The Prime Minister’s dominance, paradoxically, weakens his Government and – by constraining the scope of the political debate – diminishes our democracy as well.
… to attempt to compare Key with the late Sir Robert Muldoon in the desperate hope some similarities will endure in the minds of electors (eg, they both smile), is unworthy.
As someone who knows, or knew, both men, and who worked closely with Sir Robert for six years, I can testify to the significant differences.
Yes, Muldoon was an incredibly powerful personality who intimidated largely by using silence and pausation to expert effect whether on television or on a platform. He was the master of the casual put-down, with famous one-liners which appeared to be impromptu but were, in fact, assiduously crafted by his cigar-smoking/three-piece suit attired/viciously tongued speechwriter, Ken Hancock, may he rest in peace.
I still remember his “a shiver looking for a spine” quote on Rowling.
Key is quite different. He is not regarded as a compelling speaker. His less-than-clear diction is totally uncharacteristic of strong television performers.
What he does have, in spades, is sincerity. That is why he is popular.
People like him because he doesn’t play games, unlike the previous Prime Minister who stamped her authority on the political scene for a decade by intimidating business leaders and selected media.
Most of all, the big difference between Key and Muldoon is their personality. Sir Robert was essentially a loner, with a few very close friends to whom he was fiercely loyal even in the face of proven incompetence.
He was in his element in front of a large audience, but lacked confidence in an intimate cocktail party setting where social “small talk” was required. He was formal with his staff, and advice to him was tendered in the same manner.
Key is affable. What you see is what you get. His wife, Bronagh, is unpretentious and his family typical. He has a backbone of steel, and we have seen it when he deems strength of resolve to be required. But most of all, he is a genuinely good person who is motivated by doing what he believes is right for New Zealand. Attempts to demonise him notwithstanding, he is Prime Minister because he believes that is the most effective way he can contribute to a better New Zealand.
Most of all, he has done much to restore trust in the political framework – an ambitious aspiration in a climate of considerable cynicism about politicians the world over, some of which is well deserved.
That’s why he insists on sticking to his statements about not changing national superannuation, that’s why he has opened up the books on parliamentary expenses and that’s why people like him.
I don’t like the fact that Key made the pledge he did on national superannuation, but having made it he absolutely should stick to his word. Those on the left who have suddenly started worrying about future fiscal issues generally have no real interest in making superannuation sustainable. Their desire is to damage the Prime Minister by having him break a very specific promise.