Brian Edwards Media

“Tricky versus Shifty” – Coming to your TV soon!

Cunliffe and Key

The phrase ‘presidential-style election campaign’ is bandied about a lot these days. Its intended meaning is that voters are as much or perhaps more influenced by the personality and media image of party leaders as by their parties’ policies.

This was clearly not, or at least less the case in the pre-television era when party leaders  were generally seen in the flesh only at public meetings or very occasionally on cinema newsreels. Parliament was first broadcast in New Zealand on the 25th of March 1936 but offered neither the intimacy nor the capacity for exposure of the television close-up. Radio without pictures is sound without sight. It can be hugely informative but the listener is deprived of a large chunk of helpful non-verbal information.

Keith Holyoake was the first New Zealand Prime Minister of the television age. In 1971 in my book The Public Eye  I wrote of his on-screen performances:

‘The studio Holyoake was everything that an interviewee should not be – evasive, pompous, patronising, overbearing, long-winded, repetitious, pretentious, boring.’

The trouble in part was that no-one had dared to tell him just how awful he was. That changed in 1970 when the recently knighted Prime Minister accepted an invitation to be interviewed by me on his life and times on the popular current affairs programme Gallery. Much against the wishes of his press secretary Arthur Manning, Gallery producer Des Monaghan and I sat Sir Keith down and told him the unvarnished truth about how he came across on the box. Though he still sounded as though he had a marble in his mouth, the outcome was a frank and in places quite moving interview. Unbeknownst to me, my career as a media trainer had begun.

The ability or lack of ability to come across on television would affect every subsequent pretender to the role of New Zealand Prime Minister. It quickly became apparent to me that Kiwis, particularly (but not exclusively) Kiwi males, placed a high premium on perceived strength of character and purpose in their leaders. Sensitivity did not rate high on our political radar. At the extremes we preferred and still prefer the bully to the wimp. And we based our judgement largely on how our party leaders came across on television.  Hence the national thumbs up for Kirk, Muldoon, Lange, Clark and the thumbs down for Marshall, Rowling, Palmer, Moore, Shipley, Goff, Shearer

And yes, there’s more to it than that. Governments are voted out on hugely unpopular policies and voted in on the back of hugely popular policies and irresistible bribes – often one and the same thing. But if a party leader fails to make it on the box, the electoral outcome is rarely, if ever, positive. It’s as if we really believed that the (TV) camera never lies.

So what are we to make of Cunliffe and Key. Neither, it seems to me, appears to convey the sort of strength of character and purpose that you would associate with a Kirk, Muldoon or Clark. Cunliffe is fiercely intelligent, highly articulate and generally handles himself well in television interviews and debates; Key is also highly intelligent, not particularly articulate, but in his recent major interview with John Campbell showed himself to be a skilful debater.

Intelligence, articulacy, skill in argument – these are all measurable, objective criteria. But it’s when you get to matters of character, of how each man comes across, that the picture is less distinct. Cunliffe calls Key ‘shifty’; Key calls Cunliffe ‘tricky’. Both are probably right – they’re politicians after all.

But it’s not the full story. In the world of ‘Who would you most like to have dinner with, go fishing with, share a bach with, play golf with, go on holiday with’ journalism, Key has it over Cunliffe. People think Key is ‘nice’; ‘nice’ is not a word commonly applied to Cunliffe.

‘Nice’ may not cut it in politics, of course. Ask David Shearer. But it’s not a liability either. Not being trusted is an entirely different matter. On our daily Ponsonby/Herne Bay strolls, Judy and I receive both solicited and unsolicited opinions on politics and politicians. One theme is dislike of ‘rich prick’ Key, another is distrust of Cunliffe. When you ask for evidence to justify this distrust, you get: ‘Don’t really know exactly… can’t quite put my finger on it… just something… something about his face maybe.’

In the world of presidential-style election campaigns could the outcome then come down to one candidate being perceived as ‘nice’ (albeit ‘a rich prick’) and the other regarded with suspicion because there was ‘something about his face… maybe.’

Maybe. I have the strongest feeling that this election really isn’t going to be about policies at all, but about personality – the perceived personalities of the two major party leaders. More than any other I can recall in my half century in this country, this election will be won or lost on the box. Shifty John Key versus tricky David Cunliffe.

Personally I wouldn’t trust Key as far as I could throw him, but you knew that already.

Might pop down to the video store and take out the box set of The West Wing. I’m into real-life documentaries.

, , ,

58 Comments:

  1. I’m intrigued,Brian, when you say ” personally, i wouldn’t trust Key as far as I could throw him “…I’ve heard others say that but what is it that you and others don’t trust him to do or not to do ?

    • I cannot speak for Brian, but my own view is that I feel I can see right through him. I went to school with people like him, the popular guy who is friends with everyone, doesn’t really have a strong opinion on anything, but strives to seek attention and will turn on you in an instant if it was any benefit to them. If you watch him in parliament, you will witness his smarmy snide sarcastic self whenever the opposition ask him a straight question. If he is in next term, you will see more of this, “self assurance” that can so easily evolve into arrogance. I for one, can see that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

      • 1.1.1

        I, too, went to school with people like him. They surrounded themselves with sycophants, eager to bask in their reflected glory. Trouble was, they managed to fool the staff and get away with their bullying.
        I hadn’t noticed the similarity with Key until now.

      • 1.1.2

        Well I went to school with people like you Jason, jealous of the more gifted (socially and academically) students. So to make yourself feel better you concoct flaws in that person that you end up believing are true. The problem is that most others do not feel the need to do the same, and so can see people without your prejudiced-fogged glasses.

        Now you are doing the same with John Key. The irony is that in your mind you can see more than most other people (“I for one can see that the emperor etc..”) but sadly you are deluding yourself.

        • 1.1.2.1

          Key has still got you, along with many others, fooled. That’s why there’s a danger he’ll win the election.

        • 1.1.2.2

          That’s not what he said. He didn’t say anything about people who were socially and academically gifted per se, but only those from that set who were both and who in addition demonstrated shallow affect and lack of principle. The latter try to pass themselves off as the former, but they usually don’t fool everyone.

        • amen..

        • 1.1.2.4

          Yeah, and I went to school with people like you Rael…..the very ones McPhee and Northcott are talking about.

        • ” jealous of the more gifted (socially and academically) students. ” Please, John Key thinks of himself as gifted and if you saw that TV interview speaking with JK’s economics teacher, the teacher laughed when he was told what JK had said about himself. JK is a totally self absorbed arrogant non caring prig. A money trader who cost people millions of dollars. He had (Killer) instincts, he was not an academic as such. He learned to CON people, most would call that a “Sociopath , and a nut job”

          I never voted for him and certainly never will. He is NOT my Prime Minister, he is PM to who ever his rich mates are that did vote him in. He doesn’t give a damn about NZ…he is selling our country out and some of you just see that smile, when all the while he is thinking to himself “I am so clever to have pulled the wool over their eyes hahahaha (evil laugh).”

          He is setting NZ up to be taken over, including the TPPA which is in fact an American corporate take over…if you don’t know what that is…..you better start doing your research out of the main stream media….because they sure as hell don’t want to cover it in case “mine Führer Key” gets upset and takes something away from them. WAKE UP NZ.

    • 1.2

      Yes Brian, please, some evidence to justify this mistrust. ;)

    • 1.3

      There’s no evidence that he’s a psychopath. Probably more like this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_dominance_orientation

  2. I look forward to Labour releasing some policy that I can vote for but if future announcements mirror the shambles of the Start Up plan, not to mention including those on 150000 as in need of help, God help Labour.

    So far neither Cunliffe nor the Labour Party have given a convincing reason to change. They may yet, but should first of all try and look as though they all belong to the same party.

    Finally if Mana and KDC get into bed together that should be the death knell for the left. A Labour Greens coalition makes many voters uncomfortable. Throw HH and KDC into the coalition recipe and that should drive thousands of would be Labour voters either into Key’s embrace, or God help us, to WP.

  3. Hi Rob,

    Re Key. Try lying about the “charity” golf match. Key says it’s the National Party (as if he has nothing to do with them) that organizes these “charity events” and that he just turns up. It is simply not credible that a busy man like John Key turns up to spend his valuable time on a charity event and doesn’t bother to ask what the charity is. Seriously. Can you imagine yourself giving time or money to charity and not enquiring about which charity. It turned out the “charity” was the National Party.

    Also why didn’t he release the advice he was given about Judith Collins conflict of interest???

    Interesting enough, my hairdresser who is a Labour voter says she likes John Key, but she knows he tells lies. I have started telling her some truths about DC and she told me she is liking DC more and more.

