A glitch in the Matrix

 

I’m sure there are rational explanations for the hilarious similarities between John Key (or at least, his office) stating that there is “no factual basis” to his allegations that the Snowden documents are fabricated, and a Republican senator called John Kyl excusing his allegations against Planned Parenthood by saying it “was not intended to be a factual statement” – explanations which don’t involve all human life being a computer simulation occupying our brains while robots leech our neural activity for a power source.

But that’s not nearly as much fun.

As the late, lamented Terry Pratchett wrote in The Truth,

‘A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.’

Some politicians have always dealt to people or organisations they don’t like by smearing them. It’s even easier in our ridiculously fast-paced media and online environment, where the damage is done almost immediately, and any retraction or fact-checking is left trying to catch up.

But the tide seems to be changing on Key. Whether it’s journalists (and bloggers) buying into the narrative of third-term arrogance and unconsciously reinforcing it, or whether the disastrous start to the year – Sabin’s resignation, the Northland by-election, Amanda Bailey, the unnamed Cabinet Minister with a brother facing sexual abuse charges – really is just that disastrous, Key’s shine isn’t as shiny as it once was.

Just look at how painstakingly the media are transcribing him now:

“Well, I hope not. I mean we live in a global world where you know all sorts of stories do actually go round the world in varying form. I mean I didn’t pick up any single newspaper in any country I was in and saw it. So, the fact that something goes round the internet is quite standard these days.”

Paraphrasing cannot save you now, John.

And journalists like Tova O’Brien are getting a lot less forgiving when Key brushes them off with non-answers, as in this report on the Cabinet Minister’s brother. It’s probably only a matter of time before someone goes full Ed-Miliband-on-striking-teachers on him. (Hope I didn’t blow your election chances, Ed.)

It’s hard for anyone to look credible when all their weasel words and nervous smirks are just being put out there, unfiltered. Even the clearest speaker can look like a numpty in such circumstances, and John Key – whether by nature or design – has never been the clearest speaker.

But is this the beginning of the end? Is the “honeymoon” finally over? God only knows, but I’m of a similar mind to @LewSOS. The end never comes swiftly. The polls never shift 10 points overnight on the basis of one story (or four). But he isn’t getting those free passes any more.

lew on key(Original tweets start here.)

QOTD: Hide on Sabin

From Rodney’s latest in the Herald on Sunday:

The date of any briefing is explosive. It’s certainly not nitpicking. Sabin chaired the law and order select committee, which oversees the police. He was hopelessly conflicted. So, too, was our Parliament and justice system.

How could the chairman be holding police to account when he himself was under police investigation?

We deserve to know who was responsible for such dreadful judgment and management.

It’s true, and very amusing to me, given how many rightwing commenters at blogs like The Standard have been trying their usual “this is just a beltway issue” or “this just proves Labour isn’t focused on the real issues” lines on it. Sorry, people, but even stalwart rightwingers can tell when something stinks.

As with Matthew Hooton’s scathing NBR piece about the SkyCity deal – in which he makes such damning statements as:

The origins of this fiasco lie in the close private relationship established between John Key and SkyCity in the mid 2000s.  When he became prime minister, Mr Key surprised many when he appointed himself minister of tourism but it was old news to SkyCity. Its executives had advised business partners well before election day that things were looking up because Mr Key had “agreed” to become tourism minister.

… it’s important not to get too excited. Neither Hide nor Hooton* have suddenly seen the light and realised that our government has been running the country for the benefit of an undeserving few, motivated entirely by self-interest. As Danyl notes at Dim-Post, Hooton is deliberately targeting his business rivals with this one.

But we can still marvel at the fact that only months into its third term, the rightwing fanboys are starting to turn on Key. Perhaps they’re hoping to resurrect the Act Party by getting enough rightwing folk fed up about National’s centrist ways. Perhaps with the discrediting of the Taxpayers’ Union there’s thought of creating yet another far-right front

What I’m saying is, their motives are far from pure. But most people aren’t as cynical as me and don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about that kind of thing. What the general public are seeing is their sensible, authoritative** rightwing columnists in sensible, authoritative publications disagreeing strongly with the PM and questioning his “relaxed” attitude on serious issues of conduct and selling out to big business.

That ain’t good for the government.

 

*Now I’m picturing a series of kids’ books about politics, following the magical adventures of two political hacks on a neverending quest to capture the mystical Thorndon Bubble.

**Because they’re published in our Paper of Record so what they say must be important.

Andrea Vance: five important unanswered questions

Andrea Vance has posted five unanswered questions from the Beehive – click through for her answers:

1. When is an asset sale not an asset sale? 

2. They won’t be selling them off cheaply to developers, right?

3. Does a politician ever really step down for family reasons?

4. Why was the usually loquacious Key acting so weird on Sabin?

5. Anyway, who’s going to be the new Greens co-leader?

The state housing firesale and the sudden (but apparently not at all unexpected) resignation of Mike Sabin must be major weak spots for the government as the 2015 political year cranks up. Key hasn’t handled the latter at all well, but until any more details of Sabin’s situation come to light it’s difficult to say just how damaging it’s going to be.

I’m very interested to see how the Greens handle their leadership challenge, having been quite involved in Labour’s last year. Full respect to Norman for putting his family first and stepping down at the very beginning of the political term – there’s never an ideal time for a leader, even a co-leader, to go, and the right are always going to try to spin a senior pollie’s resignation as part of some deeper organisational malaise. I’m sure the Greens will ignore the haters and get on with the democratic process, and who ends up winning could have a big impact on the wider left.

The Northland by-election

With Mike Sabin’s precipitous resignation, a by-election is on the cards in Northland, and soon:

It’s exciting times for politics nerds like myself, but the fact is that Labour isn’t going to be taking Northland off National, no matter what comes out of the rumours swirling around Sabin. He was returned with a 9,300 majority and Labour got just 16% of the party vote there last year.

But this is still a great opportunity for the left. Andrew Little has made it very clear that his focus for the year ahead is jobs, jobs, jobs – and Northland is a region that’s been really hard hit by unemployment and the increasing gap between rich and poor.

With a team spearheaded (potentially) by the fantastic Willow Jean Prime, supported by local Māori MP Kelvin Davis, and a lot of lefties eager to move past the horrible 2014 result and capitalise on the Nats’ moment of weakness, this byelection is a platform we can use to put jobs, inequality and the National government’s total lack of serious action on the map.

Labour isn’t going to win this battle – but by fighting it well we start to turn the war around.