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Turning on Key

Written By: - Date published: 10:14 am, November 25th, 2011 - 33 comments
Categories: election 2011, john key, Media - Tags: ,

All the public polls (yes except Horizon) tell us that National should win this election, possibly with an absolute majority. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. But whatever the result it’s been a costly election for Key. After the teapot tape fiasco and the subsequent police raids on media, his political capital with the media (except for die-hard fans) is spent. Consider this rather frank opinion piece by Chris Whitworth at 3 News:

From smiling to silent assassin: National’s media stonewall

Media and politicians can make strange bedfellows. It’s an uneasy and at times abusive relationship that comes under strain from past hurts and differing needs. … 

So when the Prime Minister meets ACT candidate John Banks for a cup of tea, why was there such a media scrum you ask? Because up until then John Key had given media nothing but double-speak about National’s deal with ACT.

In fact, many in the media feel Key and his Cabinet have completely shut up shop ahead of the election, forcing them to jump on what ever scraps they are given.

Radio New Zealand’s head of news Don Rood says Key refused to front for both of their scheduled election debates with Labour leader Phil Goff on Morning Report – despite requesting the interview at the start of the year. .. Mr Rood says even during the year some National MPs have been “hesitant” to appear on the station and have often pulled out. Labour’s campaign spokesperson Grant Robertson suggests the “cold shoulder” from National is intentional.

A quick look at the RNZ website shows a similar gap in policy information provided by National. … The problem could be excused if Radio New Zealand was alone in this, but National’s reluctance to front appears to be industry wide.

TV3’s The Nation issued a press release earlier this month informing viewers that Key refused to appear on the show. It read: “John Key refuses to talk to The Nation so we’ve gone in search of him … follow[ing] the Key campaign and find[ing] that its endless photo opportunities are carefully planned stage shows”.

And so the list keeps growing.

Key has scarcely appeared on TV3’s Campbell Live or TVNZ’s Close Up – bar the standard leaders’ debates – and refused the New Zealand Herald’s request for a one-on-one between him and Phil Goff. I contacted the press secretary for Steven Joyce – National’s election campaign manager – yesterday for explanation but as of yet have not received a reply. …

So who is to blame? Did the media harass Key into a corner until he felt his best defence was just to keep quiet, or is it arrogance from a party who think the election is already won?

I think it’s more sinister.

Key doesn’t respect the media, and wants to have his cake and to eat it too. He wants the media for all his photo-ops and baby-kissing but then stonewalls when asked – repeatedly – for serious debate.

If the polls prove correct and Key does return for a second-term in Government, he would be wise to repair the burnt bridges with New Zealand’s media, because in the words of former US president Bill Clinton:

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

Or tapes by the tonne.

Anyone else get the impression that Key’s second term, if he gets one, won’t be the same free ride as the first?

33 comments on “Turning on Key ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Nat strategy does seem to have been to avoid all serious discussion/interviews at all costs. I suppose if you say nothing you cannot be faulted, but in a democracy surely openness is essential. Democracy must have eternal vigilance but where was the MSM in championing that? A quiet note from Rood and one from TV3 reflects the lack of a champion. Too little. Too late.
    If the Nat machine has treated the population with contempt, then so has the media by their silence!

  2. Roy 2

    I sincerely hope that the media DO stop fawning all over Key. It would be a very welcome change and might change the minds (using the word advisedly) of those who rely on the media to tell them who to like.

    • Tom Gould 2.1

      Here’s a little test for the MSM. Key has plane diverted. Media find out. Extra coating of teflon applied. The test of the MSM will be if they chase this story with the same relentless vigour they chased Clark speeding to the rudgy? Let’s see.

  3. Mango 3

    I thought the “ink by the barrel” quote was actually Mark Twain but it’s true whereever it comes from. Has the media only now reversed it’s massive right wing bias? And will it last? I must admit iv’e been automatically subtracting 10% from national’s poll ratings. The polls have bee decreasing in accuracy for some time now (witness the auckland mayoralty and Hone’s survival against all opinion).

  4. Anne 4

    Anyone hear Matthew Hooton on RNZ this morning? He’s got his knickers in a tortuous state again. This time over a nasty, vicious Labour pamphlet. Talk about pot, kettle black! Has he forgotten the Ex. Brethren pamphlets and his hand in all the nasty off-shoots from that affair? Amnesia is a beautiful thing sometimes.

    I’m sure I heard Mike Williams giggling down the phone-line. 😉

    • Gosman 4.1

      What was wrong with those Brethren pamphlets exactly?

      If you had a problem with them then does that mean that there you also think there is no problem with the Labour party (not a third party) scaremongering with their pamphlets?

