Thursday, November 5, 2009

Party on, Garth

Props to Danyl at the wonderful Dim-Post, who dragged himself out of bed at 5am and promptly compounded one mistake with another: reading Garth George's column, this week entitled "We should all salute our wonderful PM". On closer inspection, this turned out to be less a strict behavioural recommendation - although that wouldn't have surprised me - and more a general love-in, if a love-in could just involve a scary old man building a shrine to Great Leader in his basement.

It comes as no surprise that John Key and National remain top of the political pops a year into their reign. That's pretty much all down to Mr Key, a Prime Minister the like of whom we have never seen.

Our award-winning political commentator, John Armstrong, described him on Saturday as a "political phenomenon", which are the very words I had already chosen for this column. But, as is now and again the case when you write only weekly, someone beat me to it.

Let's be honest; you didn't really just steal independently come up with two words from John Armstrong's article. You have, in fact, repeated the same story, more or less; the same sycophantic rubbish that Armstrong's article on Key, Patrick Gower's article on "Crusher" Collins and the rest of the Herald's coverage on National's first year in power. As the Dim-Post points out, thank goodness that the Electoral Finance Act has been repealed so we can again have a balanced and critical Fourth Estate.

Oh, and something else: Garth has not only copied Armstrong's article - only replacing the dots on the 'i's with love hearts - he actually plagiarised himself. His article on March 19 - "Key is PM of a type never seen before" - is almost exactly the same in tone and content as today's. If this is a trend, we should expect another piece demanding the immediate return of Georgie Pie in the next fortnight.

Now here come the reminiscences:

I have met almost every prime minister since Sid Holland led the first National Government elected in 1949, and none of them resembles today's incumbent.

When it comes to affability and consensus, perhaps Keith Holyoake comes close, but not all that close. I still remember as an early teenager barging into my father's office to find a little, dapper chap sitting there on his own. He sprang to his feet, held out his hand, and declaimed: "I'm Keith Holyoake, who are you?"

The odd thing about this is that it made me think about Garth George as a young person. It's not that I thought he had emerged, opinions fully-formed, from an egg. It's more that I saw him as existing through, or perhaps outside of, time: here he is, meeting Pitt the Elder; there he is complaining about how young Romans have no respect for the Emperor anymore.

But I digress. The next section of the article I am just going to auto-summarise:

[...] man of the people ... unspoiled by the poisonous atmosphere of power politics ... remains one of us ... at home in the company of a class of primary schoolkids ... or in the company of the world's high and mighty ... amiable, engaging, good-natured, highly intelligent, humorous and, most of all, unaffected [Yeah, that's all one sentence.] ... there is no "side" to him, no insistence on protocol, no efforts to protect him from the hoi polloi ... attractive traits ... unbridled enthusiasm ... utter delight in being Prime Minister ... fatherless state house kid made good ... achieved significant personal success in the real world ... short on theory and long on practice ... readiness to admit to making a mistake ... He doesn't U-turn; he simply closes one door and opens another.

What? What does that even mean.
Nor is he - as so many wealthy people are - miserly.
Nor is he a paedophile, a Nazi war criminal, a 'P' addict or a slaveowner. God bless you, JK.
He is reported to give freely to charitable causes, and insists on paying for his wife to accompany him when he has to travel overseas.

As a proud New Zealander, this makes me cringe. He is our Prime Minister, the chief executive of our nation's business amounting to much more than $100 billion. He is, by private business standards, paid a pittance in salary and expenses.

As our principal face to the world, he should always travel in style, first class all the way, and should be able to take his wife, and even family, with him if he chooses - all at the Government's expense.

Good lord. Does this remind anyone else of that 'Leave Britney alone' video from a couple of years ago? A cross between that and Cleopatra's giant golden barge in that Asterix book where they go to Egypt.

[...] But back to our popular PM. John Armstrong hypothesises that failure to deliver on the economy could see Mr Key's sparkling performance in his first year count for nothing more than burned-out neon come the 2011 election. I doubt it.

Mr Key is an avid fan of the All Blacks, a frequent attendee at their games and a regular, potently encouraging presence in their dressing room.

