JOHN KEY seldom ventures into the public realm without a plan. He didn’t make his millions, or get to be New Zealand’s prime minister for eight years, on a whim. Certainly, there was nothing whimsical about his now notorious op-ed contribution to last Sunday’s newspapers. His people were setting that up at least three days prior to its publication. What’s more he was primed and ready when, inevitably, the news media came a-calling. As the famous American trade unionist, Joe Hill, might have said: “This didn’t just happen, this was organised!”
But, organised to what end? That is the key question.
Let’s begin with the op-ed piece itself. Essentially, this offhand effort had only one serious purpose – to supply a few hundred words to wrap around a handful of key phrases: “smug hermit kingdom”, “North Korean option”, “ruling by fear”. These were the super-spreaders of the anti-government virus which Key’s op-ed piece seemed so determined to circulate.
And its target, plainly, was the huge number – well over 400,000 – of National Party voters who defected to Labour in last year’s general election. The voters who rewarded Jacinda Ardern for getting them (and the rest of New Zealand) through the worst (or so they thought!) of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Because, as Key the political strategist understands with crystal clarity, these are the only people who matter to National. Their sheer numbers represent something pretty close to 20 percent of the electorate. Win them back and National instantly regains electoral competitiveness. Fail to win them back, and National has no viable pathway to power. Clearly, Key is of the view that the present leader of the National Party either cannot, or will not, grasp this – the central reality of contemporary New Zealand politics – and he intends to do something about it.
Re-reading Key’s op-ed piece, it is hard to avoid the impression that its most arresting phrases and sentences were not included because they made much sense, or possessed the inestimable advantage of being true, but because they had tested well in a focus-group composed of precisely the sort of voters National needs to regain power: well-educated, independent, middle-class women.
One sentence, in particular, caught my eye:
“The only urgency we’ve seen for months is an enthusiasm to lock down our country, lock up our people and lock out our citizens who are overseas.”
This is a superbly constructed piece of political rhetoric – not least on account of Key’s threefold repetition of the word “lock”: lock down, lock up, lock out. But, if these words tested well, then we must conclude that the enthusiasm of those well-educated, independent, middle-class women is beginning to wane. Not to the point of returning to the National fold. Not, at least, while Judith Collins is minding the store. But enough to smile grimly at “smug hermit kingdom” and nod enthusiastically at lock down, lock up and lock out.
How many of these women have a friend or relative overseas who is desperate to get back home – but can’t? How many are beginning to despair of ever seeing Tuscany, or Melbourne, again? How many of them, though still loyal to “Jacinda”, are fast losing faith in her “strategy”? How many of them would go back to National, if only National had something – or someone – worth going back for?
One of the lessons John Key undoubtedly learned on the currency trading-floor was the towering unwisdom of sending good money after bad. The same, of course, applies in politics. There is absolutely no point in fighting with Act over the ideological red-meat so beloved by National’s rural and provincial voters. If David Seymour wants them – then take them! After all, what’s he going to do with them? Enter into a coalition with Labour? The Greens? Te Paati Māori?
Key knows that those well-educated, independent, middle-class women are never going to vote for a party guided by a bunch of Bible-thumping rural red-necks. Better they all go to Seymour and Act, than hang around stinking-up National so badly all the fine ladies decide to stick with Jacinda and her “progressive” policies. As the Chair of a major bank, Key is keenly aware of how far up the corporate food-chain “wokeness” has percolated.
Oh yes, Key’s op-ed intervention was thoroughly planned, but it was also carefully targeted. And not just at Jacinda!
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 1 October 2021.
The problem for Mr Key is the electorate has moved on from when he was last in his "office". A whole new generation of voters are now turning up at the ballot box. 2023 will be the first election where boomers are in a minority. Mr Key can run as many "thoroughly planned and carefully targeted" op-eds as certain factions of the National party may wish, however the response out beyond the exchange is engaged and off the hook.
Here's a classic that makes the call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMeNC1IPUnQ
I'd hazard a guess that this is indeed a case of going after David Seymour. National is a Born to Rule - they're not wanting ACT at 15 or 20% of the vote, while their own sinks below 25%. They want ACT on 5-10%.
I would note though that the media have been pushing the "let's open up" narrative for a while now.
Theres an echo of so many governments who took their countries to war with a feared enemy and became wildly popular for a period. The next stage is war weariness which comes on when the rhetoric and propaganda clash with reality. Key is very aware of this, the question is how long can Jacinda delay the "Come to Jesus" moment?
I think you will find Kat that the response to the current Government is even more off the hook. And it does show a certain type of unease when Clark Gayford is enrolled to attack his comments. One would wonder where his expertise lies apart from driving a ute and making his living by tormenting and then killing fish.
Interesting analysis though I'm not convinced its the religiously inclined that are shuffling over into Act, especially since the caucus itself seems increasingly biblical in their inspiration - rather uncharmingly quantly and antiquetedly (witness Simeon Brown, a fairly serious Christian, taking digs at the 'Greens and their soaked peas'), but I'm sure I'm wrong and there is evidence and other reasoning to suggest I am. Usually its the farmers and the liberal and the neoliberal element who will head over to Act, though granted the last time that party 'ballooned' out in size was in the '90s when National was in government. It looks as though National in opposition opposition creates different dynamics in the interplay between these two parties.
Interesting point too about the boomers now being in the voting minority. National has no appeal to the younger ones whatsoever, its only hope increasingly seems to be finding a Key-like 'messiah' (from inside or outside caucus) when they eventually luck their way back into government, assuming they manage to survive.
Quotes from Post:
"As Key the political strategist understands with crystal clarity, the 400,000+ former National voters who defected to Labour in 2020 are the only people who matter. Their sheer numbers represent something pretty close to 20 percent of the electorate. Win them back and National instantly regains electoral competitiveness. Fail to win them back, and National has no viable pathway to power"
"the huge number – well over 400,000 – of National Party voters who defected to Labour in last year’s general election"
I'd say that's a gross over-estimation, possibly too influenced by Matthew Hooton's recent analyses.
Based on Jack Vowles 2020 Flow-of-the-Vote % stats from Vote Compass ... I've calculated the 2020 Raw Vote flow:
... around 270k people who cast their party-vote for National in 2017 switched to Labour in 2020 ... a long way short of "well over 400,000" (and nowhere near 20% of the electorate) ... although still an absolutely unprecedented swing from one Major Party to another in a single election.
The rest of Labour's 2020 surge in support came courtesy of:
(1) 175k attracted out of Non-Voting (ie they'd stayed home in 2017) ... [again, this is an extraordinary figure]
(2) 72k switching from the Greens ... and ...
(3) 65k deserting NZF
(4) As well as smaller numbers swinging from various other Parties.
[bare in mind that reciprocal swings also occured in the opposite direction in 2020 ... but, with the notable exception of the Greens - these counter-swings away from Labour were vastly smaller]
We have moved on from Helen too but it does not stop her from press time.
Oh they know what they are doing. It's like Christianese, where mega church pastors only have to hit the right words in the right combinations, because nobody actually listens to the sense of what they are saying, it's all about tribalism and a feeling of togetherness. Much the same with the right wing buzzwords. Particularly in the US where religion and the right are often conflated. "Political correctness", "War on Christmas", "cancel culture", "critical race theory".
Incidentally, here is a direct quote from the guy who started this critical race theory moral panic – he knew what he was doing as well. Critical Race Theory contains three words that are anathema to the American right – critical which they don't like because they don't like being criticised, race, which they don't like mention of because it makes them feel guilty, and theory – as in theory of evolution which many of them don't believe in, for as many of them say "It's only a theory".
"to have the public read something crazy and immediately think ‘Critical Race Theory’. We have decodified the term, and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans"
A whole new generation of voters are now turning up at the ballot box. 2023 will be the first election where boomers are in a minority.
As an analogy for the repressive tolerance the left are employing, controlling parents produce pathologies in children. 18 to 24 year old upper middleclass Brits who prefer to go to the same place each year for a holiday or value family over [everything] are more likely to have voted Brexit. That is disposition.
Key's interventions have started a debate, which is healthy. Timing is everything in politics and Key has tapped into the growing sense of alienation felt by people over the government's increasingly aimless COVID response, especially in Auckland. Many of the "team of 5 million", a slick advertising slogan that captured the temporary unity born of panic and fear of the unknown in March 2020, are no longer content to accept without question the daily diktat of Ministers and academic "experts". Key's suggestion this weekend that he would have invited business to play a partnership role in guiding the COVID response contrasts markedly with Ardern's highly centralised and secretive approach to policy formulation. It will remind those who have lost their personal freedoms and possibly their livelihoods to the longest lockdown so far that another more collegial and likely more effective approach might have been possible, as would have befitted a true "team of 5 million".
This is big. She talks about "false balance". That's straight out censorship. E.g Jess-Berentson Shaw says we shouldn't give air-time to Don Brash. In other words Marcuse.
And can we also assume this is how our $55m media operate in not airing the petition to keep the name NZ?
Why is the PM's hubbie listened too by the media? Why does his opinion count more than a lemon or that of Paris Hilton? He is hardly unbiased. I'd rather listen to Kermit the Frog than someone who is no more than Jacinda in drag.
Reply to Anonymous
Jacinda is Gay Clarkford in drag. And your comparison of Ms Hilton to a lemon is most unfair, lemons are useful in many ways.
Post a Comment