Tory pundits’ tough words on Nats

Written By: - Date published: 2:11 pm, May 22nd, 2010 - 16 comments
Categories: brand key, Economy - Tags: ,

John Armstrong looks at the typical John Key-style punt that lies behind the budget:

“the Budget’s centrepiece package of tax cuts has National betting heavily on the economy continuing its slow recovery and not being hit by another international shock which plunges it back into recession, once more mangling the Government accounts and further delaying a return to surpluses.

That is just the sort of calculated gamble that would be second nature for a former forex dealer like Key.

He has effectively wagered National’s reputation as a responsible fiscal manager on the expectation that there will not be another bout of global financial dysfunction…

The Treasury has warned of “significant uncertainty” as to the economic impact of the tax package. It cautiously assessed that the package might result in growth of less than 1 per cent after seven years – hardly Asian tiger stuff….

It notes the possibility of the euro debt crisis creating further turbulence in international financial markets which could engender another wave of global recession. There are worries about the Chinese economy – now New Zealand’s second-biggest export market.

Were New Zealand to plunge back into recession, the wisdom of tax cuts would come under question even though National’s will supposedly be self-funding.”

Of course, the tax swindle isn’t self-funding anyway, it’s funded by borrowing a billion dollars. But Armstrong is quite right to point out that the global economic recovery is far from certain.

The Dow Jones is down 10% in a month. Oil prices (a key indicator of future demand, and hence economic activity) have nose- dived by 25%. Carry-trade, risky currencies like ours have taken a tumble this week while the USD and gold have risen. These are all classic and very sharp indicators of a flight to quality, a renewed aversion to risk. It means the world markets expect bad times ahead and confidence is drying up.

Meanwhile Tracey Watkins has calmed down after the excitement of seeing the size of her tax cut and is questioning why Key is so afraid of anything but tightly managed media appearances:

Mr Key’s refusal to front the Budget on National Radio the next morning even more mysterious. Given the plaudits, surely the Budget gave him a good news story to tell?

In fact, Mr Key has refused all but three requests to be interviewed by National Radio’s Morning Report so far this year. That must be unheard of among modern-day prime ministers. And it is probably no coincidence that Sean Plunket is one of the most ferocious interviewers in the game today.

So it is less a commentary on the Budget than a further indication of the extent to which media management has increasingly become the byword of Mr Key’s government.

It is no secret that the prime minister’s media team are sound-bite and social-media obsessed. Mr Key’s Facebook following of 20,000 “friends” is roughly the same readership as a small provincial newspaper. But it still merits Mr Key an “events” manager, who even accompanied him on his secret sortie to Afghanistan.

The careful management of Mr Key’s exposure to other forms of media friendly breakfast TV chats and radio talkback slots aside is a worrying trend, however.

So too is the paranoia that pervades his office. Media requests are treated like live grenades. Journalists increasingly bypass the ninth floor altogether. But they are not the only ones who question the ninth floor’s obsession with media management. Increasingly, many Beehive press secretaries are finding it over the top as well.

Fear of damaging the “Key brand” lies at the heart of it, of course.

Beyond ‘Brand Key’ and the promise of tax cuts (note how Key is already promising more) what does National have? Nothing. And Brand Key is tarnished every time the man has to answer hard questions. So he hides from them. Even rightwingers, the principled ones anyway, want accountable government and Watkins is completely right to be worried about the way stage managing their led actor takes precedence over all else with this government

16 comments on “Tory pundits’ tough words on Nats”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    And this is the fundamental problem with Goff. Brand Key is much more palatable to the public, even if it’s not very good for them, while Goff has better substance but not as pleasant an image.

    It’s like McDonald’s vs a good old-timey Sunday Roast.

  2. just saying 2

    I haven’t seen Goff except on TV, or heard him on radio.
    Are you sure the substance actually exists. Have you had personal expreience of him that makes you feel confident of it? I’d really like some good news here. Has he moved on from his rogernomics beliefs, or is the problem that he actually pretty much agrees with NACT bar a few details? I’m not taking the piss here. Who is Phil Goff?

