Site Meter

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Finally, Edwards gets it right!

I can understand the public love affair with John Key. People comfortable in their own skin are generally comfortable to be around. And that’s how I’ve felt about the Prime Minister on the one or two occasions I’ve met him.
What is less usual is for politicians to be comfortable, to ‘be themselves’ on television. From time to time I’ve quoted my friend Ian Fraser’s dictum that the key to coming across on the box is to be able to ‘act yourself’. Despite Ian’s enormous experience as a broadcaster and media trainer, I’m not sure I still agree with that particular gem. It’s the ‘acting’ bit I have trouble with. Acting and sincerity really don’t go together.
Critics of Labour leader David Cunliffe regularly accuse him of acting, implying lack of sincerity. I rarely hear the same criticism of John Key. So is John Key more sincere than David Cunliffe? No. John Key is a better actor than David Cunliffe. With endless repetition, the role he is playing – amiable, easy-going, in charge but still just one of us – has become second-nature to him and, in the process, less recognisable for what it is. Actor and real person have merged.  
I suspect that Key may in reality be the most focused and ruthless Prime Minister New Zealand has seen, the total pragmatist. When principle and pragmatism collide, principle invariably gives way. By comparison the oft-derided Rob Muldoon was a naive idealist, his bullying manner obscuring a genuine man of the people, genuinely concerned for the ordinary person. You might not like Muldoon’s principles, but he stuck to them.
As for Key, I ceased to believe in him as a man of integrity when he negotiated the ‘pokies for payola’ arrangement with Sky City, the shonkiest and most socially  irresponsible political deal I can remember in my half century living in this country.
So how does he get away with it? By minimising the significance of anything that might seem to reflect badly on him or his party; by dismissing rather than dealing with criticism.
If you watch Key responding to journalists’ questions on the TV news, you’ll see that he almost never gives a sustained or detailed answer to anything.  Instead he shrugs off the question or criticism as something of little importance. His answers effectively range from ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ to ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. It’ll be fine.’
Good night, sleep tight
Don’t let the (left wing) bugs bite
Wake up bright in the morning light
To do what’s right with all your might.
 This minimisation of the significance of any critique of his government or himself has been remarkably effective in allowing Key to avoid  in-depth discussion of his policies or actions.
According to Judy, men often fail to understand that when a woman is upset or worried she may prefer a ‘there there’ to being offered a solution to her problem.
Perhaps it’s his feminine side coming out, but the Prime Minister seems to have understood the value of soothing the electorate in preference to offering solutions to its problems. And so far it’s worked.
Never mind. There there. There there.


Philip Todd said...

Interesting to read your thoughts on Rob. It seemed fashionable for everyone to turn on him afterwards but few did at the time. I often wonder at how NZ would have turned out if he had of stayed on and Douglas never came to power. At least Rob never got all starry eyed at the theorists and reserve bank right wing rubbish which meant our society slowly unravelled. Whatever we owned and it was a lot has gone. Our electricity supply was chopped into departments with little good reason apart from giving some the opportunity to make millions in salaries. I look back and think it wasnt so bad having a leader passionate about ordinary kiwis.

robertguyton said...

He had his good side. As a young person, I found his bullying persona repellent. That's not to say he didn't care deep down for New Zealanders, just that on a personal level he was sometimes objectionable.

(The post was written by Brian Edwards)

Joe W said...

on a personal level he was sometimes objectionable

According to such diverse sources as John Walker and Dalvanius Prime, the publicly obnoxious Muldoon often turned out to be surprisingly affable in one-to-one situations. As for caring "deep down" for NZers, isn't that a little like both Thatcher and Lange being described as "deeply religious"? PR-speak for "don't ask, don't tell". Whatever personal warmth Muldoon displayed probably sprang from an infantile need to be liked, rather than genuine caring. I think it was Denis Welch who predicted that it wouldn't be long before we began to build the myth of his nice side. Muldoon cynically played sections of society off against one another for his own advantage. He used a sick man, Keith Allen, to prop up his position as leader in his final term. Even the lily-growing that he prattled about in his talkback days was Thea's doing. Lest we forget.

robertguyton said...

I guess.
Curiously enough, I've met a number of men 10 years my senior or so who are genuinely caring Lefties who admire Muldoon still. I was too young to be discerning politically, so saw his behaviour through my parents' eyes (and reactions during news-time).

Philip Todd said...

Bright future for Charter schools tho. Unqualified teachers will be able to instruct on family relationships and how fulfilling sleeping with your sisters can me and through the text books out, the world is flat and this moon stuff is just Hollywood. Yep can see a bright future with lots of six fingered fiddle players waiting for the full moons

robertguyton said...

Charter schools - another step in the privatization agenda that Bill English has been pushing for years and years.
Sneaky. Undemocratic.
That said, I could open a Forest School. It would be wonderful.