Like most media living on Twitter and supping from the trough inside the beltway Tracy Watkins has an opinion on the flag debate and the “refugee” crisis, and that opinion is that it is possibly, maybe, hurting John Key,
It may not have been tectonic, but the political ground appeared to shift under John Key this week.
There was suddenly a gap between Key and public opinion on more than one front – unfamiliar territory for the prime minister.
On the refugee crisis, Key was slow to wake up to the swelling consensus that it required a bigger humanitarian effort from New Zealand.
As graphic and tragic images from Europe put a human face to the crisis, the Government looked isolated in its view that New Zealand’s quota of 750 refugees a year is enough.
Key’s partial backdown on Thursday belatedly coat-tailed public opinion that we can and should do more.
On the Maurice Williamson debacle, Key’s usually reliable sniff test also failed him.
The Pakuranga MP delivered an after-dinner speech that was more strip club than black tie, with its references to oral sex and “attagirl knee pads” (you can probably fill in the blanks here).
Round the Cabinet table, Key’s ministers run a “woman voter” test over every decision before it gets the final sign off.
They know their fortunes are directly tied to the female vote which, till Key took over the leadership, was firmly in Labour’s favour.
Williamson’s boorish speech cuts across that by carrying with it the dinosaur-ish overtones that once acted as a giant turnoff to women voters at the ballot box.
But where Key is usually ruthless with MPs and ministers who step out of line, his reprimand was about as lacklustre as his defence that Williamson wasn’t acting in his capacity as an MP.
That’s a new test which MPs will be very glad to hear about. It’s a bit like excusing a police officer for drink driving because he or she wasn’t acting in their capacity as a police officer.