In naming John Key as politician of the year, and having a little snipe at the left while he does it, John Armstrong has largely missed the left’s point.
It’s the classic political columnist viewpoint – political commentary is treated exactly the same as sporting commentary. A blow-by-blow account of what happened and who won.
But sporting events don’t affect people’s lives. Politics does. A game of rugby, tennis, soccer or cricket is played, enjoyed and has no lasting impact on the general populace’s health, wealth, family, safety, education, employment prospects etc.
So in treating politics as little more than a sport, political commentary does society a disservice. What is more important – reciting John Key’s latest poll numbers, or measuring what impact his government is actually having on New Zealanders?
Armstrong and Key both think that Key’s job is to get high poll numbers. The left think his job is running the country.
Armstrong accuses the left of underestimating John Key, and of being bewildered as to why he is so popular. Not so – even Phil Goff has acknowledged that John Key is an extraordinarily effective politician. He is very good at playing the political game, and the left’s nicknames so quoted by Armstrong – Smile and Wave, Do Nothing Key etc. demonstrate that very point. He’s a fantastic politician. Getting people to like him and vote for him is what he does best. He’s a one-man vote-gathering machine. He’s winning the game.
Armstrong’s game, that is.
To get the real measure of the impact Key’s government is having on New Zealanders, you don’t look to Armstrong, but to his colleague, social issues reporter Simon Collins.
Armstrong’s point is duly noted – if Labour ever want to get back into Government, they have to pick up their political game.
But it’s a matter of the means and the ends. Playing politics is supposed to be the means to the end of getting your legislation passed. It was never meant to be an end in itself.
John Key deserves the award for Politician of the Year. But it’s not quite the honour Armstrong thinks it is.