This is a political stratagem of astounding brilliance. For if the All Blacks win the World Cup on October 20, 2011, New Zealanders will be in such a state of euphoria that National will stroll over the line in early in November.

"Astounding brilliance"? Don't you remember when Helen Clark, a sensible, pragmatic woman who would rather have watched paint dry than rugby, had to be driven at 170 km/h to get to an airport so she could make it to an All Blacks game - all just so that morons could make the link between her and rugby.

Yeah, I think the "support the All Blacks" strategy has been tried before.

As to the more general point that Armstrong sensibly made about Key's popularity, I'm sure we can all think of another well-known politician who was extremely popular after a year in office:

Food for thought, n'est-ce pas?


(And I actually quite admire John Key.)

23 comments:

  1. Ugh! I like Key and even I find this revoltingly dribbly.

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  2. Is it similar to how you like your Grandfather, but you still wouldn't want to see him getting a rim-job from a hooker? (Even though you know it's be nice for Granddad)

    Because I can understand that.

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  3. Key can probably expect a dozen red roses in the mail sometime soon signed 'with love, from Garth' underpinned by the faint fragrance of old-man-musk and pies. I can honestly agree that "as a proud New Zealander, this makes me cringe".

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  4. Helen Clark was a League fan (quite a big one I'm told), I don't think Union would've been too arduous for her.

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  5. Monk De Wally De HonkNovember 5, 2009 at 2:02 PM

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  6. Monk De Wally De HonkNovember 5, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    Oh and not forgetting: gave the middle class a way to insulate their homes at the country's expense with a scheme out of reach of anyone who doesn't happen to have $2,000 lying around.

    And last, but my no means least, the 'national cycleway'.

    Ta, Monk.

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  8. Clark was a League fan because it's audience demographic is skewed disproportionately towards Pacific Islanders, Maori and blue-collar Pakeha - fairly critical components of Labour's support base. Cynical eh?

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  9. Can we just give him a knighthood already?

    Or a Nobel Peace Prize.

    If there's anything a popular head of state doesn't need, it's blind ego-gratifying adulation from the media. They should be knocking him down when he's up. This sort of crap might go to his head.

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  13. Yeah, swearing at other commenters (or me) is going to get your comment deleted. Let's grow up, people.

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  14. Thanks James. By all means remove my 'illegal' posts if you wish, I won't be offended.

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  15. James, I would just like to put your commitment to the 'Ask Garthfunkel' feature in writing here.

    Much love,

    "Anonymous"

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  16. "Clark was a League fan because it's audience demographic is skewed disproportionately towards Pacific Islanders, Maori and blue-collar Pakeha - fairly critical components of Labour's support base. Cynical eh?"

    Cynical - or showing an interest in her constituents? She became patron of the Mt Albert Rugby League Club back in the 80s when she became the local MP. That's the kind of thing NZ MPs do.

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  17. Whereas John Key is such a fan of the All Blacks he can't remember having an opinion on the Springbok tour...

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  18. Oh yeah!! Wikileaks! Hours of fun and outraged loathing.
    Cheers for that :)

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  19. Sorry guys, but to cover my own arse I'm just going to remove any comments that may get me in trouble. I wouldn't want to lose my steady blog income, after all.

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  20. Oh if only I'd said 'prominent member of the National Party'.

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  21. Reality According to Garth:

    Brian Tamaki's adoring followers : personality cult for weak-minded
    John Key's adoring followers : objective and intelligent news gatherers

    Brian Tamaki : Self-aggrandizing exploiter of poor suckers
    John Key : Wonderful exponent of the virtues of capitalism

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  22. Heated. I thought this was about Garth's 'googley eyes' and why the Herald would publish such drivel? As an aside, I heard Garth on 'the pannel' on radio live national the other day...strange hearing his voice - he reminded me of Gimli the dwarf.

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  23. "The odd thing about this is that it made me think about Garth George as a young person. It's not that I thought he had emerged, opinions fully-formed, from an egg. It's more that I saw him as existing through, or perhaps outside of, time: here he is, meeting Pitt the Elder; there he is complaining about how young Romans have no respect for the Emperor anymore."

    Lol'd...

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