Questions over Key’s handling of Tranzrail

Written By: - Date published: 10:53 pm, September 24th, 2008 - 22 comments
Categories: brand key, john key, slippery - Tags:

Where-ever you sit on the spectrum of opinion on Key’s handling on the Tranzrail affair, it appears that the commentators are questioning his ability to handle the pressure (and by extension his ability to handle the PM-ship). From Paul Henry’s vigorous questioning this morning to discussions by commentators later in the day, the common theme appears to be Key’s inability to handle the pressure. For example, what would-be PM would like to read this comment by Gordon Campbell?

“Since Key has now had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the full light of disclosure on these matters, this still has to put a question mark over his fitness for leadership. When for instance, did the National caucus that Key now proposes to lead by example, first find out that their associate transport spokesperson held a large bloc of shares in Tranz Rail ? Did he tell them and if so, when or did he just let them read about it in the newspaper ?

On Radio Live there was an interesting discussion between host Jemma Dempsey and guests John Armstrong and Brian Edwards, which I caught at lunchtime today:

Dempsey: Well, making mistakes is human enough, but it’s not a good look for the leader of the opposition, and for the man hoping to become the next Prime Minister, after all some will say if he can’t manage his share portfolio, how can he manage the country.”

They went on to say:

Armstrong: … As you’ve said, John Key has continued to stumble through media interviews. He had a very torrid session on Breakfast, TVNZ’s breakfast programme this morning with Paul Henry.

Dempsey: How did he cope with that?

Armstrong: Oh, not very well and similar to his appearance on One News on Monday night where he seemed to prevaricate.

And they continue…

Edwards: … I absolutely agree with John, he’s not handling this, ah, this very well. Ah, I think, you know, one of the problems is our advice to our clients, including the Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet, is always very simple, we say be straight-forward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes. What you cannot get away with is lying and certainly can’t get away with lying on television because it shows all over you, you know, it shows in your face.”

Armstrong observes:

Armstrong: …I think the images are so bad that they, they will remember. I mean, one of the things about election campaigns, it’s not just about image, trust and credibility, it’s also about ability to handle pressure, and this really is I think the hidden side…

This will not be the image that National strategists were aiming for when they started the week. But as we know, you can’t plan for the unexpected demands of the PM-ship- you have to be able to handle them alongside everything else….

22 comments on “Questions over Key’s handling of Tranzrail”

  1. jbc 1

    Yes, He has not handled this well at all. When I saw the news on Monday I thought “What a fool…”, before really giving it much thought.

    I’m not sure that there is any way he could have handled this to the satisfaction of all the commentators. Quite a few seem to have suspended their powers of reasoning and joined in the hunt. It’s delicious when it happens to someone like Peters because he just begs for it with his arrogance. On the other hand Key lacks that political instinct that 30-odd years in politics has given Peters and Clark.

    I don’t believe this makes him less trustworthy though. The PM has made some denials over the past years that had most sane people rolling their eyes to a much greater degree than this.

    captcha: “in Judging” spooky

  2. r0b 2

    The PM has made some denials over the past years that had most sane people rolling their eyes to a much greater degree than this.

    It’s not so much the denials that are the issue – Key has admitted his mistake (albeit trying to minimise it as “technical”).

    It is the nature of the “mistake” that is the issue, and the lying about it afterwards.

  3. jbc 3

    It is the nature of the “mistake’ that is the issue, and the lying about it afterwards.
    I beg to differ. I thing Dancer has hit the nail by saying that Key’s handling has been lacking, but the nature of the mistake seems a much weaker point. That’s just my point of view though.

    The guy is seriously wealthy. I don’t believe for a second that he entered politics in NZ to gain an advantage in trading on NZSX. If he wanted to trade shares for personal gain then he would be far better off out of the public eye. I know that for many people being in government is their highest paying job. That’s not the case here.

    He obviously became aware at some point (about 5 years ago) that there was a conflict of interest with his shareholding and his involvement in Parliament. He instructed his broker to quit the shares.

    I don’t find this much of a stretch either. I have a bunch of shares – mostly bought with an agreement to a broker. These are held for investment only. I honestly couldn’t tell how many of each I have without checking my statement. They never enter my mind in my day-to-day business. It is quite possible that I could end up in a perceived conflict of interest situation without my conscious knowledge (eg by working for a competitor of a company in which I have a significant personal interest). It just never enters my mind.

    Key’s error is that he has come across like a schoolboy caught with a forbidden calculator in his maths exam (who later learns of his mistake): he squirms when questioned.

    He does not have the ability to look people in the eye and tell his story in a matter-of fact manner with unwavering gravitas. He’s a greenhorn.

  4. imcheezy 4

    Clearly young johnkey needs to learn to spit and polish up his bullshit. He’ll get though, I’m sure.

  5. John 5

    John Key is looking very stressed and worried these days. He has that same distraught look that George Bush had following the 9/11 attacks. The problem for us all is that Key’s stress is self-inflicted and pales in comparison. My God, imagine Key when he is put under real pressure on an issue of major importance. It is not a pretty thought is it?

  6. monkey boy 6

    yes, it’s just like post 9-11, when about 1500 died in a terrorist attack. Surely John Key will lose the election now? Because he is just like Bush.