  4. Deficiencies of David Cunliffe’s campaign include the lack of inner-circle Party evangelists and the absence of a connection with a particular demographic. In contrast, Key’s unerring political instincts have aligned him with two of the largest political forces du jour: The elderly and their children;the Baby-Boomer generation.
    John Key is beloved by the Blue Rinse Brigade and has been unstoppable since he ruled out changes to the eligibility of Super during his tenure as PM.
    Key is shored up by the support of the entire National frat pack,(Brownlee, Joyce, English and Ryall) whom undoubtedly have his back in and out of caucus. Contrast this to Cunliffe who has no convincing backer in the top five of the labour Caucus. He is opposed by a number of proven in Caucus white-anters. Two of the the top five of the labour List, (Jones and Robertson are past or supposed competition and potential replacements as leader.
    Unfortunately Cunliffe has been unable to resonate with any demographic to the same degree as Key and the prior Labour administration’s Helen Clark. The best Cunliffe can currently offer is “More of The Same”.
    Best approach for Cunliffe: Identify with the aspirations of the next generation. This may mean reductions to personal tax rates coupled with shackles on the powers of local Govt. Meaningful pay packets and the ability to buy or construct one’s own home within NZ without some obstructive bureaucrat wanker holding he process up.
    Cunliffe would also be wise to employ Shane Jones as wing man. Jones has the measure of Local Body Government NZ and the ability to appeal to the working class male.

    • “In contrast, Key’s unerring political instincts have aligned him with two of the largest political forces du jour: The elderly and their children; the Baby-Boomer generation…..John Key is beloved by the Blue Rinse Brigade…..”

      Slight over-generalisation – my parents in their 80s belove neither Key nor the Nats – and the oldest Boomers are, of course, now themselves heading into “elderly” territory – those born in 1946 not too far off 70. But I take your point. As a rule, the over-45s favour National over the combined (Lab/Green) Left by a considerable margin, while the under-45s (particularly the under-30s) prefer the Left.

      Take the latest Fairfax Poll, for instance: 18-29 year-olds (Nat 41% / Lab+Green 49%), 30-44 year-olds (Nat 46% / Lab+Green 49%), 45-64 year-olds (Nat 53% / Lab+Green 38%), 65 and over (Nat 56% / Lab+Green 35%).

      But, of course, there’s also long existed a gender divide: latest Fairfax: Male (Nat 54% / Lab+Green 34%), Female (Nat 46% / Lab+Green 49%).

      Having said that, my analysis of monthly poll averages over the 18 months leading up to both the 2008 and 2011 General Elections suggests that the Right Bloc vote is consistently overstated in polls (month after month) by an average of about 4 percentage points, with the Left very SLIGHTLY understated by about 1 point. So, males, the middle-aged and elderly may be just a little more evenly split than recent polls have suggested.

      Among my demographic however (white middle-aged heterosexual males), it would be fair to say that Kimbo (Right-leaning) is far more politically representative than my good self (Left-leaning).

  5. Funnily enough, I’ve never got the impression that Key is highly intelligent. Moderately, sure, but limited to being able to learn things that’ll make him a buck. In other words, just bright enough to be full of self confidence, but nowhere near bright enough to examine all sides of a question, nor to really see that what he thinks is not gospel.

    Cunliffe, on the other hand, does come across as very bright. He has the sort of intelligence that makes him question everything and examine issues critically. Sadly, I think this type of intellect makes most Kiwis very nervous. It’s the sort that advances civilisation, but doesn’t necessarily advance an electoral campaign.

    • There is a reason Hamlet never became king. Maybe Kiwis are nervous of someone who will “question everything” because they know they are not REALLY suited to politics. Academia, the arts or media – yes. The pragmatic kiwi psyche is not beyond critique, but the fact remains our nation works, and our politics is peaceful. That is more than many countries can boast.

      I think it is important that politicians are very sure of their convictions and the big policy issues by the time they are elected. The time for questioning, critically examining, and establishing personal principles and philosophies is beforehand. If not, they are in danger of lurching after every wind of fortune, or subject to capture by any and every pressure group. David Lange strikes me as an example of the former. David Cunliffe is shaping up as a model of the latter.

      • 5.1.1

        That’s just stupid. Our nation works after a fashion, but it is prone to a certain low minded idiocy that manifests itself as anti-intellectualism and enthusiasm for ill-understood fads such as radical free market dogma.

