Sunday, 2 November 2014

Rugby, Rowing and Blur

It's as if cupidity has mated with stupidity and its awful offspring have taken over New Zealand. The talking heads are busy filling in the most recent paint by numbers picture of John Key as a gracious, inclusive - almost humble - 'man of the people' who spoke from the heart in his victory speech and who has learned his lesson about unwise contacts with unscrupulous bloggers.  

So anxious is Key to represent all New Zealand he's even going to address child poverty - after he's sold off enough state houses to offset the drop in milk profits and pay for TeamNZ to contest the America's Cup.

Some in the media are shifting their feet. They are perhaps a tad uncomfortable with what Labour's comprehensive loss will result in and are a bit anxious about the part they played in that defeat through their acts of omission or commission.  Other, less sensitive and more overtly ideological souls are openly revelling in being on the winning team. The resultant spectacle is unedifying to the point of needing a health warning.

Speaking of health warnings, Cameron Slater is desperately trying to reinvent himself as person of courage and integrity and his mates are busy persuading their witless supporters to fork out large sums of money to 'take down' those who exposed Whaleoil's bile-full excesses.  

The usefully vacuous Paula Bennett is being carefully groomed, rebranded and promoted as future National Party leadership material. It is a terrifying prospect.

And Labour still shows no signs of doing a Lazarus after its media assisted political suicide. 

The election was a resounding victory for dirty politics. The exposure of a series of scandals that should have lost the election for Key and Co, ended up hurting the opposition.  Seemingly sensible and decent people were persuaded it was politically and morally wrong to buy or read 'that book' because it was the product of a 'left-wing conspiracy' and based on stolen material.  

Not having read the book, or even accurate commentaries about it, they were easily persuaded that the dirty politics were the Left's creation and intended to sully the whiter-than-white reputation of John Key. 

In fact, looking at how well it all turned out for Key & Co, one could almost be forgiven for thinking Dirty Politics was a big rightwing master plan. But, however cunning and devious rightwing political plotters are, they really aren't that clever.  They could not have been as successful in sliding out from under Hager's revelations had they not been facing a fractured opposition, sections of which were engaged in the political equivalent of self-harming.

Election material that had David Cunliffe's image or name alongside candidates was seldom seen. Exhortations to give party votes to Labour were notable for their lack of prominence. The message sent out to the electorate, which dovetailed nicely with that of a largely hostile media, was 'a lot of us don't trust our leader'. 

Other than attacking Cunliffe and Labour's 'five new taxes', National's winning strategy was to be as vague as possible about policy, to promote Brand Key as synonymous with National, and to link Key to international sporting successes - a winning trifecta of rugby, rowing and blur.

Rowing is not quite as far removed from the lives of ordinary Kiwis as America's Cup sailing, but it is an elite sport. It's appeal is that it is one at which Kiwis excel.  The image of a slick, professional rowing eight heading towards the right juxtaposed against a lumbering rowboat going in circles was used to denigrate and demoralise the opposition and to fuel  the Right's tendency towards swagger and triumphalism.

Rugby is the country's unofficial religion.  Whoever can coat tail the All Black brand is onto a winner.  Key's expressed preference for the black flag with a silver fern to replace the current flag was not accidental. Nor was posing on the cover of Rugby News in an All Black shirt at the head of a phalanx of All Black forwards, including Ritchie McCaw. McCaw's 'yes you can'  text to Key at the opening of National's election campaign was an unofficial endorsement of Team Key by the All Blacks.  Key's gauche claim to want to be reincarnated as Ritchie McCaw would have been mocked mercilessly had David Cunliffe made it. The election day pro-National tweets and Facebook posts by former and current All Blacks and elite rowers to their thousands of followers would have resulted in a media firestorm had they been in support of Labour. 

And so, we are left with Captain Key still in charge of the ship of state. It doesn't really matter to him if she's dragging her anchors and drifting onto the rocks.  He's got his life raft well stocked and fuelled and can abandon ship any time he chooses, as can his uber-rich supporters. It's the rest of us need to be worried about how badly our ship will be damaged when the next big economic storm hits.

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