  3. ianmac 3

    Concentrating on Key Lantha; it is a bit odd that he only talks to friendlies??? Of course when caught off script he mumbles and swerves unconvinvingly. A bypasser was asked on radio what did she think about National. She answered “I am not very pleased with National, but, but I still really like John Key.”
    And out of the mouths you have it. John’s affability is an important weapon. But I can only guess how some back-benchers and some Ministers might develop resentments. He utters careless words and leaves the others to clean up. Like that Aussie Minister.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    AS for Key ducking the hard interviewers, look for the Sundays Q+A, where Espiner will be sidelined, and Paul Holmes will do the main interview, more like a slobbering job, as he gushes, and spouts back all the nats talking points as questions. Its all too common, the avoiding the tough questions

  5. Rex Widerstrom 5

    It’s bizarre… sometimes I wake up, switch on the news stations, and forget which country I’m in till one of the commentators uses an actual name, rather than a title. Take this, for instamce…

    [The PM] doesn’t just spin; he uses inaccurate terminology aimed at winning populist support, not on the facts but by pulling the wool over people’s eyes. It is one reason his popularity has waned, as the public cottons on to what he is doing… In the modern media age, the public is becoming cynical about the role of our elected representatives. The public must carry some of the blame for that cynicism for tuning in to infotainment political coverage. The media must carry some of the blame for dumbing down coverage for ratings. But most of all the politicians should be blamed for over-spinning policies. [The PM] is the worst offender.

    Okay that’s in print, but you see what I mean. It’s a commentator on Rudd, who has quickly burned off a vast reservoir of goodwill and seen his popularity ratings plummet to the extent that there’s now open talk of Julia Gillard taking over (though not, of course, before the election later this year and certainly not after either if Rudd happens to win it).

    Certainly the Liberals, who had been written off by the media and were privately accepting they had at least two terms in opposition ahead, are infused with new vigour and Tony Abbott is looking more and more Prime Ministerial.

    Why? Well Rudd has made some mis-steps along the way but any PM would have to some extent. It’s just that he is seen as being insufferably full of himself and full of sh*t.

    Where Key smiles and waves, Rudd unleashes a torrent of meaningless babble. Both avoid direct confrontation with astute interviewers. Rudd has taken to travelling the country dropping in on tiny community newspapers – about the last bit of the media likely to be schmoozed by the honour of meeting the PM without getting to ask him questions.

    From what looked like an unbeatable position and some of the highest approcal ratings ever, Rudd is now being seen as flailing in the water as the sharks smell blood. And the primary reason is his contempt for the Fourth Estate and the public. What was once unthinkable – that he’ll lose the election this year – is now being speculated upon in the MSM and the salons of Canberra.

    Key, it seems, is following a similar path… the only thing that holds me back from predicting a similar fate is the lack of an effective opposition – a problem the Liberals under Abbott seem to have overcome.

    • Was it Tony Abbott who shot himself in the foot this week by stating publicly that what he says can’t be trusted to be true? Very candid….but I do question his apparent willingness to justify misleading-in-the-moment in order to get out of a sticky situation in a debate or interview. Then he claimed the public were in on it and know it when they see it.

      All very bizarre. That will have cost him a few votes.

      I suspect voters will wake up to the fact Key is promising NZ will be made rich by ripping off their kids in retail jobs that pay the minimum wage wage, require them to turn up 20 minutes early and at the end of the shift work almost an hour late….with either end being unpaid. Plus, of course, they must buy the latest products from the store as each new season arrives. Then we have the separate rort of employers using “work trials” to get free labour from teens and others then there isn’t really a job available at all. I know of one store that “trialled” 7 teens on a Sunday setting up the new store…….and didn’t hire anyone. They just wanted free labour to set the store up.

      This is the country National is “building” for us. These are the “opportunities”.

      • Rex Widerstrom 5.1.1

        Was it Tony Abbott who shot himself in the foot this week by stating publicly that what he says can’t be trusted to be true?

        The comment in querstion was:

        Sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks.

        So no, he didn’t out himself as a liar as many of the media are trying to spin it. He merely said that, in terms of policy, only his scripted, official pronouncements should be relied upon as gospel.

        If, OTOH, say someone puts a proposition to him in an interview and he says something like “That sounds like something we could look at adopting” it’s hardly a guarantee that the Liberals will adopt it (or oppose it).

        He was, in fact, being unusually honest (for a politician). He wasn’t talking about deliberate lying but rather sliding past a question with a promise to “look into it” or some such similar meaningless waffle designed to give a politician time to consider it later and (most likely) do nothing.

        At least that’s my reading. Much like Muldoon there’s a lot about Abbott’s policies I don’t like, but I have to confess to a preference for his (relatively) straight talking approach over the waffle of others (particularly the dense version practiced by Rudd).