        The politician who most closely matches your criterion is Bush the younger, a man who essentially banished dissenters and rational discourse from his presence because he was utterly sure of his own convictions. His obstinacy was noted by legislators and the press from early on in his presidency, and we all know how that turned out.

        For the record, I don’t think Key is stupid. He’s just appears to lack depth and curiosity, and comes across as a bit of a bore and a boor. For all I know this might be a complicated public pose, but that’s what it looks like. That sort of thing goes down well in New Zealand where people are suspicious of book larnin’, but it’s not good for us in the long term.

    • 5.2

      I don’t believe Key is “highly intelligent” either. He is, as my Old Dad used to say “possessed of a certain low animal cunning”.
      I agree with your assessment of Cunliffe as well.

  6. Ovicula, you may have inadvertently summed up the NZ electorate accurately. Divided pretty well down the middle with from one election to another just enough ‘floaters’ and ‘non voters’ to make the result either very close or a landslide for the left or right. This election will be one or the other.

    Cunliffe has certainly done enough so far to get the right worried. Right leaning MSM commentators are trying to out do themselves in portraying the Labour leader as ‘tricky’ and Key as the affable joke teller PM that we all admire and just what the country needs.

    There is dissension in the MSM ranks though and it should be most entertaining to watch how many commentators change tune as the 20th September draws closer.

    I’m picking a small landslide.

  7. Far too much has been made of this putative TRUST and LIKEABILITY gap between Key and Cunliffe. A lot of the comment over recent weeks (both on the blogosphere and in the MSM) seems to be grounded in a fairly dodgy reading of the February FAIRFAX MEDIA-IPSOS poll.

    Not entirely surprising given Tracy Watkins’ somewhat fanciful analysis. Under the headline ‘Poll: Key most liked, trusted’ – she tells us that the poll reveals Key is “by far our most liked and trusted politician”. And that “the bad news for Mr Cunliffe” is that only Craig, Harawira and Dotcom are more disliked. (Note: She’s wrong – Peters also has a higher dislike % than Cunliffe).

    That’s led various commentators (particularly some of the more extreme Tory-friendly trolls on the blogosphere) to contrast an “amazingly popular” Key with a “roundly hated” Cunliffe.

    It comes as a bit of a surprise, then, to see from the actual poll results that Key is distrusted and disliked by 39% and 37% respectively, while Cunliffe’s corresponding figures are only SLIGHTLY higher: 43% and 45%.

    True, there’s a somewhat greater divide when it comes to the positive: trust and likeability. But even then, we’re only talking 14 percentage points – Key Liked / Trusted by 58-59%, Cunliffe by 45-46%.

  8. In the world of ‘Who would you most like to have dinner with, go fishing with, share a bach with, play golf with, go on holiday with’ journalism.

    The media’s constant repeating of this mantra seems to be to be designed to get National re-elected. They wouldn’t dare openly discuss policy properly as it would quickly become apparent that the Emperor has no clothes.

  9. “People think Key is ‘nice’; ‘nice’ is not a word commonly applied to Cunliffe.”

    Umm, what people?

    “Fun”, yes.

    “Capable” (to those who support him), certainly.

    “Emotionally Intelligent” – even John Tamihere was saying that about Key when he was observing him from across the aisle in Parliament after 2002.

    But I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks Key is deserving of such an insipid description as “nice”. Must be the circles I hang around in.

    And rather than the election coming down to policy or personality, I think it will be about the perception of competence. But than maybe that IS a combination of policy and personality…

    But I am intrigued that those whose political fortunes depend on Key willingly hitch themselves to his star, whereas Cunliffe’s colleagues, with the benefit of daily contact behind the media face were so reluctant to trust him with the job. Maybe they know something that the public is beginning to sense…

  10. A few commentershere want to know why you should not trust John Key, take a few days and work your way through Blip’s list : http://thestandard.org.nz/note-to-media-check-your-facts/#comment-765308

    • Linking to the standard for reasons not to trust Key is the same as linking to whaleoil for reasons not to trust Cunliffe. You’re not going to persuade or dissuade anyone who believes in either man.

      • If you took a second to follow the link, you would see that a commenter has compiled a list of quotes from Key, with each containing an authenticating link. Nothing made up in the manner that you might find on your referred-to site.

