullen said it of Clark, or Key of English, or Hide of Roy, etc).

    If, however, she managed to pack in four “family”s into 20 secs I’d either think she was a stuttering fool, or wonder what other message she was trying to give.

    Similarly, if it was a one-off, then Key was probably just having a stuttering fool moment. Given how often Key and those close to him are doing this I think odds are it’s a conscious plan rather than a contagious speech impediment.

    P.S. Moderation for “stuttering fool”?!

    [lprent: not sure what you got moderated on. looking.]

  52. Daveski 52

    Fair call. Points noted. Will move on. And use complete sentences with the correct use of the apostrophe for it’s/its which is something else to which I can readily agree.

  53. dave 53

    Steve, FFS grow up and get some thick skin man, no Nats mentioned kids, they mentioned family.
    Clark had made no mention of Key’s family
    Key also made no mention of Clark’s kids – or lack thereof. Clark has a family, it’s just that shes got no kids.Also its not Keys fault that he has kids to look after any more than its not Clark’s fault that she hasn’t got kids. If Key puts fewer hours into his job than most Labour ministers, as “sister sledge” Clark claims, then he’s doing pretty well polling the way he is then, isn`t he. Perhaps Clark needs to work a little harder and its just as well she hasn’t got kids, because you know what happens to people that neglect their kids….

  54. sean 54

    A man mentions his family a few times and you take that as him having a go at the prime minister? Wow, that is nasty indeed – what an evil man. In fact its more likely to be a way of reaching out and connecting with Kiwi families, which is fair enough. Nothing to read here, move along.

    Whats is like beating up poor Mr Strawman all the time?

  55. Felix 55


    I really have no idea why you want me to engage with you. You’re not saying anything that interests me so why would I?

    Yes, I am 11 years old. And sometimes you just have to accept that some of the kids don’t want to play with you.

  56. Ben R 56

    “I really have no idea why you want me to engage with you.”

    My point is more about the style in which people “engage” with those they disagree with. I think the ad hominem attacks just put people off.

    Some posters on here seem to be able to disagree & make intelligent comments without the childish abuse (Lew, Rogernome, Anita, Ari, Higher Std for instance).

  57. Razorlight 57

    What an absolute beat up.

    One day you are suggesting Key basically lies. He is a puppet of his CT masters not saying what he believes but what the elctorate wants to hear.

    Now he is honest but still gets it wrong according to SP. He honestly answers a question and says I have been on holiday with my family. So….?

    Where was the attack against Clark? I cannot see it. He honestly answered the question. He is a proud father and family man and he is not going to stay silent about his family so not to offend the Prime Minister.

  58. dave 58

    Irish Bill: having had quite a bit to do with the Greens, and to a lesser extent, the Maori party I’m pretty comfortable they would go with Labour.

    You mean the Greens, or the Maori Party, or both?

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