Tom Frewen’s latest column seems to have somehow slipped through the usually rigourous editorial process at the NBR. The sidebar reads: “John Key’s lyrics sound like the gobbledygook of Bushisms”.
“Yeah, I mean look, the truth is, with the greatest respect to Rodney, he doesn’t understand the telecommunications sector very well if he can’t sort of answer some of the questions he’s rolling out,” he [Key] said.
After rubbishing the Act leader’s grip on the subject, Mr Key proceeded to roll out his understanding of the situation.
“For a start off [sic],” he said, “look at Television New Zealand’s digital strategy. Well, that’s going over Freeview, you take Freeview over fibre, that’s what’s been happening all over the world, that’s what you do with, you know, the likes of pay-TV like SKY.”
At this point, if John Key was holding a gun, people would be looking at him sideways and starting to edge away. Freeview and SKY are broadcast through the air from satellite and ground transmitters. Although it’s possible he was thinking of the fibre in the short cable connecting the set-top box to the television set, there’s no knowing what prompted his next blurt.
“Um, in terms of the, you know, the business case,” he continued, “well yes, the business case initially would support some fibre but not a whole, ah, ubiquitous roll out, but that’s what we need to occur from New Zealand’s point of view.”
With George W Bush you at least know what he meant to say. It seems, though, that Mr Key was making an oblique run at answering one of Mr Hide’s questions: why isn’t the private sector investing in better fibre?
“Um, yeah,” Mr Key concluded, “and look at the wider national interest in economic benefits, this is no different from rolling out electricity back in, you know, back 100 years ago or roads back a long time ago.”
Now this is all very well for a chuckle but how hard should we really be on someone who from time to time seems a little linguistically challenged? If anything’s a “personal attack” surely this is?
From time to time we all have moments when sentences don’t come out quite as clearly as they were ‘inside our heads’. I’m beginning to wonder though, and I suspect the media are too, whether the problem is not so much that Key’s mouth isn’t connected to his brain as his brain not being connected to his policy.
If that’s the case then the increased scrutiny is thoroughly warranted. My guess is that inside National there’s a growing concern that Key could be their biggest weakness as well as their biggest strength during what’s likely to be a bruising election campaign.
Clark’s a heavy hitter both in the house and on the campaign trial; a policy lightweight like Key stands to get the stuffing knocked out of him if he puts a foot wrong – having them both in his mouth surely won’t help.
Don’t underestimate Key though – or National’s desperation to finally seize the Treasury benches – rumor has it they’re buying up the best PR talent they can find in an effort to inoculate their great white hype against himself.