  11. BE: “Cunliffe is fiercely intelligent,”

    Many would take issue with that. Exactly, what metric is being used, that would justify the choice of adjective to embellish “intelligent”? The same one, Cunliffe used to overly embellish his CV? I would have thought, ‘Intelligent’ would include a healthy dose of self-awareness; a sense of where you, as a political leader, reside on the continuum of public perception. In that regard, he is not that smart.

    Cunliffe is a ‘Clutcher of Straws’, forever, trying to pluck the popular chord that pleases the public’s ear. He’s a straw man, building his house of cards amongst a backdrop of smoke and mirrors. He is not genuine; his “earnestness” is cloying as it is coy. He leaves me, very cold.

    • While I’m beginning to suspect you are correct, my mangled-metaphor alert when into overdrive when it encountered,

      “Cunliffe is a ‘Clutcher of Straws’, forever, trying to pluck the popular chord that pleases the public’s ear. He’s a straw man, building his house of cards amongst a backdrop of smoke and mirrors”!

      Not that my efforts at communication are exemplars :)

    • Whoa 5 metaphors in one paragraph . I am sure that must be illegal. You can get help for metaphor abuse you know.

    • 11.3

      Cunliffe hasn’t embellished his CV. New Zealanders just don’t know much about elite universities, since we don’t have any. Cunliffe attending the Kennedy School is pretty impressive by world standards. National attempting to say that he was trying to trick people that he’d been to the business school was silly.

      I have friends who went to graduate school at Harvard. It’s pretty hard to get in, especially if you aren’t already coming from another elite institution. I’m at a loss to think of just what professional qualification a politician could have that would be more academically impressive than having a Masters from a graduate school at Harvard. I guess you could say a doctoral degree, but I struggle to see how most doctoral degrees would be useful for anyone wanting to lead a country, given that the doctoral thesis is too specialised to be of use, and the coursework North American doctorates require (making them superior to ours) is essentially the same as the work you have to do to be awarded a professional Masters qualification of the sort that DC has.

  12. David Cunliffe presents as incongruent. His tone, body language and expression do not match his words. Words can be carefully selected but sub-conscious body language, tone and expressions are much more difficult to manage. The observer subconsciously believes the non verbal signals more than the words.

    Regardless of intellect and/or ability, incongruence is fatal for politicians.

    For all his clumsy, corny jokes and sidestepping, John Key presents as congruent while David Cunliffe presents as incongruent.

    One matches – the other doesn’t. It’s really that simple and TV more than any other medium highlights this failing.

    • I suppose what Cunliffe watchers might be experiencing is a form of cognitive dissonance. They can’t reconcile what they’re hearing and seeing.

      • Good point, and Key appears to foster ambivalence rather than cognitive consonance. A cunning strategy designed to induce people not to think.

        • Still blaming the electorate for its collective decisions in 2008 and 2011 I see, Kat.

          Still, I don’t completely disregard your analysis. Your advice, “…the result either very close or a landslide for the left or right. This election will be one or the other” pretty much covered all the bases!

          • I still maintain that elections in NZ are becoming more a test of the collective electorate’s savvy than a test of politicians.

            When the choice is between personality and intelligence and personality wins then the electorate is surely culpable either through participation, just watching or switching off.

            It wouldn’t surprise me if some cheer leader of ambivalence raises the notion of not voting as a solution.

      • Even on radio where we can’t see him, his tone and inflection don’t quite match. It can be almost painful to listen to. Sonic dissonance maybe?

    • Interesting perception George and I agree on first looks Key does seem congruent, except that is his style in the house which can be quite nasty.
      Last year I did training in lie detection using the new micro expressions techniques – well proven – we did Key as an exercise… no not congruent but very very good at covering it up.
      Len Brown was easy by comparison.

      • I did say that both of them “present as” either congruent or incongruent as opposed to factually declaring them as either.

        Problem is that both are judged by “sound bites” or video bites, as the case may be. Few will have watched in any depth and fewer will probably care more than the superficial judgment we all make in the first seconds.

        John Key’s “bites” nasty or otherwise are perceived as clever and justifiable because opposition is about challenging and is perceived as nasty and negative.

        The fact that Len Brown is easy is a matter of record!

  13. This election will be less about the leaders’ personalities “on the box” than it is about how well the economy is performing. It’s hard to see how this government will be removed, when the economy is going gangbusters. Who, in their right mind, would hand over the reins to Labour to manage the running of the economy when their collective business nous would be found wanting at any one of a shopping mall’s Foodcourt outlets? Why would you entrust them to oversee economic growth when they can’t keep their sticky fingers out of the shop’s till? Moreso, when the food they’re serving up is a turn-off.

