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Nice Mr Key

Written By: - Date published: 9:19 am, September 12th, 2011 - 30 comments
Categories: brand key, john key, Media - Tags: ,

On Saturday Stuff carried a piece (by Adam Dudding) on John Key. In most respects it was the usual kind of puffy profile, but it was definitely a cut above the kind of drivel we have seen from some star-struck writers.  In places Dudding made a fairly balanced assessment:

A prime minister’s view

… It has been a rocky first term. Depending on your prejudices, you could argue either that Key has managed a series of external crises pretty well, or that catastrophic earthquakes and a mining disaster, plus a global financial crisis, have provided great excuses for a government that has achieved precious little.

What is inarguable, though, is that Key is even more popular now than when he came to power – a recent poll gave him a 70% approval rating as prime minister.

Despite dire warnings from the left, Key has so far failed to tear off his latex mask to reveal Roger Douglas or some other horseman of the right-wing apocalypse. Labour’s redistributive Working for Families package is intact. The selling-off of state assets has, as promised, not happened quite yet. Key has largely removed race from political debate by hauling the Maori Party into his tent. He believes (these days) in global warming.

He has, in other words, avoided freaking us out – even if we have cringed at the Letterman thing, the Rugby World Cup catwalk mincing or the Taj Mahal snog.

Some serious “freaking out” is on the agenda for a second term, however, and we would do well to take heed of the fact.

All those marae visits have given the white boy from Burnside High School a crash course in Maori matters – “I’ve learnt they’ve got a great sense of humour” – and he’s picked up a thing or two from his coalition partners.  “Pita [Sharples] and Tariana [Turia] – I can now see the differences between them… because she’s really iwi-based Maori and he’s really urban-based Maori. That would have been lost on me early on. But not now.”

OK I’m cringing again right now.  It boggles the mind that someone so ignorant of New Zealand could become its PM.

The poll results suggest Key’s efforts to avoid looking cold and heartless have, in general, worked.

But how does he explain this: at the scrag-end of National’s first term, we still haven’t caught up with the Aussies. The economy hasn’t undergone a “step change”. Food prices are high and electricity prices keep on rising. There was that unpleasant business about plans to sink mines on conservation land; there’s been a much-lamented slashing of ACC payment for counselling for rape victims; community night classes were kicked in the guts.

Forget cold and heartless – why aren’t New Zealanders annoyed with Key over this stuff?

Well, for a start, says Key, “I could have quite a long, serious debate with you over each and every one of those issues.”

Given his performance on HardTalk and his small target strategy of avoiding serious interviews I rather doubt it. But Dudding is more generous:

No doubt, but the general point remains – things are less than ideal, but polls suggest Kiwis still love you. Why?

Because “the New Zealand public aren’t unreasonable. They look at it through the lens of what’s fair in those three years. …

“The second thing is it’s all relative. Yes, our unemployment went to 7 per cent and now it’s 6.5, but in America it’s 9 per cent officially and 14 per cent unofficially and in Spain it’s 20 per cent…

“And the second thing [Key’s numbered lists have a tendency to go awry] is they know it takes time. We don’t have a history of one-term governments… and I think that’s an indication that the public votes governments out rather than oppositions in.”

Interesting that Key doesn’t even try to defend his record on its merits.  It’s just a long list of excuses and a plea for the mercy of the public.  Well, inertia may carry them through the coming election – we don’t tend to chuck out first term governments it’s true.  But then we don’t usually have such ineffectual and empty facades of government either.

Labour needs to focus on the Nat’s record of failure, and they need to promote their own credible and effective alternative policies.  Take the electoral fight to the Nats. Because when it comes to the latex mask, as most lefties will tell you, it’s always been clear that it’s the second term where we get to see what’s really underneath.

30 comments on “Nice Mr Key ”

  1. Rijab 1

    He bags out Obama, uses hindsight to talk up his ‘decision’ to announce chch quake deaths, and uses smoke and mirrors for every tough question he gets.

    This man is a joke, maybe he’s indicative of our voting public though, since we only ‘vote governments out’.

  2. queenstfarmer 2

    Take the electoral fight to the Nats

    As Chris Trotter and others have said, Labour has abandoned the contest by leaving Phil as leader when it is apparent that he can’t sell Labour’s policies. Just like that Nats threw in the towel in 2002. Any Labour supporter who hasn’t called for a new leader has abdicated any right to complain about National winning a second term.

