The states of John Key – The Salesman

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, July 24th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: john key - Tags:

Third of a series by Guest poster Blue.

An old post of Marty G’s on the Standard says ‘One of the stories from John Key’s days as a currency trader is that he was always more of a salesman than an analyst. He wasn’t good at picking markets and investments; he was good at getting people to trust him with their money.’

The deal-maker is at home in the MMP system, despite the National Party’s ideological aversion to it. Key stitched up his coalition and confidence and supply partners quickly after the election. It surprised many that the Maori Party was included, and the Herald even wrote a worshipful editorial likening Key’s actions to those of God as it pondered if this was a new era for Maori politics.

Not so. The salesman had simply moved in for the kill, with classic negotiating tactics. Give them something they want that you don’t care too much about, and get them to give you something in exchange. Giving away the position of Maori Affairs minister and a few associate positions wasn’t too much of a hardship. Neither was promising to ‘look at’ the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, given that National didn’t like it either (though for different reasons).

In return, Key got the support he needed to pass legislation that the Act Party disagree with such as anything to do with climate change. It neatly avoided him being too beholden to the extreme right-wing demands of Act, which would have tarnished his popularity with the electorate if he gave in too often. Under MMP, it’s often the bills from the minor parties that cause the most controversy such as the ‘anti-smacking’ bill from the Greens in the last Labour government, and the ‘three strikes’ bill for the current Government.

The deal-maker was at his best with the foreshore and seabed issue. Key recognized early on that the Maori Party value style over substance semantics and how the deal is done is of more importance to them than practical outcomes. He put this to good use in instances such as signing up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while inserting a caveat to make it useless in practice. A clever rebranding of Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act, with the term ‘Crown ownership’ replaced by ‘public domain’ and a recognition of the ‘mana’ of Maori over the foreshore and seabed, and a contentious issue that plagued the Labour Party for years was resolved.

Being able to make the backroom deals is a key political skill for any leader, and Key is outstanding at getting what he wants while giving very little away to those he deals with.


Series posts

The states of John Key Quantum uncertainty
The states of John Key The drivers
The states of John Key The Salesman
The states of John Key – Flexible in telling the truth

17 comments on “The states of John Key – The Salesman”

  1. loota 1

    A clever rebranding of Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act, with the term ‘Crown ownership’ replaced by ‘public domain’ and a recognition of the ‘mana’ of Maori over the foreshore and seabed, and a contentious issue that plagued the Labour Party for years was resolved.

    Makes you wonder why Labour couldn’t have pulled this off at the time.

    • BLiP 1.1


    • Ari 1.2

      Labour certainly had a lot of people yelling at them that confiscating land for the crown was a bad way of doing things.

      I think it’s actually reasonably significant as a change because it addresses the concerns about the act without changing its function significantly

  2. Santi 2

    Key is shonkey but it’s about time you get another obsession. This hate affair is getting you and Labour no traction at all.

    • loota 2.1

      Oh Santi, we’re not worried about not getting any traction right today, undermining a shonkey castle wall takes time and effort before it will come crashing down, and we’ve got a year to do it in.

      • luva 2.1.1

        Loota ,you have been doing it for the past 3 years with unbeilivable success. His popularity has only increased with each undermining post. Keep it up.

        One would think left leaning people would be more interested in promoting their own side. Imagine what would happen if as much effort went into telling us what Labour/Greens stand for and how they will change things. I am not sure I have ever read a series like this on Phil Goff or a proper analysis of him, where he comes from and what he wants to do.

        Imagine that….actually knowing what Phil Goff is all about. If his own side spend all their time telling us about Key, who is left to tell us about Goff.

        • Doug

          Phil Goff’s problem is that even Labour supporters don’t want to know him, he is Mr 5% Irrelevant. Labour are waiting to get next year’s Election over with and wait for a TXT from New York then all will be sorted.

    • Fisiani 2.2

      This is the comedy gold channel Santi. Next episode is John Key eats babies.

  3. Galeandra 3

    A very interesting series of analyses,Blue,well done. The reactions of the likes of Santi, Doug and Luva suggests that the posts have got under their skin. They probably know that the teflon is wearing off Key and that the u-turning inaction of the Government is being watched with more attention in the media. While the Nacts will find another term to be a very bumpy ride, I think NZ will be on its knees. Of course, that won’t worry the rich or the trolls.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    I think the biggest problem for Labour is that Key is such a good salesman. Good selling not only involves selling products and services. It also includes selling ideas, getting buy-in from various groups etc. His standing in the polls suggests he is very good at it.

    • TightyRighty 4.1

      It also involves a relationship built on trust for longer term sales relationships. John Key’s standing in the polls also reflects the level of trust new zealand has in him, his beliefs and his ability. Obviously the flipside is that should that trust disappear, John Key will start polling like Phil Goff.

      • loota 4.1.1

        So far Key’s marketing collateral looks good, but we should remember we’ve only just started to test drive the product.

        He is using a classic corporate sales technique – positioning himself to be the guy who fronts the good news about the product package being sold, Brownlee/English/Tolley et al can front everything else.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      There’s the ethics of selling faulty goods though and that’s what Jonkey is doing. We find it so distasteful that we have laws against it.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Those of us who have some depth of experience with these corporate ‘suits’ first hand have seen through the real John Key from the outset. But most people don’t have that direct experience and are not aware of just how very good they are at the ‘high functioning sociopath’ act these people are.

    Key’s career tells us that he had 20 plus years to perfect it; he was so good at it he climbed right to the very top of the banker’s greasy pole with the Federal Reserve. It’s inevitable that such a polished act will have taken in the large majority of ordinary New Zealanders who have little idea of what is being done to them.

    • joe90 5.1

      With first hand experience of a corporate ‘suit’ during the Max Bradford electricity sector reforms, my experience with the ‘high functioning sociopath’;.

      1, Gain entry to all levels, factory floor/decision makers/recreational settings and make empathic noises.

      2, Select group of ‘must have’ decision makers/workers/objectives.

      3, Identify potential ‘troublesome’ decision makers/workers/objectives..

      4, Empower and elevate ‘must have’ /decision makers/workers/objectives.

      5, ‘Must haves’/decision makers tasked with bettering the enterprise.

      6, ‘Must haves’/decision makers target ‘troublesomes’/objectives.

      7 Rinse and repeat until ‘high functioning sociopath’ achieves objectives.

      Result,enterprise bettered, high functioning sociopath’ emerges shit free, moves to new task..

  6. maui 6

    .. in other words, he is nothing but a used car salesman. Don’t be too over-awed.

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