Today, all the Herald’s political commentators talk about Key’s decision to come back from his Middle East trip after the ANZAC Day helicopter crash. The Sprout’s already cited approvingly the criticism of John Langley, a businessman who was on the tour of the Gulf Co-operation Council countries ahead of the FTA signing. Langley said that Key should have put trade interests ahead of being in New Zealand for the funerals.
My immediate impression was that it said more about the values of New Zealand’s capitalist class than anything else. There is a normal expectation that the Prime Minister will fulfill a leadership role after a national disaster – and the mostly deadly incident involving Defence personnel in years if not decades occurring on ANZAC Day is definitely on of those. As tempting as if may be to jump on with any and all criticism of an awful Prime Minister, I know that I would have been damning of Key if he had chosen to remain on a trade mission rather than come back, and one can’t have these things both ways.
But my opinion is reversed by the revelation that Key’s return to New Zealand meant Tim Groser had to stay on to head the trade delegation despite the death of his mother. If returning for the airmen’s funerals was a right and human thing to do then surely letting Groser be there for his own mother’s funeral would have been even more so. Someone had to stay to stay to lead the delegation. I think it would have been far better for Groser to be allowed to come home and Key stay with the delegation. Fran O’Sullivan pointedly makes a similar argument:
“We don’t know whether Key’s PR advisers even considered whether in all the circumstances it might have been best to send Trade Minister Tim Groser back to NZ (his mother died during the mission) and deputy Acting Prime Minister Bill English to front in his place at the dead airmen’s service.”
I know there would have been disappointment at the PM’s absence from the airmen’s funerals but I think Kiwis would have thought it more appropriate for Key to remain in the Gulf so Groser could have been with his family.