SST profiles Key

Adam Dudding interviews John Key at length. Some interesting aspects:

The most recent film John Key enjoyed was The King’s Speech, in which a renegade Australian speech therapist saves King George VI’s bacon by nursing him through his stammer.

There was a time when the prime minster thought about trying to change his own speech – with all its mashed consonants and absent syllables. He isn’t quite sure why he garbles his words, but suspects it has something to do with being raised by an Austrian.

“My mother had an incredibly strong accent – although I couldn’t hear it – and she was the main person there, so I’ll have learnt to speak English from her.” It could also be because he’s rushing to get his words out.

But despite the media jabs, in the end he decided it wasn’t worth trying to change how he talks.

Good. Keep it real.

“If you’re dealing with tragedy you learn very quickly that you don’t actually confirm someone has died or that the number of deaths are a certain number, till you’re absolutely sure that number’s right.”

Such as February 22 in Christchurch. “I didn’t lightly say ‘We’ve lost at least 65 people’ on that night,” says Key. The number came from the police, “but I also knew that if it was terribly, terribly wrong – if it was, say, 10 people – I thought, well, I’ll have to go as prime minister.”

You what? It seems after Key had announced that death toll and was heading for bed, officials came back and “they said, ‘Oh, we’re not quite sure exactly now’.

“I remember waking up and thinking, if it’s 10 [people] in the morning, I’ll resign. Just because you can’t mislead the country.”

It would be a horrible thing to contemplate – not the resignation, but that you may have given a death toll which was massively over-stated.

“In the 24-7 blitzkrieg of the media, eventually they’ll tire of every politician, and I’m not unique in that regard. So the things they like about me, I think you have to accept, over time they won’t like so much about me.

“It’s easy to form a view that every time a journalist writes something bad about you it’s because they’re just against you, and they’re just a puppet for the opposition. You can build up these fiefdoms and prejudices.”

These are the defence mechanisms a politician develops as his government collects “a few barnacles and scars”. But the risk of building those is “you’re not actually honest with yourself about whether you’re right or wrong”.

So Key has a once-only policy. “I only watch something once or read something once.” Reading the nice stuff three times, or avoiding the nasty stuff completely, is against the rules.

Not a bad policy. I’m a bit different. I rarely read the nasty stuff about me, unless it is from someone I have some respect for.

“No one believed me, but I was absolutely convinced that on election night 2008, if Peters held the balance of power, I was going to ring Clark and say `it’s all yours’. Because I knew I might be able to put together a government – vaguely – but it would never last. He’s never lasted. Every prime minster has sacked him in the end – it’s just dysfunctional.”

Worth remembering the likely alternate Government is Labour/Greens/NZ First/Mana.

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