    • Blighty 2.1

      Three years ago, Chris Trotter was calling for Goff to roll Clark ahead of the 2008 election.

      I think that’s all we need to know about Chris Trotter’s political genius.

      • queenstfarmer 2.1.1

        Um, Clark didn’t win the 2008 election. So it might not have been such a terrible idea to have rolled Helen before she lost.

        • felix 2.1.1.1

          And replaced her with Goff. /facepalm

          • queenstfarmer 2.1.1.1.1

            Yes. Then Phil could have been through a campaign as leader (doesn’t matter that he wouldn’t have won in ’08), gotten all the coverage and media experience, learned what works & doesn’t work with a fickle public, and put his own team into place earlier.

            And if it had been a major disaster, then Labour could try again with someone else, and have had 2.5 years of a new leader who, who knows, may have been a better salesperson of Labour’s policies. Instead they seem to have opted for the Bill English circa 2002 strategy.

    • aerobubble 2.2

      I disagree. MSM hate the left. If the only way to get Goff headlines was to go
      negative on him, under the assumption that by the time the election hits,
      the Rugby would have cleanse people of the bad news about Goff (which was
      what??? I forget) and leave Goff with the name recognition to push farsighted
      policies to upgrade our tax system, and our other poor government. The
      ACT party is always going on about bad government, well Labour can
      get the numbers to actually make changes. And National changes aren’t
      working, Labours will because they have been tested in other countries
      like ours, in the UK, in OZ, in Europe. CGT, GST off fresh food, tax
      free exemption on the first 5,000.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    Key to the rescue again:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5604698/Red-zone-losses-bother-Key

    “Prime Minister John Key admits he is bothered by reports that earthquake damage will leave some residents in Christchurch’s red zone more than $150,000 out of pocket.”

    Why has it taken him so long to wake up to this problem?

    • kriswgtn 3.1

      he maybe bothered by reports- bet you he dont do sfa to rectify the problem or maybe hell just give them some of his own fortune considering hes got so much of it

    • Why is it that Key only gets bothered about things when concerns get expressed too often in the media?

      These concerns have been around for months. The only difference is that now they are being focused on in the media (at least here locally). Why wasn’t he bothered then? Well, because what ‘actually’ bothers him is bad PR.

      If the media had not highlighted this, Key would have kept quiet about his ‘concerns’ over the red zoners’ predicaments. 

    • felix 3.3

      It probably just took a while for his people to explain to him that $150,000 is kind of a big deal to some of us.

    • RobM 3.4

      All about Key. That story has migrated down the Stuff home page this morning and the headline has changed from RED-ZONE RALLY DECRIES ‘DISGRACEFUL’ INSURERS to RED-ZONE LOSSES BOTHER KEY.

      Brownlee couldn’t comment and then he could – fuck you read the fine print, our hands are tied and your post 2007 improvements don’t count:

      “Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the Government was helping with the consent process and had asked the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to look at options to help people who had “higher or unexpected needs”.

      “Beyond that, I can’t comment.”

      The Government expectation was for insurance companies to honour policies, but it was not in a position to put pressure on insurance companies to go outside policy settings, he said.

      “The harsh lesson for everyone is to read the policy document and know what they will allow.

      “The problem for some people is it’s not the damage to the house, it’s the damage to the land that’s the problem and that’s not an easy fix,” Brownlee said.

      “We think the offer on the table is fair and we will not be changing that.”

      People had the opportunity to have their rating value reviewed at the time of valuation if they were not happy with it, he said.”

      • Lanthanide 3.4.1

        “People had the opportunity to have their rating value reviewed at the time of valuation if they were not happy with it, he said.”

        Yes, and if everyone in the country was told “your valuation may be used as the basis for government compensation should a disaster strike” then I’m sure some of those people with low valuations would have. Probably there are people in earthquake zones (Wellington) now considering this very issue.

        The point is, local council valuations were never ever intended to be used for the purpose they are now being used. So Gerry is being disingenuous at best.

  4. felix 4

    One of he nice things about winning Idol and being famous is you get to meet people you never would have met otherwise, like mowrees for example.

