Brand Key

Tracy Watkins writes:

So what to read into the latest poll? All this while we thought it was Key who kept National freakishly high in the polls. It may be a washover of goodwill toward Key. English’s honeymoon gift. Or maybe the whole truly was always greater than the sum of National’s parts.

Key has had a very powerful and popular brand. The challenge was always whether Brand Key would become Brand National, and so far it looks like it has. There was more to Key than his likability and communication skills. It was also that he was seen as moderate, competent and trusted. These are the attributes that he has left National with.

Key has been almost invisible since his return to the back bench. There is some strategy behind that. Transitions are awkward and Key doesn’t want to hog any of English’s air.

But it is also personal. Key’s relationship with the media dramatically soured over the holiday season when a news outlet ran paparazzi supplied shots of the former PM and wife Bronagh poolside on holiday in Hawaii.

There are very few times over the years when I have seen Key genuinely, blazingly, angry.  

The ‘teapot tape’ debacle was one when Key’s usual pragmatism deserted him and the secret recording of him and John Banks blew up into a bigger story than it needed to be.

It seems this paparazzi intrusion is another – though rather than blow it up Key’s response this time has been to retreat from the media instead.

The NZ Herald paid a paparazzi to stalk Key in Hawaii and take long distance photos of him and Bronagh in their togs, and even him filling up a car with petrol. It was shameful behaviour from the Herald – of course he was angry. I doubt they would have ever done it while he was actually Prime Minister as they knew he would find it an appalling intrusion of privacy.

We should all hope it doesn’t last. Key is one of the world’s most respected politicians (for all that his opponents dwell on pony tails and the John Oliver show). He will be in high demand on the international speaking circuit, his next step after he leaves here in just a few weeks time.

But we also need his voice here, helping us interpret and navigate the new world order. And not just Key – Helen Clark too.

Like Key, Clark has been in retreat since her shot at the United Nations top job. It goes without saying that Clark commands international respect.

Theirs are the sort of strong, rational voices the world needs now, more than ever.

Former Howard government advisor and Australian political commentator Terry Barnes wrote a thoughtful piece this week comparing Canberra and Wellington.

“If only toxic Canberra could copy New Zealand’s ways,” he lamented in the NZ Herald.

The Barnes article is an interesting one, which I will blog on separately.

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