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Over-promise, under-deliver

Written By: - Date published: 10:37 am, September 26th, 2011 - 28 comments
Categories: brand key, election 2011, john key - Tags:

John Hartevelt – “Key is massively over-exposed on any number of fronts, but nowhere more so than at Pike River.” Key routinely promises big: close the wage gap, roaring out of recession, national cycleway, no equity loss for redzoners, Pike River bodies out, no GST hike, whaling solved, brighter future. He NEVER delivers. How does he get away with it? Well, it helps if nobody’s holding you to account for starters.

Rarely does the mainstream media go back and check whether politicians have delivered on their promises. This isn’t just a phenomenon of the way they treat Key. But Key exploits it very well. Substance doesn’t matter to the media any more (cf. nearly everything John Armstrong writes). Spectacle is all that matters. And Key does spectacle very well. After the spectacle, it’s down the memory hole with the substance for the modern media.

Hartevelt’s piece, on Key’s failure to live up to the guarantees he gave the Pike River families is good for at least raising the distance between what Key promised and what he has delivered. But look at the framing: it’s not ‘Key has promised, people have depended on those promises, Key should suffer if he doesn’t deliver’. It’s ‘Key was trying to do the right thing and people expect too much of him, it was silly of him to promise what he couldn’t be sure to deliver’. Not exactly giving Key the slamming he deserves.

The Opposition hasn’t done a good job either. The narrative around Key has been shifting and often contradictory. It has defined his failings too often in personal terms that have asked the public to hate him for who he is. The narrative needs to be shifted to asking the public to reject Key for promising and not delivering.

But the real ‘genius’ of Key is his own ability to separate the past from the present. It’s very post-modern. Only the now matters. When Key promises people what they want, he gets support. Later, if anyone asks if he has delivered, he simply refuses to engage by either a) saying he never made the promise he did or making pedantic semantic excuses (No GST increase, Pike River promises, redzone promises) or b) creating confusion around the evidence (his shifting use of statistics on the wage gap, his infamous comments on Hardtalk about water quality science).

Labour ties itself in knots trying to reconcile its present and its past. Brand Key is ahistoric, apart from the pre-politics ‘poor boy made good’ creation myth. Key refuses to be drawn into a debate over whether his past promises have been met. Instead, he makes more promises. Those who are trying to hold him to account look like they’re stuck in the past while he is driving the narrative for the future. Brand Key and the real world of actions and outcomes never meet.

It makes for bad government. As can be demonstrably proven in so many ways. But, by the time you’ve proven that one promise was broken, Key has ‘moved on’, divorced himself from the issue, and made another exciting new promise. Bad government. But damn good politics for National, whose objective is power, not results.

The election is a chance to reassert reality over the narrative. The Left already has the policies and vision of its own to promote. To tackle Key, it doesn’t need to try to paint him as a monster or a lazy glamour hog  or self-interested trickster. He may be all those things but attempting to portray him as such hasn’t worked. Instead, ask him to simply prove that he has kept the promises he has made, and ask Kiwis if they can afford three more years of over-promise and under-deliver.

28 comments on “Over-promise, under-deliver”

  1. Zaphod Beeblebrox 1

    I actually feel he is ‘the parallel universe man’. the opposite of what he promises usually happens.

    Government debt to be reigned in- $18B annual deficit (was zero under Cullen).

    Catching Australia’s GDP- gap is getting larger.

    Reversing the loss of skills to Australia- they will all be playing for the Wallabies.

    Tackling inequality and child poverty and afforadbale child care- we all know what the figures say.

    More co-operation between Auckland Local Gvernment and Central Government- ask Steven Joyce and Murray McCully about that one.

    Better environmental standards- ask the people of Palmy North about their river.

    A Brighter Future??? Lets wait and see

    The list goes on and on (and thats not even going into GST hikes and aseet sales).

    Hope he does not promise to do too much for this election.

  2. Tigger 2

    No matter how effective the Opposition is, if the MSM ignore them, spin for the PM, bury meaningful stories beneath tinsel tales about some rugby player cheating on his wife, then there is no hope for us as a democracy. I’m the one living in a parallel universe at the moment – wondering who the hell stole my country from me.

