Let's be honest; you didn't really just
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.
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:
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.
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?"
But I digress. The next section of the article I am just going to auto-summarise:
What? What does that even mean.
[...] 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.
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.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.
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.
"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.
[...] 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.
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.)