    “Personally I wouldn’t trust Key as far as I could throw him,…”

    OK. But how is he so different from Helen Clark? The same Helen Clark who wanted to fight her last election on her terms by attempting to ram through the – loathed – Electoral Finance Act? The same person who commissioned Noel Ingram QC to produce a $500K whitewash report on Phillip Field, to give her the excuse to say: “Move along, folks; nothing more to see here”. Helen Clark, who, shamelessly, went out to bribe the students for their vote with the hideously-expensive Student Loans Scheme; of which, we are still paying for. How is her type of behaviour different to that of John Key, turning a blind eye to Hekia Parata’s continuing ineptness because of his perceived political fallout from the Maori voters?

    We all need to appreciate that “Trustworthiness, Principles, Transparency, Integrity” are foreign entities when it comes to the pursuit-and-retention of Political Power. To that end, there isn’t much separating the two. Probably, one is less venal than the other.

    • Economy:

      Labour = 9 years of surpluses

      National = 5, most likely 6, years of deficits

      Pretty simple maths don’t you think Gypsum…….

      • “Our nation works after a fashion, but it is prone to a certain low minded idiocy that manifests itself as anti-intellectualism and enthusiasm for ill-understood fads such as radical free market dogma.”

        Well, Lee, I think your trite and predictable analysis smacks of the elitist snobbery of the chattering classes.

        For example, “The politician who most closely matches your criterion is Bush the younger, a man who essentially banished dissenters and rational discourse from his presence…”

        Actually, I was thinking of primarily (but not exclusively) Muldoon, a man of essentially democratic and pragmatic liberal outlook..whom the ‘clever people’ of this country compared to Pinochet. Like Key (although they have different personalities and outlooks), the experts continually misunderstood the reason for Muldoon’s appeal.

        • 13.1.1.1

          You’ll have to do better than your usual bluster and snark in place of actual argument, and the example you give just makes your initial argument look even worse.

          It’s just a fact that New Zealand is a fairly anti-intellectual country. It’s by no means as bad as Australia in certain respects, but it’s not good for us and it does cause problems.

          “Muldoon, a man of essentially democratic and pragmatic liberal outlook”

          Pfftt… now I know you’re taking the mickey. Sorry. I thought you were a semi-serious commenter. Now I see that you’re just an overly rhetorical troll or a visitor from another solar system.

          • Er, Lee, I’m not the one who labelled the contribution of another as “stupid”. especially when you arguably didn’t counter with much of substantive fact, except a poorly chosen example (Bush II). Partisan bias – yes, as I’m sure even you can discern in your better moments. So kindly stow the comments about “your usual bluster and snark in place of actual argument”.

            Yes, Muldoon was a democrat and pragmatically liberal. Have a look around this site. Even Brian Edwards was surprised to discover, on getting to know Muldoon better in his later years, that he always had a concern for the weak and less well-off. When debating we call that a “fact”, not a preconceived opinion.

            But then perhaps if the intelligentsia of the mid 1970s to mid-1980s had possessed less of a superior attitude at the time, they would have seen what was clearly there for the rest of the yokels in the electorate to discern. Just as the superior attitudes of a few snobs on this thread make them oblivious and/or incredulous regarding Key’s popularity with a majority of their fellow-countrymen. At least markus always backs his arguments up with solid numbers!

            Your attitude reminds me of the fatuous Dr John Hichcliff, the champion of Rowling, who implied the long dark knight of the soul descended when Muldoon took power. In reality, there was not much of policy difference between the two, but Rowling was a painful typically academic over-qualifier in his public statements. Politics 101 – know what you stand for, communicate it well, so the voter knows what you stand for.

            John Key – the politics of aspiration. Curl your lip up at it if you will, Lee – but plenty of Kiwis get it.

            Now, what’s Cunliffe’s message? Greasy wide boys in Italian suits…cronyism…state-funded houses, electricity, and timber? Good luck with that tired 1970s message. And you have the gall to accuse “New Zealand (of being) a fairly anti-intellectual country”!

            Now, that’s what I’m like when I REALLY lean towards snark. But then your intellectual snobbery merited it, IMHO…

            • 13.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, Muldoon, the man who set New Zealanders fighting in the streets with each other, because he calculated it would win him an election, was a man of “pragmatic liberal outlook”. That just screams liberal statesmanship to me.