  3. Kevin Welsh 3

    When you have MediaWorks in your back pocket, you can pretty much do as you please. Not sure if it was a piss-take or not, but Marcus Lush was talking about Key hosting a slot one morning on Radio Live before the election where he will answer listeners questions.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.1

      That would be interesting- although I can guarantee the q’s will be screened.

      How about an Abbot/Gillard style people’s forum? Get them to ask whatever they like.

    • tc 3.2

      Likely accurate Kevin as it’s a perfect PR opp to have patsy questions with pre scripted replies so it all pans out as per the CT strategy to make him look in control and knowledgable.

      Spoke to someone who was involved in the recent ‘get to know the leaders and wives’ magazine efforts. Key had several PR minders and a big list of no go areas with a set time limit with full on wardrobe etc, Goff had no such support just him and the wife with nothing off limits.

      Spot the one with a hollow hand up their back.

      • McFlock 3.2.1

        I think I flicked through one of those at the chip shop. The photo of Key posing with an iron was pukemaking – although he was as good at modelling as he is at comedy. It looked like he was afraid the iron might detonate.

        • Blue 3.2.1.1

          So a husband who does the ironing is “puke-making” ? So much for your support for equality of the sexes eh? Whats the matter, did Goff burn his hand picking up his iron at the wrong end?

          • McFlock 3.2.1.1.1

            Try not to be such a moron, Blue. What was pukemaking was the fact that he looked more uncomfortable holding an iron than he does when he’s expected to ad lib.

            The fact that such a poor shot made it through editing makes me wonder at what photos were discarded: John wearing pristine overalls but an artful smudge of grease on his brow, looking at a car engine? John trying to tackle for the “local” rugby team? John having a beer with the “neighbours”, everyone looking vaguely uncomfortable?

      • Blue 3.2.2

        “Goff had no such support just him and the wife with nothing off limits.” fine stuff indeed. You miss the point , of course, that Goff is so dreadfully uninteresting to the people of New Zealand and the (biased, tory, capitalist, insert adjective here) media, so nothing is “off limits” because he’s as boring as bat shit.

  4. Craig Glen Eden 4

    Yup media works and the Granny are working over time to create the John Key what a guy bullshit.

    The fact is these people are selling NZ and all New Zealander’s down the road but these people (media) either are to silly to know our they don’t give a shit.

  5. Galeandra 5

    Maybe media feel the need to polish Joe Blogg’s delusions? Keep everyone comfy in the knowledge that they are making the right choice? Support ‘confidence’ & ‘business’? Good post Zet, it makes sense, especially regarding the ineffectiveness of opposing responses. Comment on this site has been guilty in a lot of cases despite Rob’s ‘praise where praise is due.’ Mocking Key’s twittishness does nothing to critique his intellectual and moral emptiness.

  6. randal 6

    John Keys is the benifitor of a slavish toadying right wing press and a non stop shrieking skawkback radio who dont care what he does as long as he bashes the poor and the people who do the real work in this country.

  7. Irascible 7

    Key has always been an empty vessel echoing the noise the PR managers feed him to feed back to the audience. It is a form of phatic communication with Key (PR manager) creating an image of active engagement to get a positive reaction from the listener thus leaving the listener happy while he skips off on a different tack. It is pure advertising image.
    Brand Key is the equivalent of Brand Ronald MacDonald selling lots of “Happy Meals” and never mind the health consequences of constant feeding on them.

  8. Richard 8

    anyone got a link to the official annual deficit figures?

  9. Afewknowthetruth 9

    1948: Ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery. We are building a better tomorrow.

    1984: Ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery. We are building a better tomorrow.

    2011: Ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery. We are building a better tomorrow.

  10. Afewknowthetruth 10

    Add to that: ‘The chocolate ration has been increased from twenty-five grans per day to twenty grams per day.’

    Orwell said it all (well most of it) many decades ago.

