My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet’s the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.
- Dorothy Parker. Sanctuary
A couple months ago John Key went on Campbell Live to defend his GCSB legislation. The issue was getting huge traction, John Campbell was fronting it, and Key gave such a comprehensive performance that the issue all but died as a topic of debate in the mainstream media.
And today one of the up-and-coming superstars of the National Party, Energy Minister Simon Bridges tried to do the same thing, and failed about as badly as I’ve ever seen a Minister fail on national TV. So I went back and watched Key’s interview again to try and spot the difference.
Both Key and Bridges were well prepped with lines and talking points. But Key’s success and Bridges’ failure are, I think, due to them addressing different audiences. Key didn’t go on Campbell Live to talk to John Campbell. Key didn’t care about John Campbell. Key was talking past him, to Campbell’s audience. Bridges, on-the-other-hand, is pissed. He’s there to talk to John Fucking Campbell and put him in his fucking place.
So all the lines are completely different. Key’s comms team has sat down, watched previous episodes of Campbell Live and said, ‘Here’s what John Campbell will say. How do we neutralise that?’ And then they work out responses and then go through the lines with their boss. Bridges has, I suspect, watched the episodes in his office with his comms adviser, stalking around in a rage and shouting at the screen, ‘What about your fucking car John? That flash Mazda at the start of your show? How are you going to drive THAT without oil mined from the Pegasus basin? Make a note of that – I’m gonna ask him that. And now he’s on about Anadarko owning shares in BP. How many shares does John Fucking Campbell own in various companies? What’s his answer to that? Put that down too.’
The result is a Minister who looks like he’s close to tears and about to start throwing punches because someone is talking trash about a Texas-based oil company that was involved in an environmental catastrophe in the US and is about to start drilling down here. Which is hilarious, but not great for the government. I bet political advisers will use these two interviews as comparison studies for years.