John Key is a phenomenally good politician. This is not a compliment in a conventional sense. A politician should aspire to being more than just successful. There ought to be a public benefit arising from their stewardship.
Key is from a long line of brutal National leaders who have damaged New Zealand society. Leaders such as Sid Holland, Rob Muldoon and Jenny Shipley. Muldoon said once that he hoped to leave New Zealand in no worse a state than when he inherited it. If only he had been successful in this.
There is a difference with Key however. He is affable and obviously has a high emotional quotient level. He can make people laugh and knows how to engage at a personal level. This pleasant surface hides a cold ruthless calculating reality. His years in the shark infested waters of Wall Street working for Merrill Lynch have taught him well.
The media are obviously enamoured with him. It is clear that he has been keen to cultivate a relationship with them, free bottles of wine from his vineyard for christmas being an example.
But the media’s role is vital in a democracy. It is up to them to report the news fearlessly and without favour and to ask the tough questions.
The Herald this morning had as its latest headline concerning the Donghua Liu matter “Liu should reveal his evidence, says Key“. It is a positive sounding headline and suggests that he is being magnanimous. The article contains video of an interview during which Key said the following:
So where were the Guyon Espiner tough questions, or the Paddy Gower in your face cross examination? The exchange was incredible. Key was the one to publish the claim that Liu had given Labour Party over $100,000 yet seems completely indifferent to the repercussions. He and Woodhouse had Cunliffe’s letter from so long ago and clearly attempted to set up Cunliffe with the media yet there were no questions about his role or involvement.
As for Key’s gocha statement, I am sorry but where a Minister on an overseas Ministerial trip openly supports her husband’s company, when a minister is found guilty in Court of deliberately filing a false electoral return and when a Minister is immediately sacked for interfering in a police prosecution these are not examples of “gocha politics” they are perfectly legitimate areas for an opposition to investigate further. Members of Parliament, particularly Ministers should be held to the highest standards and this is the job of the opposition.
Key has this habit of stretching the truth virtually to breaking point and looking totally relaxed as he does this. His claim that Cunliffe said he had no involvement with Liu is an example of his stretching the truth to the extreme. Cunliffe has said in the past that he could not recall meeting Liu, and denied that he had advocated for Liu’s residency. There is no proof that Cunliffe has ever met Liu although anything is possible. And the letter did not advocate for Liu’s residency.
And the Liu issue is frustrating in the extreme. There has been for Labour a week of attacks and negative media about a matter where there is still no credible evidence that a donation has been made. And even if a donation was made it is clear that there was no services provided, such as the interference in a police prosecution by a Minister and I am astounded that the media do not reflect on this.
Is politics in New Zealand at such a low level that the Prime Minister can use rumours that lack any verification to attack the opposition without repercussion and the main stream media will fall dutifully in behind to repeat his claims?