    • tc 4.2

      Hooten is simply an extension of the nat PR machine and about as objective as Joyce when it comes to his views. The fact RNZ even ask him on shows where their bread’s buttered so they can look up to Griffin going ‘we did good boss’.

      real public radio would have objective commentators (hardly any exist in NZ) se we get this right/left tennis that does SFA in terms of enlightenment….just what the masters want.

  5. Tom Gould 5

    Time will tell whether the MSM decides to try the ‘fair, balanced and accurate’ approach to political reportage, or decides to revert to their traditional role in a democracy in relation to unbridled all powerful executive government. Going by this morning’s edition of the Herald, nothing much will change after Key’s second coronation on Saturday.

  6. The local national candidates for Dunedin were happy to turn up for our election forums for Otago Access Radio. Michael Woodhouse gave a good showing, and was put his party’s policies squarely in contrast with the others present. Joanne Hayes also fronted for Dunedin South, and gave an excellent view of her politics. In fact, her interview here http://sustainablelens.org/?p=251 at 43:30 sums up her party’s views on sustainability quite nicely.We had a lovely run recording these – we were soft, non confrontational and unthreatening, and I think got a really good response from the candidates, most of whom had no chance of being elected, but were party faithful, and gave a really human face to why they supported their policies.

  7. neo-medievalist 7

    “Much of New Zealand will see a partial solar eclipse on Friday, with Wellington under its main track, space agency Nasa says.

    Many traditions have long held solar eclipses represent a bad omen for rulers – and Friday is just a night out from the general election.”


    Perhaps if we burn the pollsters in effigy .. then the economic pundits .. then the print media editors .. then political “researchers” .. we might arrive at a consensus where rulers survive at the whim of frequent online popularity polls or mortal combat in Eden Park.

    Your choice ..

    • Treetop 7.1

      Hope the prediction for the solar eclipse comes to fruition.

      The effect of an eclipse can be delayed for a month and this would indicate that there is going to be a dynamic coalition as I think it will take a month for the new government to be assembled.

      Even though it can appear to be problematic having four parties in a coalition, due to there being a deep recession next year I prefer to have a government with many views. A bit like a war cabinet.

    • Lanthanide 7.2

      It’ll be funny if the “miracle upset” does actually happen. I can imagine this would be reported world-wide: eclipse results in electoral defeat for a “dead cert” winner.

      • Treetop 7.2.1

        I did not mention Mercury Retrograde 24 November 2011 – 13 December 2011. Electrical malfunction, (purchases, computers) travel delays, bad for signing any contract as it usually has to be renegotiated.

        Will have to see how accurate the astrology ends up being.

    • ianmac 7.3

      On the News just now. John Key has banned the eclipse and it will now not take place until a rigorous police investigation has been completed.

      • Treetop 7.3.1

        Lol Mercury rules communication and a Mercury Retrograde also has miscommunication. A Mercury Retrograde can kick in a few days before or after the the actual date, this may explain why the High Court decision was what it was. As for the police investigation I predict lots of miscommunication of the actual facts.

  8. Treetop 8

    Not fronting up is contagious under Key’s watch e.g. Marshall re police recruits and the Ombudsman re asset restructuring.

  9. Blue 9

    NZ’s greatest weakness as a democracy is that we have a piss-weak media.

    It has proved over the past three years that it is in no shape to be a proper fourth estate. It can’t hold those in power to account, because Key simply ignores it whenever he chooses and the media have no comeback.

    If he doesn’t want to front up, he doesn’t. If he doesn’t want to answer a question, he won’t.

    There are no adverse consequences for him, the media just sit there and take it and he’s as popular as ever with the voters.

    It’s only when his popularity falls that he will need to be accountable again. And with the media cowed, there is less chance of that happening.

  10. Lanthanide 10

    Isn’t this Bronagh’s job? Or maybe Liz Hurley’s…

  11. Jan 11

    Chris Whitworth’s “many in the media feel Key and his Cabinet have completely shut up shop ahead of the election.” Agree with nearly all the comments above. It’s the media’s inability to ask the hard questions, to dig where they are unanswered and to provide meaningful analysis of the answers that is the cause of significant democratic deficit this electoral cycle. Umm 4th Estate, hold to account, essential element of the political process. Not really!

    Political parties will do what they can to set the media agenda and indeed to take unpalatable things off the agenda if they can. In this respect National have been very successful. However writing like this on behalf of the MSM is to cry crocodile tears.

    As an example a story which is profiled on the front page on Scoop is not visible on the TV3, New Zealand Herald or Stuff news or election pages is the one about the non-released information on asset sales – an OIA made by TVNZ in August and released yesterday. This issue is arguably transformational for the future of the country. Even on TVNZ’s own webpage this story is hidden well down on the elections page. In contrast all four sites have a high profile story on the diversion of the AirNZ plane to New Plymouth – in contrast a piece of trivial flim-flam and all four are still all profiling teacup stories on their news pages.

