The Dim-Post

February 17, 2011

Notes towards a Special Theory of John Key

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 10:04 am

One of the great gaps in New Zealand politics is the discrepancy between the general public’s view of John Key – as a decent, likeable, down-to-earth guy – and the Labour Party’s conception of John Key as a simultaneously incompetent buffoon and evil plutocrat. One of the reasons Labour struggles as an opposition is that they keep trying to sell us this vision that the rest of the country simply cannot believe. Almost every time we see Key he’s the exact opposite of the person Labour tells us he is.

Unless you watch question time in Parliament.

Key’s performance in Parliament is very different from the Key we see on public display. In this environment the Prime Minister is, basically, a sneering jerk who doesn’t seem to know anything about what his Ministers are doing, or care very much about the impact of his government’s policies, a great example being his statement yesterday that beneficiaries are people who made a ‘lifestyle choice’, a choice that seems heavily influenced by the record surge in unemployment that’s happened under Key’s government – yet another dire economic indicator that Question Time Key couldn’t really give a shit about.

This is how the Labour Party primarily experiences the Prime Minister – so their impression of him isn’t that delusional. The problem is (a) Question Time is an artificially adversarial, theatrical environment in which everyone involved looks far worse than they really are (I hope), and (b) the opposition are almost the only people in the country who pay attention to what happens in it. They’re like the children in a horror movie who know their neighbour is a vampire but can’t convince anyone else because it’s simply not believable.

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34 Comments »

  1. Maybe when unemployment in Tawa reaches 20% the cookie will crumble.

    Comment by George D — February 17, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  2. “They’re like the children in a horror movie who know their neighbour is a vampire but can’t convince anyone else because it’s simply not believable”

    This is a very funny line and so true – that sneering/grin thing is an uncomfortable defense mechansism – Key has never been entirely at ease face to face in the house

    Comment by k.jones — February 17, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  3. Love the vampire ref.
    But the Twilight fans would see that in a good way

    Comment by Roger Parkinson — February 17, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  4. I do note Your Views comments are running about 5/1 against John Key’s comments on people needing foodbanks at the moment. Has to be a record.

    Comment by George D — February 17, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  5. It would be intriguing to see how Key operates in the day-to-day out-of-the-public-eye job on the 9th floor. If he’s a sneering, no-detail, archetypal-Tory in the House then it would suggest that’s how he operates “the business” too.
    But that would require a pretty herculean masking effort to maintain the public view that he has. Although perhaps spinning that it is entirely what the day job consists of.

    Comment by garethw — February 17, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  6. Lately key has started to let the PR mask slip – and what we are seeing is an absolutely bog standard, completely out of touch, arrogant member of the global financial elite. That would be the same global financial elite who have wrecked the world’s economy and still seem completely oblivious to the fact the most of the world’s population are busily erecting gibbets in the plaza outside their skyscraper.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 17, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  7. Although Labour did go down this path during the election, it just looks like a continuation of that.

    It used to be that such childishness as calling Clark “Klark” was confined to a few of the usual unhinged types on Kiwiblog threads. I don’t think that’s what did Clark in and I can’t see how Labour making that sort of behaviour their central campaign stratgey will fair any better.

    But looking at the boorish behaviour on RedAlert it may not be a strategy, it’s just their pesonalities.

    Comment by NeilM — February 17, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  8. There is nothing special about Key’s performances in the house.

    By which I mean: ‘Sneering Jerk’ has been modus operandi for all 120-odd of our elected representatives for more than a decade during question time. They all act like toddlers having a fucking tantrum after being told they’re not allowed cookies for breakfast.

    Special Theory of John Key?
    No, not at all.

    Comment by Phil — February 17, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  9. Alternative and more plausable theory: 1. The opposition is projecting how they would operate. 2. Most members of the public have wider circles of friends and aquaintances than the opposition MPs whcih includes some friends who have done well in a variety of different roles – family, business, sport, academia, others who are part of the great mid section of the bell curve of live. The evil rich meme just doesn’t ring true – especially since rich is defined by the opposition as $60K. 3. The public is not as stupid as so often depicted.

    Comment by WH — February 17, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  10. Ten Myths About Welfare

    http://werewolf.co.nz/2011/02/ten-myths-about-welfare/

    I haven’t gotten to the bottom yet, but this part stood out as being particularly relevant to this topic.

    “How long before the Key government starts singing the praises of ‘alarm clock Kiwis?’ Not long, one imagines. Left to their own devices, low income and middle class voters – squeezed by price rises and job insecurity – might otherwise start to blame the government for the stagnant economy. Far better to channel their resentment against those people who have taken the alleged ‘lifestyle choice’ of being on the dole, or of raising their children alone on the DPB.”

    Comment by Brad — February 17, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  11. It would be intriguing to see how Key operates in the day-to-day out-of-the-public-eye job on the 9th floor

    The people I know who work for him nigh-on worship him, so I think he’s a pretty great boss.

    Comment by danylmc — February 17, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

  12. When you say “they” Danyl I assume you mean all Pollies.

    Comment by leon — February 17, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  13. “The people I know who work for him nigh-on worship him, so I think he’s a pretty great boss.”

    ditto that.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 17, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  14. Helen Clark had the same loyalty and admiration from her staff. Except they were called hacks, sycophants, and a few more R18 epithets.

    Funny, that.

    Comment by sammy — February 17, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  15. My impression of Key in the House is that he is enjoys answering questions much more than asking them, I think for a number of MPs it is the other way round. His style is to counterpunch somewhat a la the first TV debate with HC at the last election. When put under pressure that’s when he can go there and come back at you, and that is what Question time is. He fancied Muldoon when he was young so it’s not surprising he has a bit of that in him.

