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.