  6. Irascible 6

    It becomes more obvious that the media managers orchestrated Key’s scuttle and run from the ME Trade mission that was obviously becoming too hard for him to handle. Nothing like beating up an Air Force accident to a “national” (party) tragedy to get a naked PM out of hard scrutiny.
    Rumour has it that more than Langley were not impressed by Key’s scuttle and run tactics.

  7. Olwyn 7

    The MSM at the moment is not interested in Labour, presumably the best career building opportunities lie on the right of the spectrum, and whoever was leading Labour would get few and mostly negative media moments under the current circumstances. However, one should not overlook the fact that Phil Goff is an experienced politician; able to withstand this lack of attention and work hard at the grass-roots level. If Labour were to replace him with its own version of John Key, but without the fawning media support that John Key has enjoyed, that person would be eaten alive in five minutes. In fact the very idea that he should be replaced by someone more charismatic was probably spawned in a right wing PR office, over a bottle of bubbly.

  8. Anne 8

    @ Olwyn
    I’ve been wanting to comment on the same topic but glad I didn’t. You have expressed it so well. In the past fortnight there have been two splendid examples where prominent members of the MSM have proved your point beyond reasonable doubt.

    The first was Paul Holmes on Q&A… excusing Key for returning to NZ to attend the funerals of the Iroquois crash victims rather than stay with the ME trade talks. Fortunately an alert Panel member, David Beatson, pulled him up on it and Holmes’ face was a picture to behold. It was fleeting true, but he did not like it! Not sure whether Beatson will be invited again. 🙂

    The second was Mark Sainsbury interviewing Key on budget night. I had to switch channels because the fawning Sainsbury was just too sickening to watch. As far as I could tell, he didn’t ask one curly question, and he seemed to agree with everything Key said.

    Phil Goff is a professional with many years of government experience. I can only hope that the general public will come to their senses and start to see through the deceptive illusions that have been placed before them.

  9. outofbed 9

    Is this the same Goff that was a Douglas ally and said “the main problem had been in communication, not policy.” about the Douglas reforms.?
    Not the sort of Labour leader I would vote for , and anyway what chance has he got of winning the next election? pretty much 3/5th of fuck all. So we all have to suffer for a further three years because he won’t fall on his sword?
    He will be replaced when Labour lose the next election so why not now, when there is still a fighting chance? Lets face it Labour are taking the piss as an opposition at the moment.
    The sooner he is gone the better IMHO

  10. outofbed 10

    Its too easy to blame the MSM for the position that the left finds itself in , hell i do it all the time
    but for heavens sake the opposition aren’t exactly covering themselves in glory are they?

  11. Zaphod Beeblebrox 11

    Do worry it won’t take long before reality sets in for most people, when they realise their wages haven’t increased for the past three years even though the price of everything keeps going up and up.

    People are greedy. Give them a tax cut and they will show no gratitude (why should you you when its only what you deserve)- what gratitude did Cullen get for his last tax cuts? They will automatically start asking for the next one (already everyone’s asking Key- how much in next years budget). If we don’t get 3% GDP growth next year he’s going to have some tough choices to make- by then we’ll be already borrowing lots to pay for these tax cuts. Raising expectations will be a lareg cross to bear.

    [Zaphod – the name field of your comments has some junk in it that I keep deleting, could you check your name in the box when you compose a comment – ta — r0b]

  12. Badger 12

    Sorry – I don’t know what you’re snarking at Rex.

    The own article you linked says that Kevin Rudd should spin more (simplify his language from his policy speak.)

    I for one found it refreshing to find a politician who doesn’t treat the electorate like a pack of drooling retards. Did you find his big words too confusing?

  13. jcuknz 13

    >>>stage managing their led actor takes precedence <<<
    Typo …. did you mean leed or lead? or is led not a typo … or short for L.E.D. He is a bright spark? 🙂

  14. tc 14

    It’s a sad state of affairs when the PM can fob off the national radio and get a free ride on the national TV network with it’s fawning gaggle of pretend journos.

    This is like Regan who avoided all unfriendly media on his way to a second term…….is this as good as it gets? FFS someone in the msm grow some balls and show some pride in the work….please !

    Beatson is excellent…..he nailed blinglish on stratos months ago and it was effortless….made you realise what a useless lot the rest are and why the nat’s have no fear of the msm…..it’s a toothless tiger these days.

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