    • McFlock 10.1

      Very much so – although Key’s twist is to, in the unlikely event of being called out on basic math, leave it to one of his cabinet pawns ministers to equivocate, look incompetent, debate parameters and generally muddy the waters until it’s old news.

    • Galeandra 10.2

      I’d sell my granny for good choccy, too.

  11. Rob 11

    I always considered it a case of the Emporer
    Without clothes!

  12. Richard 12

    thanks McFlock, thats alot of info… was hoping for a year by year chart with Surplus/Deficit figures

  13. mik e 13

    Pity fair go doesn’t do politics. we could ask for our taxes back for keys failed deliveries

  14. Tombstone 14

    tc – and that’s what the NZ public are not seeing. They’re not seeing how carefully orchestrated Key’s public persona is. When the leader of your country has to behave in such an orchestrated, heavily managed manner then you have to ask – why? Why would you have to go to such an extent if Key is such a great guy with all the answers to our economic and social woes? You wouldn’t. It says to me that National are not only riding on this carefully orchestrated public persona, they’re literally banking on it when it comes to winning the election, and ultimately winning over the NZ public. I applaud them. They’ve played the game well but for all the smoke and mirrors what counts the most at the end of the day is substance and that’s where the media have failed – they have failed to see beyond the charade that is Brand Key and see him and his cohorts for what they truly are – snakes in the grass. A party without substance or a genuine desire to make NZ a better place for all. They serve nobody else but their own kind – money looking after money. The Devil after it’s own. They are everything this country could best do without if we are to have any real hope for the future.

  15. Muzza 15

    The biggest problem is that the brown nosing media and civil servents will ultimately go down the same toilet as the rest of the country who they are selling out, by the lies , spin & deceit!
    It’s going to get very messy , soon is my prediction. Someone above said it , our country has been stolen, it will have to be taken back, it’s that simple because our democracy (joke) has been taken away , and
    Nz public has allowed it!

  16. Tombstone 16

    Agreed Muzza. When the common people are treated like second class citizens in their own country and are told to cut back while the elite continue to grow their fortunes, feeling no pain at all while the rest of us are left to suffer a failing economy that to my mind is as good as class warfare. It’s basically saying you lot can pick up the tab while we just carry on living the good life – fuck them is all I can say!

  17. Bunny 17

    Clark was no better. The left are no better. NZ is a bully state. There is a culture of kicking anyone you can when they are down & lower than you. That culture is nowhere else in the world. Tall poppy syndrome? Bullshit! It’s all about attacking the little guy, the disadvantaged in NZ.

    My advice? You have two choices. The unemployed need to form a strong union and set up an alternative media network online with an honest NEWS devision that holds the powerful (not just the politicians… the corruption of NZ includes Judges including Boshier, the police, anyone involved in the maori claims industry, anyone involved in the “bad men” industry, the spy agency that are employed only to cover up government scandals… and many other groups in NZ) to task. The second option is to leave. Seriously. Just leave. I did. The best thing any Kiwi can do. Leave the bullies in NZ to cannibalise each other. There truly is a better life in Australia, where the people are much friendlier than Kiwis, are far more generous than Kiwis (turn up to Australia with only a shirt on your back and the locals will give you clothes, bed, bedding, furniture, toys for your kids etc. In NZ, the bullies do not want you to own such finery!

    So, the downtrodden Kiwis. Organise or leave. Those are the only choices you have other than starving on the street (yes, that IS what the NZ government wants. I myself, on the dole, was getting a total of $15 a week. There were no Kiwi charities willing to help me. I had to steal to survive on the dole in 1990… and from what I hear, it is much worse in NZ now). Stop kidding yourselves! NZ is not the best place in the world to live! Kiwis are not the friendliest, most caring and generous people in the world! Quite the opposite in reality! NZ has been eating the lies up for over a generation while living through the opposite reality. Just as long as it is not happening to them personally, the bullies may not turn on them next.

    I wanted to apply for refugee status in Australia when I got here because I feared for my life in NZ. I feared more persecution in NZ. I was told it was better just to enter on a spousal visa as I was married to an Australian (who also never wants to see NZ ever again).

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