    Before winning Idol, Key used to have to borrow a mowree for Waitangi day but he now has two mowrees of his own.

    • Jim Nald 4.1

      Indeed. The first thought that arose when reading that Dudding piece was the previous election heralded in, for NZ, the age of manufactured images.

  5. Joe Bloggs 5

    .
    Y’know, if John Key walked on water, some of you’d be complaining that he can’t swim!

    • lprent 5.1

      I always thought that you might have a bit of a fetish for that nice John Key. However I never realized it’d gotten to the obsession point that you were comparing him with religious figures.

      Good to be warned though…

    • drx 5.2

      May he could be graded by the way of National Standards on water walking

      Walks on Water – Exceeded the standard
      Walks on water, but gets feet wet- Meets the Standard
      Walks on water, but often sinks- Working towards standard
      Can Pass water (but gets feet wet)- Fail the standard

      • Puddleglum 5.2.1

        ‘Parted the Water – A born cheat’

        🙂 

      • seeker 5.2.2

        drx

        You are being too soft with your standard descriptors. National Standard indicators are far more robust and damaging.

        Walks on Water – above average
        Walks on water, but gets feet wet – average
        Walks on water, but often sinks- below average
        Can Pass water (but gets feet wet)- well below average
        Drowning – and he /she (sorry number 2411) is six years old already.

        Remember we both ignorant and inhuman in this ministry- maintain standards please!
        Reply

  6. tc 6

    They were always there it’s just the MSM did their job in removing the facade prior to 08 by some persistent questioning, the use of memory, history and some actual research.
    Compare the treatment Sideshow’s prior’s got being Brash/English then it all goes soft and aww shucks once JK takes the mantle, Hollowmen shows TVNZ actually persisting for an answer….remember those days.

  7. M C 7

    Well Anthony coming from the South Island I’m not surprised that our PM did not have any exposure to Maori until later in life. I went to school in Dunedin and there were no (visible) Maori; the closest we came to Maori culture was watching the All Blacks do the Haka. For me it wasn’t until my sister-in-law got married to a Maori in Hamilton that I really got some appreciation of Maori culture and then I was in my 30’s. Of course that’s all changed now … for the better.

  8. Craig 8

    All right, I’m going to defend Phil Goff here:

    (i) It is virtually impossible to roll an incumbent government after only one term of office. It last happened in New Zealand when Muldoon’s Nats defeated Bill Rowling in 1975.

    (ii) Crap incumbent government policies take time to show up- usually during a government’s second term.

    (iii) Simply rolling the leader may not remove any systemic problems with the research unit and media management that might have impeded Goff’s leadership.

    (iv) He might still perform well during the pressure and stress of an election campaign, as did Helen Clark in ’96.

    (v) At present, the RWC provides a convenient diversion. One wonders what happen if (damn, I really hate to raise the possibility) the ABs lose and the government cannot bask in reflected glory.

    (vi) Labour’s support has not catastrophically collapsed to the levels that the “Mad Mike” white-anting campaign of the mid-nineties encouraged.

    (vii) What happens if there’s a Green surge, as is occurring in Germany at present?

    All that said, it may be that Phil will become the Neil Kinnock of New Zealand Labour politics- preserving strategic direction, discipline and unity, and enabling the next leader to get on with the job of taking the fight to the Key administration from a position of relative strength.

    • The Voice of Reason 8.1

      Crikey, that’s almost a post in itself, Craig, and the best short summary of the situation anyone could hope to find. Well done!
       
      I would add that Labour can use the diversion of the RWC to quietly hone the policies that can make a difference in the campaign. The CGT seems to have resonated with the public, but it’s not an outright winner, so I would expect some more economic tie ins. More direct help for the family, perhaps? Reverse the unneeded tax cuts and put the money to use paying off debt, perhaps?
       
       

  9. Craig 9

    I am certainly willing to promote the CGT to the LGBT communities (all that pink dollar nonsense ignores issues like parental responsibilities, costs incurred through discriminatory spousal policies since abandoned, and so on- it was only ever based on unrepresentative and pre-selected US magazine circulation demographics).

    Is there a CGT information, talking points and speakers itinerary website set up to publicise the issue?

  10. Craig 10

    VR, feel free to quote me, or use the points I made elsewhere. I’m currently working on an expanded version of the above for my column in Gaynz.com.

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