Woodham on Langley

Kerre Woodham writes:

Was it his throbbing haemorrhoids or a brutal case of jetlag after the long flight home?

Whatever it was, something was riling Dr when he churned out his mean-spirited, nasty little attack on .

I have wondered about this also. What was the motivation to submit an op ed attacking the Prime Minister in such personal terms?

Even if one concedes Langley thought Key made the wrong call, why would you communicate that impression through a public op ed, rather than privately?

Normally the reason people do op eds is that they want to change policy on some issue. However the chance of a re-occurrence where a PM has to decide between a trade mission and flying home for a funeral is incredibly remote.

Hence my only conclusion was that Langley’s sole desire was to damage the reputation of the Prime Minister – ie he was motivated to be partisan.

Langley accuses the Prime Minister of “scuttling back to New Zealand” and “abandoning an incredibly important mission”. The Prime Minister’s actions, said Langley, were “short-sighted and irresponsible”. On and on it went.

And yet surely Langley must have known that John Key was damned whatever course of action he chose.

Stay, and be accused of putting the almighty dollar before human life; leave the trade mission and risk disappointing the delegates – although I’m sure the Prime Minister never imagined attending a funeral service would have provoked such an ill-tempered response.

Langley is hoist by his own petard when he claims New Zealanders are unable to have adult conversations about important issues. He’s hardly showing how it’s done with this tirade.

It was a nasty little tirade – one his own employer has distanced itself from. It’s also one that would never have been written, I suspect, about the former PM if she had made the same decision.

I wrote in NBR last week that part of John Key’s popularity is he almost never attacks people. He responds to the issue, rather than attacks the person. And this is a good thing.

But there was a part of me wondering if you can be too reasonable. Key responded to Langley by merely saying he is sorry he is upset, but it was a call he had to make and even with hindsight, he thinks the right call.

I can just imagine Clark having delivered a stinging put down of Langley, accusing him of putting his own narrow business interests ahead of the country, and that she doesn’t need lectures on leadership from a former education dean.

I also know that behind the scenes the gears of Government would have started grinding to ensure that Langley’s firm had no future in terms of Government relations. Not just no future trade trips, but no access to Ministers, and an unofficial directive that they would not secure any taxpayer funding for any reason.

And this is why Langley would never have made such an attack on Clark. The fear of retribution. Sometimes you can be too much of a nice guy, if it encourages the Langleys of the world.

There may well have been a debate to be had about the long-term significance of trade and export versus a very personal desire to farewell colleagues but Langley’s intemperate response didn’t generate that.

The emotive, overwrought language chosen by this educator and his ascribing to John Key the most base motives for attending the memorial service of three young men he’d worked with and known personally says much more about Langley’s motives than it does about the Prime Minister’s.


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