John Key was looking forward to a good old-fashioned stoush in Parliament yesterday. He did not get one. A new year and Labour is experimenting with a new tactic to spike the Prime Minister’s potent verbal guns. That tactic is to simply ignore him when he holds the floor for any length of time.
Heh, they’ve given up!
When it comes to one-upmanship, Key performs best when he is feeding off Opposition insults. He thrives on interruptions and the challenge of winging it with devastating put-downs of his adversaries. Usually being on the end of all that, Labour well knows it.
This is like Labour in the 1970s when Kirk instructed his MPs not to try and engage with Muldoon in the House!
Depriving Key of a crucial audience took some of the sting out of his mixture of barbs and pre-rehearsed jokes at Labour’s expense. Labour could not claim a victory. But the party probably denied Key being able to claim one either.
This was underlined when Cunliffe got to his feet. He is normally an impressive orator in a Parliament sadly short of such creatures.
But not yesterday. His relentlessly negative diatribe on Key’s and National’s perceived faults was too over the top to ring true and failed to answer one pertinent question. If things are going as badly wrong in New Zealand as Cunliffe claims, why are Key and National still so popular?
“You can do better than that, David,” interjected National’s Tau Henare at one point. The backbencher’s critique was one with which it was difficult to quibble.
Not a good start of the year for Labour.