              It’s not my fault you say silly things.

              As for the rest, I don’t really care if John Key is popular, and I feel no need to pretend that popular opinion necessarily has any merit just because it is popular opinion. If the defence of conservative politics is that they are popular, then it’s not a defence of the ideas on their own merit, just as noting the popularity of binge drinking doesn’t suddenly make it good for people.

              It’s apparently too much to ask in New Zealand (and in many other countries) that policies be debated on their merits. Instead we get a strange dance where media commentators spend more time discussing how the public will react to policies, instead of actually discussing the policies themselves.

              A good takedown of “aspiration” is here:

              http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n07/stefan-collini/blahspeak

              • 13.1.1.1.1.1.1

                Actually, Muldoon stood firm to the principles of standing by his previous election manifesto in 1981. Or is “keeping your promises” only important when they are promises you agree with at the expense of other interest groups?

                And as the crucial rural seats of New Plymouth, Taupo, and Gisborne were only held by a few hundred votes in the 1981, while National likely lost the urban marginal seats of Miramar, Wellington Central and Kapiti BECAUSE of the Springbok tour, talk about “he calculated it would win him an election” is just pure bunkum and justification after the fact. But then like most things regarding Muldoon, people seldom let the facts get in the way of their prejudices.

                “It’s apparently too much to ask in New Zealand (and in many other countries) that policies be debated on their merits”.

                Depends, Lee. To be frank, your easy use of epithets such as “stupid” and “silly” to describe those who take the time to engage with you seems to indicate you are someone unwilling to move outside the realms of your plausibility structure. Either that, or you are just plain supercilious.

                Now, thanks for the time given for your response, but I think you would agree it is best to steer clear on one another as much as possible from now on, as I doubt we can have any worthwhile meeting of the minds.

                • 13.1.1.1.1.1.1.1

                  Its going to be tough trying to justify Keys existence this year Kimbo. You have the vocabulary, use it wisely.

                • 13.1.1.1.1.1.1.2

                  Thanks for the advice, Kat.

                  Yeah, “wide boys” really has me scrambling…

      • Sorry Kat – that was directed at Lee Churchman above.

        Umm, sounds as unfair a comparison as the case made against the 1972-75 Labour government that had the bad luck to strike the first oil shock around the same time as Britain went into Europe, with a resulting massive terms of trade drop.

        Maybe the more “savvy” and “intelligent” voters you are pinning your hopes on would consider that in a small export-dependent nation like ours the captain of the national ship has very little choice about the weather we sail in. What can be judged is how well the squalls are navigated. As Key’s government looks like it will steer us back into surplus a full year earlier than predicted when they took first office just two months after the GFC in 2008, perhaps that might count for them as a ringing endorsement.

        As a left-wing politician once put it: It’s about the economy…

        • Sadly Norm Kirks death had a lot to do with the demise of the Labour govt in 75. Muldoon and National cleverly seized the moment to ramp up fear in the electorate and take the election from Rowling who just could not fill the empty Kirk shoes but was an otherwise intelligent man.

          The captain of this current ‘national’ ship obviously considers throwing bodies overboard as a credible means to lightening the ship and weathering the squalls. The economy is an important factor and I would add the management of the economy for ‘all’ even more important.

  14. It’s not Tricky it’s TricKey, vs Honest you fool where the (&&*( do you get Shifty? Or were you only watching the TricKey tapes?

  15. Brian no surprise to hear you wouldn’t trust Key.

    The bottom line is this. The bottom line is the NZ economy is doing better under National than it has been doing since 1994. Nobody can dispute the figures.

    Labour & the Greens want to keep New Zealanders poor. It is in their political interests to do so as their policies are geared for the poor. Welfare handouts to all. Lets get rid of all the hard working taxpayers and become a bloated pig of an economy like Greece. I once lived in Czechoslovakia and learned first hand the challenges of a “dependent” nation where ideals promoted were not to dissimilar to Russel Norman’s & the hard left’s ideal world. You would go into shops and there were no banana’s, nor fruit only a few random items like salt, vinegar because centrally planned production didn’t meet market demand. No incentive for people to become doctors when they could have similar privileges being unemployed.

    Let’s waste lots of tax payers money on flimisical ideologies that the Greens & Labour’s left are promoting. Once there are no taxpayers left and only beneficiaries, who will pay for your retirement Brian?