  12. mike 12

    Agreed Blue. MSM performance at holding Key to account has been a pathetic love-fest. A strong watchdog is crucial in a strong democracy. Instead we have this timid PC pandering with rank ‘we are in the same business, selling illusory perceptions to the public so scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’ overtones. Time and time again when Key is asked an awkward question, he gives a non-answer, and the journo seems to say, “Oh well, I’ve done my job,” and the story dies on the spot. It’s appalling.

    There are creaking signs that some of the culpable journos are starting to wake up to the realization that John Key has them well trained as a branch of his PRopaganda dept, (as in the OP). But it’s too little too late for this election. Well done guys.

    • tc 12.1

      The Oz MSM would’ve had Key on the mat over tranzrail shares and probably gone before the next shonkey issue like further conflicts of interests (uranuim shares, winery etc) and then the outright lies over all sorts of issues like beemers etc.

      The BBC interview showed how it’s done and Beatson cleaned up English with consumate ease over the GST hike. We do have good journo’s they just have pride and values and as such don’t ply the trade where it should be as it’s not wanted or valued by the cowering sorts at mediawonks, recycling rick’s circus or granny etc.

  13. anne 13

    Key and his crowd are now claiming that winston is in the election illegaly anyone know what is going on here?
    Some idiots out there just dont realise the danger key is to our democracy.

  14. anne 14

    Key and his cronies put forward alot of urgent policies,one of them was the policy stopping
    pirated music etc,however a EU court has ruled that internet service providers cannot be required to install a filter that would prevent illegal downloading of files.
    Thats one for the people who share music etc,we shall wait for a test case here,unless key
    buys off the judiciary.

  15. anne 15

    Yes if you go the the Scoop nz it has it there,i seen the headline so i had to find out.

    • ianmac 15.1

      Thanks anne.http://www.scoop.co.nz/

      It links to Farrar who must have hunted for ages to find apparently that a technicality has been breached.
      But that will go down well. Knock off the opposition.
      And it also shows that he/they expect that NZF will win seats. How sad.

  16. ianmac 16

    Farrar’s exclusive has been destroyed as an anti-NZF ploy, by Sprout and Graeme Edgler who have pointed out that Winston is eligible under the Electoral Act and nothing to to with the Incorporated Societies Act 1908.
    They must know that NZF is definitely over the threshold and therefore not a wasted vote to electors.
    (Some rabid Right voter on Kiwiblog wants to now vote NZF just to watch Winston being chucked out. Ha.)

  17. gingercrush 17

    I see parallels with 2002 and Helen Clark. Like Key, Helen Clark was a polarising figure with many on the left undoubtedly warming to her while on the right we sneered at her just as the left sneer at Key. Both went into their first election as government with huge support. Labour was polling over 50% and Helen Clark’s approval ratings were high as well. There is a slight difference in that part of the first year Clark did not get the greatest media. But by 2002 had well and truly turned that around.

    With Helen Clark a combination of factors conspired as they always do in elections that broke that cosy relationship. Corngate was one factor. The silly signature on the picture was another. The media increasingly grew weary of Helen Clark and Labour. The only thing that stopped that coming sooner was that Bill English was even more unpopular and National well had a terrible 2002 election. It really wasn’t till Don Brash grabbed leadership of National that the media really started getting into Labour.

    If National is the government after this election I suspect he’ll get a rather easy ride initially as Labour sorts themselves with who is going to lead their party in the future etc. But there is a difference. Goff has the respect of the media in a way English never had so even if he stays as leader. The relationship between the media and John Key/National is going to be strained.

    Thus, if National are so lucky John Key needs to do some type of mea culpa with the media to get that relationship back someway to what it was. I suspect that is going to be very difficult.

    • ak 17.1

      Well done ginge. After four years of gradually diminishing natapologia and increasing clarity of vision, you’ve finally seen that the media determines our governance. Welcome to our world: we used to call it Democracy.

  18. Rodel 18

    John Armstrong, asked by RNZ Jim Mora what he’ll do on Election night said he’d be working at the Herald for the next days paper…then he’d go down to National Party’s headquarters for the celebrations or commiserations….
    Says it all about our media, doesn’t it?

  19. hoom 19

    I suppose if you say nothing you cannot be faulted, but in a democracy surely openness is essential

    The trick is they have stayed away from the serious media but been all over stuff like Breakfast, Talkback & pop radio so the non-politically interested public frequently sees/hears Key all friendly & engaging in small talk -> ‘Oh media, quit badgering that nice mr Key’.

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