Home > People Being People, The Body Politic > Tea, tapes, & tantrums

Tea, tapes, & tantrums

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To re-cup – er, I mean, to re-cap…

Last Friday, (11 November) John Key met ACT’s Epsom candidate, John Banks for their symbolic “cuppa tea” meeting. It was supposed to send a message to Epsom voters, and to the rest of the country.

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A ‘message’ was sent – but not the  one intended.

It’s been one week since the saga of the “Teapot Tapes” began. During that time, the issue has been a tsunami over the election campaign and has had unintended consequences.

The saga has not helped Labour – polls seem to be clear on this point. In fact, the ruckus appears to have hindered Labour’s strategy to imprint itself on the voter’s psyche as a credible alternative to a government led by a popular politician.

Only Winston Peters – who has a knack for “playing” the media like a violinist with a carefully tuned stradivarius – appears to have benefitted. For him, the “Teapot Tapes” has been a blast of ‘oxygen’ to his struggling campaign. Peters succeeded in ‘mining’ the issue as he tapped into an underlying anger and distrust toward John Key, ACT, and their public machinations in Cafe Urban, last week.

There was no way that a politician like Phil Goff could exploit this latent collective anger. This is territory that could only be covered by a populist politician adept at taking this collective anger and focusing it like a surgeon’s laser. This was firmly Winston Peters Country.

And sure enough, the latest Herald-Digipoll had NZ First at 4.9% – a fraction below  the magical 5% MMP thresh-hold.

Thank you, John Key.

As the saga unfolded, people were taking note of  John Key’s actions, reactions, and behaviour.

On Monday, the first ‘crack’ in John Key’s veneer of  “laid back blokeyness” appeared when he laid a complaint with the police. For a man who was insistant that he was “comfortable” with what was on the tapes – calling in the police and mounting an investigation against four media outlets was hardly consistent with some who was “comfortable” and relaxed.

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His walk-out from his own press conference on Wednesday was the second sign that the pressure was getting to him. For John Key – used to high popularity ratings and a compliant media – this was uncharted territory for him. His walk-out on 16 November was a classic “flight or fight” response to someone stressed and unable to cope.

To memory, no other Prime Minister has ever walked out so abruptly in such circumstances.

The “Teapot Tapes” situation has now moved on from whatever machinations were being plotted by the Two Johns. What we are  now witnessing is how a man  –  fighting for a second term as Prime Minister and hopeful leader of our  country – is coping with a situation that he can no longer control.

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It doesn’t look  good for Key.

Even if the polls are correct and National is still rating highly with voters, the image of a distinctly un-comfortable Prime Minister; rattled by run-away events; and immune to his charm, has been witnessed by the public. The mask has fallen away – albeit briefly – and we’ve seen a  three-dimensional man with a short fuse and limited patience. Certainly not the two dimensional caricature, of an ever-smiling figure, seemingly in a perpetual state of grace that we’ve all been familiar with.

We have seen some of the real man behind the facade.

Just as critically, as I wrote in  It’s official: the media honeymoon is over   Key’s cosy relationship with this country’s media has come to an abrupt halt. The media have now identified John Key as Just Another Politician, and this will prove fatal to the “ordinary bloke”  image Key has cultivated these last three years. From this week onward, he will be treated like every other politician.

It’s like we’ve just discovered that our father, who once upon a time could do no wrong and was infallible, is actually just like other people. It’s a bit of a let-down really.

If National is re-elected to government – by no means a certainty any more – then I wonder if  John Key’s media advisors  have prepared him  that the next three years may be rougher than anything he’s experienced thus far. Ironically, even if the economy improves, his relationship with the press will worsen. The media will no longer be quite so accepting of  his care-free, easy-going manner and style of management.

Like Stephen Sackur’s interview with John Key on BBC’s Hard Talk last May, they will be asking harder questions, and less inclined with his classic “ackshully”  fob-offs. If Key thought that the preceeding week was a bitch – he ain’t seen nothing yet.

This time he will be held to account.

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+++ Updated+++ Footnote

ACT’s need for the photo-op between the Two Johns  is hypocrisy in the extreme.

Not too long ago, ACT’s Rodney Hide rejected any idea of Maori Seats on the new Supercity Auckland Council. According to ACT, Maori were expected to wins seats on the Council on merit alone.

Maori Must Earn Auckland Seats On Merit – By Guest Author Denise Cameron

…There are lots of different ethnic groups with representatives in Parliament, on City Councils and as Mayors – who all got there on merit, not as a gift. Let our people do it the same way. Some individual at the Hikoi said that [having Maori representatives on the new Auckland Council] was our right under the Treaty.Let our bright boys and girls EARN their seats, I say…” – Source

Really? Like ACT is trying to win the seat of Epsom on “merit” alone? With a “political subsidy” from National?

Oh dear. Never mind. ACT will be goneburger the day after 26 November…

… which in itself raises new problems for the Left.  Activists from a dead political party have a habit of colonising other parties and becoming factions within.

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Additional Reading

How bad are National’s internals?

What if the unexpected happens?

Will there be election-night fright for the Nats?

Two’s Company

Tea Pot Tapes: Revenge of the Meme

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