McCarten on Key and Goff

Matt McCarten writes:

I attended the Council of Trade Unions biennial conference in Wellington this week. It was the first time in a decade that trade union barons turned up when Labour wasn’t in power. …

Key finished his speech, bravely took questions from the floor and good-humouredly responded to all attacks.

I can’t recall how often PMs Bolger or Shipley addressed the CTU Conference, but it wasn’t that regular and I’m not sure they ever agreed to have an open mike at the end of the speech. And it has become quite a hallmark of Key that he will take questions, even from the most hostile audience. Long may it last.

When one union, aligned strongly with the Labour Party, blamed him for its current pay problems he reminded them he’d been the Prime Minister for a year during a recession whereas Labour had governed for the past nine years when there were surpluses.

Key cheerfully suggested that maybe the blame for their low wages was best directed to the Labour Party. That shut them up.


It was my first opportunity to assess both Key and Goff as presenters and leaders. Key was at the top of his game – warm, respectful, self-assured.

He exuded confidence and sometimes even bordered on belligerence. When union boss Andrew Little queried the Government’s intention over ACC Key dodged the question.

Instead, he jabbed a cheap shot at Little, who is also the Labour Party president, referring to him as the next leader of that party.

Probably was a cheap shot, but some shots are too tempting to pass up!

But his flippant dismissiveness aside, his support for low-paid workers seems heartfelt and genuine. Key isn’t a great political orator but came across as decent and likable. Only a fool would believe Key can be taken out by Goff any time soon.

And this is from the leader of NZ’s most militant union!

Goff is a polished performer and his speech the following day pushed all the right buttons for his audience. He is a man under pressure but he’s a pro from way back.

However, I couldn’t help feeling Goff’s delivery was a campaign stump speech written by one of his staff. Unlike Key, it felt that he was talking at the audience rather than to it.

It is an interesting observation from Matt, as I had much the same reaction when they both spoke at the Family First organised Forum on the Family. Goff was very good, very professional and performed well. But Key, especially in the Q&A, can connect with the audience in a way Goff can’t.

Trevor Mallard was a distraction sitting behind Goff all through his speech, visibly chewing gum like some sort of goon from central casting.

Maybe Labour’s image consultants could have a word with their in-house gangster next time he accompanies his new leader.

Sounds like a bit of bad blood there, which is interesting as if Labour wins, Trevor will probably be Minister of Labour.

Comments (10)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment