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Temper, temper

Written By: - Date published: 8:11 am, April 8th, 2013 - 38 comments
Categories: john key, Media - Tags:

Key’s ‘knucklehead’ outburst has been interpreted by the more sycophantic parts of the press as a clever ‘wedging’ of the media from the public. The supposed logic, which a few journos surprisingly buy, is that the media is much less popular than him, so attacking the media when he is criticised is a vote winner (or at least voter retainer). Nah.

If you actually look at Key’s history of dealing with the media, he has sucked up to them long and hard. Going out drinking with them, giving them wine, lots of goofy photo-ops for nice easy stories, and junket after junket after junket overseas. It’s a strategy of getting good coverage by giving the journos – who are only human – warm associations with him (which is exactly why some journos refused his wine to avoid being compromised, while others ran excited stories about it). And you would have to say it’s worked.

Problem is, Key himself is starting to break with the strategy as the job wears him down. That leads to outbursts and, no, the image of an angry, bitter PM doesn’t play well.

The first time Key went against the consistent media strategy that his team had run for five years was at the famous cup of tea with Banks. The event itself was a classic example of the strategy as it’s meant to be played – a nice photo-op but also a chance to give the media the feeling of being up close and personal with the kind of talks that usually happen behind closed doors. But it all went sour when the tape’s existence came out. Key went nuclear, because he knew he had said some pretty ‘frank’ things. His over-reaction led to weeks of negative media coverage for him, the jaw-dropping sight of police raiding media outlets during an election campaign (by god, I still can’t believe any self-respecting journo acquiesced to that), and the reanimation of Winston Peters. Some media at the time reckoned it was Key’s plan to – nah, it was Key’s temper with later spin from his media people that is a planned.

Why would a guy cruising to victory purposely pick such a high risk action as a war with the media two weeks from the election? That kind of play only works for underdogs and only attracts a small segment of the population (a la Peters). It happened because Key panicked at the existence of the tape and then reacted angrily because he believes that he shouldn’t be accountable for his actions.

Same with the Fletcher appointment. He lied about his involvement. We all know that. He was asked what role he played in the appointment of Fletcher and denied he had any when he was actually the person who called up Fletcher to tell him to apply after rejecting the other candidates.

Once he was caught out, Key’s argument shifted. Now, he said he had forgotten that he had called Fletcher but that in calling him he had done nothing out of the ordinary (rather than doing nothing, as he claimed previously). Journalists saw that shift and the contradiction it holds and asked about it. Key lost his temper again, calling them knuckleheads on RadioLive and saying that they couldn’t ask him surprise questions any more at stand-ups (and then having a long moan about how long his working days are – have you ever heard any PM moan about their work hours before? Ever heard anyone moan about the hours they work for $400,000 a year, in a job that they begged for, which happens to be the most powerful job in the country?).

Smart politics, nah? The Fletcher story is beltway and was dying. Now, it’s a story of the journalists’ right to ask questions on the public’s behalf of our Prime Minister. That’s a far more visceral attack on the journos than even the police raids on their offices were – and it strikes the gallery journos direct. No-one worth their salt is going to take that laying down, especially not when Key’s given them the perfect opportunity to frame themselves as the people’s eyes and ears.

Key has gone and picked himself a wide and unpredictable fight when what he had was a wee scandal with the stink of impropriety.

It wasn’t strategy, it was Key losing his temper after getting caught out.

These out of control outbursts from Key seem to be coming more regularly as the polls tighten and he comes in for more scrutiny on his awful, shitty record of running the country. And that could throw up some fun come the pressure of the next election campaign.


38 comments on “Temper, temper”

  1. BM 1

    The media is grossly unpopular.
    If you ran one of those “Who’s the most trust worthy polls”, reporters would be below or on par with politicians and we all know what the public think of politicians.

    Sad thing though is, I don’t think the media gives a shit.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      “If you ran one of those “Who’s the most trust worthy polls”, reporters would be below or on par with politicians and we all know what the public think of politicians.”

      ooh look, we haz dataz:


      Journo’s are indeed way down near the bottom of the list. Sadly, polioticans don’t make the list at all.

      however, we can look at individuals and see how they rate, and see if there’s a pattern regarding journos and politicians:



    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 1.2

      90 – John Key, current Prime Minister
      91 – Paul Holmes, broadcaster
      92 – Paul Henry, journalist, radio and TV presenter
      93 – Jim Anderton, Progressive Party leader
      94 – Bill English, Deputy Prime Minister
      95 – Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs
      96 – Phil Goff, Labour Party leader
      97 – Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader
      98 – Winston Peters, New Zealand First leader
      99 – Rodney Hide, Minister of Local Government
      100 – Hone Harawira, Mana Party politician and former Member for Te Tai Tokerau

      Source – a Stuff poll

      Out of the bottom eleven, two are “journalists” (well, Paul Henry is scum, but leaving that aside), nine are politicians.

      • Pascal's bookie 1.2.1

        That’s pretty consistent with the reader’s digest one. Science for the win. #Facts

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead

          I note that John Campbell (50) is trusted more than John Key (70). 🙂

          • BM

            John Campbell, you either love him or hate him, so I’d expect him to rate quite high in a list
            Personally I’ve never watched an episode, don’t like his style, last thing I want to do is sit down at night and be annoyed.

