A fascinating article by Audrey Young:
He is a little regretful at the latest couple of incidents over the shirt and the Beckham conversation.
“From time to time I might push a little bit too hard and I have got to be a bit more careful.”
But essentially he sees it as the media’s problem, not one that comes between him and the public. He hasn’t changed the way he behaves.
“These stories have always been there from time to time. Actually they are an example of where the media is generally out of sync with the public.
“The public talk colloquially, the public’s grammar’s not perfect. They kid around and I don’t think they overly mark me down for that. They just see me as a normal guy.
“I came in as John Key and I’m going out as John Key. The media or our opponents will try and portray that as being too casual. I don’t agree with that.
“You are not going to change me and if you do, it will look like a fraud, it will be a fraud.”
I’m glad he has said that. I’d hate to see Key become one of those politicians who says nothing at all, because it may offend someone. He has an amazing candour about him, and a great sense of humour. Yes sometimes he gets it wrong, but I see his style as a strength – but more importantly it is who he is.
The defensiveness continues with his challenge to show him an example of where he had been required to be incredibly serious and wasn’t.
“I always am. Frankly, I work 19 hours a day pretty much and six-and-a-half days a week. Within those days is a huge range of things I’m doing, a massive range.”
With 30-odd speeches a week and countless briefings on a huge range of subjects, it was little wonder he did not recall everything that was said.
Labour is trying to portray his style as meaning he is detached or lazy. Simply not the case.
He is referring to the fiasco over the spy agency GCSB which told him in September its surveillance of internet mogul Kim Dotcom in January had been unlawful and how it was unable to give him quick answers in preparation for Question Time about the number of briefings he had had.
“I ended up having to do a bit of bloody forensic analysis myself so I called (GCSB boss Ian Fletcher) in later on and said: ‘look, I just don’t think you guys have served me well. I’ve ended having to do all this work and you guys should be able to provide me with those answers’.
“And I said: ‘you’ve really let me down and you need to go away and think about it’.”
He said that conversation was what caused the GCSB to “rip the place apart” and that is when they found a note about a briefing he had had in February.
So it was Key’s ripping the GCSB a new arsehole, that led to them finding the powerpoint presentation.
Key’s relaxed character translates to his leadership style as Prime Minister – it is not hands-on in the way that characterised his predecessor, Helen Clark.
He is said to give his ministers a lot of freedom and is very relaxed with them, right up to the time he needs to be ruthless, as one insider put it.
Like a soft parent, he doesn’t do a lot of reprimanding of ministers, so that when it does happen, it carries a lot of force.
I’ve heard from MPs and Ministers what it is like, when the Prime Minister is not happy with you. You don’t want a repeat experience.
Key is emphatic that he will fight the 2014 election, dismissing claims by commentators that he has somehow lost his mojo. But that doesn’t stop him talking about legacies.
“I want to leave New Zealand in better shape than I found it. I know the job of Prime Minister is not forever and I’m going to do the best I can every day to make that difference.
There is no question he will contest 2014. I wouldn’t guarantee 2017 if he wins in 2014 – and that isn’t a bad thing. Eight years would be a reasonably good tenure.
So if he got hit by a bus this afternoon, who would replace him?
“I had historically always thought it would be Simon Power, but he obviously left.”
He agrees that Bill English, Steven Joyce and Judith Collins would put up their hands – “at least”.
And this is what I like about Key. What other Prime Minister would openly agree about possible contenders to replace him? Almost all other occupants of that office would say something along the lines of “I don’t speculate on hypotheticals” or “It won’t be my decision” or “It is unhelpful for me to talk on this issue”.
But he reserves his highest praise for Greens co-leader Russel Norman, not Labour’s David Shearer.
“If you want my view, the politician of the year will be Russel Norman by quite some margin.
Heh, mischief making – but also true.
Key says there are three types of issues he has to deal with.
The first are those that just happen on your watch, such as the Christchurch earthquake or the application by a Chinese company to buy Crafar farms.
And for all the opposition to the approval, he is convinced Labour would have dealt with Crafar the same way if it happened under its watch.
“Shearer wouldn’t have been putting up a member’s bill to ban overseas sales (or farmland) or putting a flag on a bloody farm.”
The second type of issues are part of the Government’s agenda, such as the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power.
Despite the opposition, National campaigned on it and Key believes National would do itself more damage if it did nothing.
“It’s better to do what you think is right and hopefully (voters) like the prescription. But you can’t be scared of your own shadow.”
The last type of issues are “your own self-inflicted mistakes”.
“Yep, we have a few of those but given the huge number of issues we deal with every day, week after week, month after month, do we get that right more often than we get it wrong?
That’s a useful categorization of the three sort of issues. With respect to the last type, I would make the point that you want greater than a 50/50 “pass” rate. I’m not saying Key is implying 50% is adequate. I agree you will never have no self-inflicted mistakes. The challenge is whether a Minister who makes them learns from their mistakes – or keeps on making them.
A very insightful piece by Audrey Young.