    Oh and the vampire film for this is Fright Night.

    Comment by Michael — February 17, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  16. I have this theory actually that a lot of the most effective politicians are really good managers. However, I think management skills may be an area that many Parties overlook when promoting MPs up their list and/or giving them training. Instead they focus on more “showy” abilities such as skill at public speaking that are sometimes (although not always) as crucial to getting the job done as hiring and retaining good staff.

    Comment by LucyJH — February 17, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  17. Clark was a micromanager and I know I would have hated working for her. Key appears to have a high-trust low-control leadership style, a far more Gen-X friendly style than Clark’s.

    People who worked for her revered and feared Clark, whereas I get the impression that people who work for Key adore him. Macchiavellians would probably say, for that reason alone, that Key will not last as long as Clark.

    Comment by Philoff — February 17, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  18. Macchiavellians would probably say, for that reason alone, that Key will not last as long as Clark.

    Sure, though Macch probably didn’t take electoral popularity into account when he made that declaration.

    Comment by StephenR — February 17, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  19. @StephenR: True. But adoration is mainly an emotional attachment, whereas reverence is more complex and less fickle.

    Comment by Philoff — February 17, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  20. Love the vampire ref.
    But the Twilight fans would see that in a good way

    Tween’s don’t get to vote.

    Macchiavellians would probably say, for that reason alone, that Key will not last as long as Clark.

    What if Key moves to recently-captured New Plymouth between now and November?

    Comment by Phil — February 17, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  21. Are the folks that work for him highly partisan types for whom the “sneering jerk” would actually be a positive when it comes to dismissing anything to do with the opposition or the people they represent?
    Or are they more standard professional types that happen to be working in the political arena?

    Just trying to understand if the House version of Key or the public version of Key is more accurate as the “real” Key…

    Comment by garethw — February 17, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  22. There is terrible anger in (some) National circles about the fact that Key has not staffed his office with partisan types.

    Comment by danylmc — February 17, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

  23. Right so in that case not only are Labour trying to convince everyone he’s a vampire, they’re actually wrong and he was just kissing a young damsel on the neck. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that episode of The Simpsons

    Comment by garethw — February 17, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  24. From what I hear it is all a little messianic. The whole ‘I know the PM therefore I am cool’ type of mentality. Light on intellect; high on well-suited PR types that love trim soy lattes and practising their radio voices. I am sure they love John Key. He is a product that they have created and the public really likes the product.

    If only they can maintain the facard until November…

    Comment by Tim — February 17, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  25. tim – did you mean “fuktard”?

    Comment by k.jones — February 17, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  26. Not sure how typical it is of Mr Key to play the man and not the ball but I am aware of two recent incidents.

    Firstly commenting on Geoff’s new hair style in Parliament. Secondly, this morning on Morning Report, attempting to comment negatively of Geoff’s ability to understand economics. (I believe Geoff won the argument.)

    If these are rare incidents our leader may be feeling some unaccustomed pressure.

    Comment by Samuel — February 17, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  27. I have an idea of a pr/ billboard campaign that may work to destroy the myth of JK – man of the people. But who do I contact?

    Comment by Paul Edington — February 17, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

  28. K.Jones: he probably meant ‘facade’. And in that context, I’m guessing our Esteemed Leader is starting to sense the barbarians are pulling at the gate. It’s a bit like Detroit’s Big Three in the 1960s, when they had successfully promoted themselves as a slice of the American Dream, when out of the blue came Ralph Nader and his exposé Unsafe At Any Speed..

    Comment by DeepRed — February 17, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  29. Paul E: I’ve been experimenting with some poster ideas myself with Adobe Illustrator. In particular a couple of transport-related ones.

    Comment by DeepRed — February 17, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  30. “…a choice that seems heavily influenced by the record surge in unemployment that’s happened under Key’s government…”

    And of course totally unrelated to the global financial crisis that began under Helen Clark’s government. Clark enjoyed low unemployment because the developed world did, Key is experiencing rising unemployment but this country is hardly alone in that – rather obviously.

    Comment by radar — February 18, 2011 @ 9:15 am

  31. Key is doing nothing different to what any government does, and what the last Labour government did effectively for two terms. Draw a line through society and say “you are either with us or against us”. The art is whether you draw the line in the right place. Clarke eventually miscalculated.

    Actually I think she lost the election in the debate when accusing Key of being a wife beater. Up till that point I was in my normal mode – favouring National but not really caring too much either way – after that it was a huge case of WTF? Has she gone insane?. Though I must also confess to thinking “Can’t wait for the newspaper story tomorrow detailing the hushed up conviction Key had for beating his wife”.

    The same pivotal support switching point occurred for Brash when he couldn’t coherently define a mainstream NZ’er.

    Comment by nadis — February 18, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  32. the Prime Minister is, basically, a sneering jerk

    Yes, Dim. His predecessor, Helen Clark & Michael Cullen never engaged in this activity.

    Comment by NX — February 19, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

  33. Helen Clark & Michael Cullen never engaged in this activity.

    Yeah, Cullen’s temperament in the house really undermined his public image as a humble, down-to-earth Kiwi guy.

    Comment by danylmc — February 20, 2011 @ 7:05 am

  34. How about an imitation advert from the Hawaiian ministry of tourism?…..’Hawaii is such a great tourist destination that even NZ’s minister for tourism goes on holiday here’ plus picture of Donkey on a sun lounger!! Please Please – if you don’t do it I will!!

    Comment by Campbell Larsen — February 21, 2011 @ 11:17 pm


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