            • Te Reo Putake

              If you’ve never watched an Ep, how do you know his style and how do you know you are going to be annoyed?

              • BM

                Good point.
                What I should have written is that I’ve never watched a whole show, tried a couple of times but couldn’t make it past the 10 minutes mark, the guy is such a tool.

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  A tool who’s seen as considerably more trustworthy that your lying Prime Minister. Not that that’s a big hurdle to get over.

            • felix

              “John Campbell, you either love him or hate him, so I’d expect him to rate quite high in a list”

              Or quite low, presumably.

              Batting two for two in the meaningless bullshit cup this morning, BM.

              • Tim

                Do any of youse fellas know (in both the RD and Stuff polls) whether respondents were asked to rank people from a list of candidates provided, OR whether they ranked people without the prompting of names provided?

                • felix

                  Not sure. How does it work in elections?

                  • Tim

                    I was just curious Felix – I take your point – simply though that if I was asked to rank some of the people on such a list that are sportsmen or journalists, I wouldn’t necessarily have a clue. I might be tempted to give Susan Devoy (say) a slot based on her sporting achievements and media generated public profile rather than the fact that she’s actually a self-serving #$%^& @#$%^&*!

                    • felix

                      Never been sure why sporting achievements inspire trust.

                      Admiration, sure, but trust? Why?

                      I wonder how many people answer these trust surveys as if they were “who do you like” surveys.

                • Te Reo Putake

                  I had a quick look at the RD site, Tim, and I can’t find anything that shows the methodology. However, I suspect its likely they ask their readers to nominate a small number of names, rather than take the time to rank a list of a hundred names, many of whom would be unknown to the participants. They break it down into categories, as well, so it may be ‘your 5 most trusted sports stars, politicians, journos etc and ‘most trusted overall’ or some similar arrangement.

  2. geoff 2

    Well said, Eddie. We’ve gotten a good insight into Key’s psychology from these little episodes and it isn’t pretty. He’s obviously not used to criticism and, like a petulant teenager, throws a big sulk when things don’t go his way.

  3. TheContrarian 3

    Who, outside of anyone born in the 1930’s, uses the term ‘knuckleheads’ anyway?

  4. wyndham 4

    Key is starting to show cracks in the carefully managed facade of Mr. Nice, the smiley man that brings you a brighter future. Anyone that doubts this has not watched his unpleasant tactics during the Oral Answer section of parliament.

    His physical appearance, coupled with his loss of cool would indicate to me that he may not last the distance to the next election.

  5. Tim 5

    Eksshhly ….. when I think of Johnnyboy, I keep being reminded of this:


    Same shit, different stink as they say.

    I realise there are those that think Key is a smart (as in ‘intelligent’ operator), whereas I’m more inclined to the view that habit and instinct is a more accurate answer as to what drives the guy and allows people to perceive him as they do.
    ….and!! I realise that sounds bloody arrogant, but when you consider the actual record, the likes of that http://www.nzmediastudies.org.nz/articles/Devadas_Nicholls_NZJMS_13_2_2012.pdf that Mary referred to on the War Talk thread, his desperate attempts to bullshit his way out of the sticky situations he’s gotten himself into (repeatedly), it seems to me that IQ isn’t exactly a strong point.

  6. AW 6

    John Key was the wavey, smiley poster boy positioned to bring National back from the brink of extinction, and it worked. Unfortunately he wasn’t there for his intelligence or statesmanship and has started to believe his own press. Trouble is, National doesn’t have anyone else, so the poster boy has sat there. He constantly opens his mouth without thinking and then after his minders have told him that he’s a bad boy and shouldn’t have said that, tries to back peddle or just refuses to answer. His latest, NZ will go to war on Korea is a perfect example – open your mouth, look like an idiot and then pretend the world is against you when no one will believe that wasn’t actually what you meant to say. He is the worse PM in history. We have rising unemployment, record departures for Australia, widening of the gap between here and Australia and the rich and the poor, corruption increasing, watering down of our right to answers (Charter Schools for example won’t be subject the request under the Information Act even though they’re funded by tax payers money) and the most brain fades in New Zealand’s political history.

  7. ghostrider888 7

    “The best fighter is never angry”
    “He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
    -Lao Tzu

    “Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

    ‘I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”
    -Robert E. Lee, “Marble Man” (combat engineer, acknowledged by both North and South).

    now, what may we deduce about the man who “leads” our nation. hmmmm.

  8. harpooner 8

    Key should really be the U.S Ambassador to NZ not P.M.

  9. RedBaronCv 9

    Is he trying to make a slip up so bad that he can portray it as being ” necessary to resign ” which he wants to do anyway but he dosn’t want his backers to cut him adriff. Self sabotage for a purpose?

  10. Don't worry be happy 10

    Watched the interview in which he volunteered to fight for South Korea (off you go Boyo and good luck to you) and noticed that he’s almost entirely stopped blinking. Has someone been working on those Tranzrail eyes problems he’s had in the past so that now he holds his eyes rigidly open? It’s weird. Spooky. And as big a give away as the darting about eyes were….

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