  7. Dom 7

    jbc, I think you nailed it. He looks inexperienced (which in fact, he is) and weak (which in fact, he is). None of this is a good look moving forward. And the Nat boffins must be bogging over the prospect of Key vs Clark or Key vs anyone really. He’s looking less and less like a PM every day…

    Key is a creation of spin – he’s a wealthy guy who isn’t that politically savvy or capable so he’s been sold to us as this man of the people type. But when the facade slips you just see the tosser that he really is. He’s another hollow man…

  8. Matthew Pilott 8

    jbc, I think it’s a bit worse than you’ve put it. You see, when questioned, it was obvious that he knew the correct answer all along. During the first clip on TV1, he tried to run with the lie – later on he said “No one asked me”. Well, as it turns out, someone did ask him, and he consciously chose to run with a lie before telling the truth when it was clear he’d been rumbled.

    There’s none of this ‘looking like his hand was in the cookie jar’. It was firmly in there and he got busted for it. That’s what it ‘looked like’, because that’s what happened.

    So we now know his first instinct is to lie, but fess up and act all contrite when he knows he’s been caught. That’s nothing to do with political inexperience.

  9. the sprout 9

    yep, the interview says it all really.
    far from ready for the job.

    still Key’s senior colleagues will be pleased to have a leader they can manipulate so easily.

  10. Quoth the Raven 10

    Chris Trotter seems to think Labour has got more dirt on Key. “And, to make things even worse for the Opposition, my sources tell me that more damaging revelations are pending.” Does anyone know if he’s right? I think it was Paul Henry who asked if he had anything else to tell us and Key looked pretty hesitant in answering, to me.

  11. jbc 11

    I don’t disagree with your take on how he handled it, but I still think it is largely inexperience. Yes he knew more than he let on – and was caught out because he believed that nobody else knew (or cared). In this case he let someone else pick up the script before the story ended and was caught without having practiced his lines. He’s going to need to stage manage these things a lot more carefully in future.

    [Excuse the theatre metaphor – it often seems apt for happenings in NZ politics]

    Dancer noted:
    But as we know, you can’t plan for the unexpected demands of the PM-ship- you have to be able to handle them alongside everything else

    I’d add that Key does not seem to have acclimatised to the adversarial environment of politics. If Key and Clark were criminal lawyers then I’d pick Clark as my defense any day.

  12. Aj 12

    Key’s problem: about 10 seconds, from which he claimed his share numbers varied between 25-50,000 and when he agreed they were 50-100,000
    It is absolutely clear he knew the true number of shares, when he was trying to claim the smaller holdings.

  13. Draco T Bastard 13


    Yes he knew more than he let on – and was caught out because he believed that nobody else knew.

    And he was able to recall the exact figure on the spot without having to consult either a data device or his broker.

    My take on JK is that he knows his financial position 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and down to the cent. There may be some times when his broker buys or sells some shares that he doesn’t know precisely but that would be for no more than a few hours. He would have known what his holding of the Tranzrail shares meant in regards to his position as an MP and spokesman for transport. This is what comes through in his interviews about it now.

  14. randal 14

    he probably bought them on the margin so effectively he got his profit for nothing.

  15. Tim Ellis 15

    Aj, I will be voting National this election, and when I first saw that clip I frankly I felt a sickening thud. It was the stupidest thing I have seen said from a politician I like. By the next day he’d obviously thought about it, realised how stupid it was, reflected on what he should have done, and fronted up and apologised. The media seem to have accepted a trail of events that is very different to the one that the Labour Party initially promoted.

    Politicians make mistakes. If Helen Clark had known what kind of uproar would have come from signing a painting, in retrospect she probably wouldn’t have done it. Did I think it was a big deal? No. If she thought she would get flak for being part of a motorcade travelling at 170kph, do you think she wouldn’t have instructed her driver to drive more slowly? Probably. Those were low-level mistakes that hindsight allows her to see with more clarity about what she should have done.

    John Key’s mistake was of a slightly higher level, but not much higher. He fronted up with the mistake and apologised. That’s the kind of accountability you want in a politician. It’s fair to say that isn’t Helen Clark’s style when she makes mistakes. She may well leave that to her memoirs. I suspect her memoirs will also reveal, in due course, a degree of contrition for knowingly protecting Winston for so long, for not doing more to uphold the standards of accountability towards him that she imposed earlier in her prime ministership towards him, and for hanging her biggest donor out to dry like that.

    Winston will never write a memoir apologising for anything.

  16. Matthew Pilott 16

    Winston will never write a memoir apologising for anything.

    Never has a truer word been ah, typed.

  17. Go The Right 17


    [lprent: Rob – link it. I found that in a couple of seconds.

    Just as a comment – people here are untrusting of unattributed cut and pastes, especially when they come from a source such as this one. It is like using a Whale post as a guide to reality. ]

  18. Felix 18

    “He fronted up with the mistake and apologised”

    However he is yet to apologise for blatantly, deliberately and knowingly lying to us (via Ms Mold) just this week.

    Captcha: coroner $75,000

  19. rave 19

    But Key has told us what happened in the meeting with Rail America yet has he Tim? How would you rank this sin of ommission on your scale of morality?

  20. Go The Right 20

    Iprent the reality is the questions have been asked of the Prime Minister why hide them

    [lprent: Who is hiding? IMO I think you are by doing a copy and paste without linking to the source.

    Link it so people can judge the source as well as the question. Wishart has a well known profile, largely of questionable journalistic practices, and a habit of framing assertions as questions (which is what that looked like). Readers can judge for themselves if you include the source which is what happens when you link.]

  21. Go The Right 21

    Iprent that maybe so in some circumstances however I see he has just been proved correct on the Cops and the Acc saga in Dunedin. More often than not he gets it right.

  22. bill brown 22

    What Rob! – Key’s been implicated with some cops and the ACC in Dunedin? Is that where he got his Tranzrail inside information from?

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