An interesting contrast

February 7th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Good to see the media are backpedalling on the Waitangi Pub crawl in London story and giving more balance such as the Police actually praising the event and its organisers.

In the latest story at Stuff, they have comments from both and . And if I was a lecturer in political communications, I would get my students to analyse this story. I think it is a good insight into how the way you say things can impact how you are perceived.

First what Goff said:

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said nobody minded people having a good time but vomiting and defecating in public didn’t do much for New Zealand’s reputation in Europe.

“I’ve no problem if they’re crazy enough to take their shirts off and do a haka in the middle of the snow in London in February, fine.

“But I know that when I was living in London and you saw people on the tube that were vomiting and urinating you took offence at that.”

People at home wouldn’t like it is a group of English people behaved similarly here, he said. 

“By all means go have a good time but when it comes to behaving offensively in a public place, it’s not on for people to be damaging our reputation by behaving in our way.”

Goff comes across as automatically accepting there was really bad behaviour, twice goes on about vomiting, defecating and urinating and says we wouldn’t like people doing it here. Overall comes over as a bit of a killjoy.

Prime Minister John Key said he was not surprised New Zealanders in London took part in a rowdy Waitangi Day pub crawl, saying “celebrating is part of what they do” in the British capital.

“On one level it’s great people all over the world are celebrating Waitangi Day. We would hope they would not get out of control.”

Reports of bad behaviour should not be “over-egged”, he said.

“New Zealanders are well known for having a pretty good time when they are out in London. I’d encourage them to have good behaviour where they can.

Key admitted he too celebrated Waitangi Day when he lived in London by “having a couple of beers”.

“I kept my shirt on though.”

While in one sense Key and Goff are saying the same thing (have fun but do not go overboard), Key comes over far more positive (and dare I say it relaxed) and less killjoyish.

Now you might say who cares. But how the public perceive politicians does impact how they vote. They like politicians whom they can relate to, and whom they are “normal”.

The most powerful political image of last year, was (ironically) shown the day after the election, of John Key in bare feet outside his front door picking up the pizzas, as they wait for results. It was on the front page of one of the Sunday papers, and was an incredibly powerful image. It said four things to people:

  • The Prime Minister relaxes in shorts and bare feet at home – just like most Kiwis do. Not in a suit.
  • The Prime Minister orders pizza, just like many families do
  • The PM actually goes out and pays/signs for it himself rather than sending someone else out
  • Despite it being the day which might evict him from office, he is relaxing at home with his kids, eating pizza

Of course such stuff is not the only thing that impacts politics. Policies and performance do also. But the contrast between how Goff and Key came across, despite trying to say the same thing I thought was a good lesson in communications – how to do it, and how not to do it.

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16 Responses to “An interesting contrast”

  1. flipper (4,050 comments) says:

    Yes, David.
    Excellent analysis.
    Friends in the UK, Aus and the US could not believe the PM and Pizza pix.

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  2. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    DPF. Can you link to the source? Goff doesn’t say ‘defecating’ at all in the quotes you’ve posted.

    [DPF: Done]

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  3. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Who the hell is this “Phil Goff”?

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  4. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    More to the point Murray, who the hell is leading the Labour party?

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  5. Ryan Sproull (7,109 comments) says:

    Wait a minute. I relax, take my shoes off at home, order pizza (and pay for it myself!) and spend time with my family.

    Man! John Key is like my twin or something!!!!!11

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  6. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Very insightful piece. With John Key it has always been what you see is what you get – no silly walks, dyed hair, airbrushed photos or elocution lessons (though some object to his distinctly NZild accent).
    The shallowness of our political commentators is shown that after lambasting him for smiling (what a heinous crime!) they now think he has got too serious.

    We are still waiting to find out how his Labour handlers are going to package Dithery Dave.

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  7. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Oh come on Rightnow be fair, no one has been leading Labour for several years, why start now?

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  8. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    True Murray. I should probably also stop using the oxymoron “Labour party”.

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  9. Ryan Sproull (7,109 comments) says:

    With John Key it has always been what you see is what you get – no silly walks

    Um…

    http://wa2.www.3news.co.nz/Portals/0-Articles/197051/johnkeystruts.gif;pve093fce2057904c3

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  10. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    True rightnow, they don’t and it isn’t.

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  11. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    John Key has been a very successful banker who knows how to run a business. He runs NZ as if it were NZ Ltd. He is the Chairman and very relaxed in his position. He does what is right but also has a great political instinct for what is possible.
    All the Labour wanna-be’s are not in his league.

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  12. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    Um…

    Ah Ryan, you do realise that is not Key reinventing himself right? He was playing up for the camera..

    Unlike Mr Goff’s rendition of the bow legged woman on the other hand….

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  13. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Sorry Ryan. I do draw a distinction between hamming it up for a good cause and adopting a strut to try to look like a real man like Phil.

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  14. TM (99 comments) says:

    Vomiting and urinating (not so much defecating) are very much part of the Waitangi Day pub crawl. And it’s not unusual to find English backpackers doing the same here.

    And in my younger days in London if I was caught carrying out such antisocial behaviour I would just say I was australian.

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  15. RandySavage (222 comments) says:

    paid advertisement

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  16. backster (2,171 comments) says:

    Has Goof been re-elected Leader.

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