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John Key's real persona comes through after parliamentary jump attempt

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Yesterday's balcony jumping incident was a really sober reminder that there are desperate people in our society. Desperate people who are poor and have been possibly shafted by Work and Income and other state agencies. However, the vast majority of those impacted by bad decisionmaking would never contemplate such acts.

But for John Key to insinuate that this incident was arranged by Labour is a real low, even for him. I heard the commotion while working at my desk and listening to Parliament on radio yesterday. I must admit that my heart rate picked up a bit when the incident occurred. Although I couldn't obviously see it, I thought that something awful was happening due to the distressed calls of some MPs in the chamber. I guessed at the time that a protester might have breached House security and made it onto the floor. I thought this given the exchanges between Opposition MPs and the Government benches after the PM shouted "You should be ashamed of yourselves", and "That's down to you." Apart from being very un-parliamentary remarks (as MPs stating you in the Chamber brings the Speaker into the debate), Key accused Labour of engineering this incident.

Yesterday, the media (through covering this incident) publicised more than they usually do the nasty side of the PM's character. This doesn't come out in the numerous public photo opportunities or media conferences that he engages in. During these times, we see the smiling, laughing, confident, friendly face of Key. No Muldoon or even Helen Clark like instincts to coldness on show. Key simply follows the Crosby-Textor rule book: don't make nasty, insensitive comments in public.

Of course, this doesn't apply to Key's behaviour in Parliament which most of the public don't follow. It seems that the media doesn't broadcast some of the cheap comments that the PM tosses at left wing opposition parties during question time. I have seen Facebook postings from Labour and Green MPs which criticise the PM's often arrogant behaviour in the House. The PM thinks he can get away with it as the news bulletins will only dutifully carry his excited statements extolling government policy. Even before this week's incident, Key overreached himself in the House when talking about the government's supposed economic successes prior to last week's credit ratings downgrade (see earlier blog).

Away from the cameras, though, Key has often been reported to be a lot colder than the warm, fuzzy public persona he projects. I remember Sue Bradford saying a year or so ago that a participant at a meeting between Key and church leaders related as to how he and other participants had been astounded by the PM's response to a question about how he felt about the prospect of families starving if welfare benefits were cut due to non-compliance with proposed receipt requirements. Upon receiving the report of the Alternative Welfare Working Group (of which Bradford had been a member), Key dismissively remarked "I don't believe anyone will starve."

While (sadly) much of the public appears to be supportive of National's welfare reform proposals, I believe that in about a year or so, he will be vastly more unpopular on a whole host of issues. So, as the pressure builds on his re-elected government over stalling economic growth, problems around the Christchurch rebuild, and state asset sales, you will begin to see the real John Key emerge. The man who didn't cry even at his mother's funeral. The smiling assassin that even some former fellow Merrill Lynch employees remember well.

This leads to a major question - how much of the Key persona has been manufactured and how much is natural?

I think that once New Zealanders re-elect Key next month, they will get a very rude shock! Mark my words! To paraphrase Lenin's famous phrase, Key may smile but he does (definitely) have teeth!


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