Charlie Mitchell in the Dominion Post recently published this very interesting article giving an insight into how John Key’s thinking may have developed over the past seven years. To come up with data on how often Key talked about different subjects the reporter analysed the text of Key’s formal speeches which appear on his website.
It is clear that the subjects he has concentrated on have changed. And what is also clear is that he started off “Labour lite”, talking about the subjects which appealed to voters’ better instincts but he no longer does this.
“Climate change” was initially a subject of considerable interest. In 2005 before he became leader Key declared himself to be somewhat suspicious on whether or not it existed. By 2007 this was all changed with climate change being mentioned 121 times. More recently it appears to have become less important in Key’s thinking. It has been mentioned only three times and on one of those occasions Key said that there were more important issues than climate change.
In 2007 he really enjoyed talking about young people and youth and mentioned then 170 times. Who can forget the trip to Waitangi with young Aroha Nathan an inhabitant of McGehan Close? In a carefully scripted photo shoot and the use of a Ministerial Limo to do the transporting he transported her to Waitangi to show that he really did care about young people. Aroha’s subsequent life experiences suggest that Key’s expressed desire to do something about the “under class” was for political purposes only. Since that time the use of the words “youth” and “young person” has diminished. Last year they were used only 37 times, and even the phrase “flag” was used more.
Other subjects such as “schools”, “farming”, “wages” and “crime” have plummeted in their use. But “China” has spiked. “Poverty” is rarely used and only to deny that it exists.
As Mitchell notes the most used phrase in all of his speeches is “New Zealand”. It has been used more than 3,500 times or about 23 times each speech. What is that saying about how patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel?