The Herald editorial:
Busy people in high positions often pay lip service to the principle that their family comes first. John Key has demonstrated that he means it.
His decision to miss the funerals of the two soldiers killed in Afghanistan last Saturday so that he can be in the United States for a sporting event involving his son would have been a difficult one.
A Prime Minister who sends men into danger has an obligation to honour their service and represent the nation’s sympathy to their families when the worst happens. This will be the first time Mr Key has not attended the funeral of a soldier killed on active duty since he took office.
He has spoken to the families of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone and it is to be hoped that in grieving for their sons they are able to understand the importance to him of his.
An under-17 baseball world series in the United States might not sound more important but Max Key is a member of the first team from New Zealand to qualify for it and his father knows what it means to him.
Only a Prime Minister’s family know how much his responsibilities intrude on their life, interrupting times together and disrupting plans they have made.
This time Mr Key knows where he should be. He was a father before he was a Prime Minister and he will be a father afterwards. It is important that he is a father now.
The Herald also has an article on the issue:
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said she could understand the PM’s decision.”I think John Key has made the best decision he can for his family and children and I don’t underestimate the difficulties he had in making that particular decision.”
Political commentator Bryce Edwards called the decision “gutsy”, saying Mr Key had “followed his heart rather than his head”, but believed it could be slightly damaging for him.
“I found it refreshing in a sense that he didn’t feel straitjacketed by the need to go along with what’s expected of being the Prime Minister.”
Also kudos to Turei for her honesty.
Commentator Chris Trotter, who suspected the country was divided on the issue, said Mr Key was a “natural kind of a guy” and would have made a straightforward decision to go ahead with his plans. “I don’t think he’ll lose a hell of a lot of sleep over it.”
Political blogger Paul Buchanan was more scathing, slamming the decision as “a disgrace of the first order. This is a spit in the face of the [NZ Defence Force]. It is a dishonour to the fallen soldiers,” he wrote on his Kiwipolitico blog site.
New Zealanders reacting on social media sites and chat forums had mixed views, some decrying the call as “disgusting” and “despicable”.
Others backed Mr Key. One wrote on the TVNZ website: “Great to see we have a Prime Minister that is father first and foremost. That is his most important job in life and he obviously takes it seriously.”
I suspect reaction to the decision tends to be linked to whether people liked or disliked Key before this issue. However as Metiria Turei showed, that doesn’t apply to everyone. I know that if a Labour PM had a similar choice, I would not bag them for doing the same.