Trotter on Labour

The Listener

Chris Trotter, in an article about John Key, explains why it is that Labour is tits with its policy of “Get Key”. The Labour party unfortunately doesn’t much listen to Chris Trotter, instead preferring the endless pratfalls of Trevor Mallard for strategic advice:

The reason members of the Labour Party underestimated John Key from the beginning is all to do with intellectual snobbery, says left-wing political commentator Chris Trotter. “No matter how much people crow when they add Labour and the Greens’ latest polling together, Key’s is an extraordinary result to be looking at three-and-a-half years into his time in office and in the midst of economic circumstances that could hardly be described as benign. “For a political leader to be in charge at a time such as this, and for people to say, ‘Oh, look, he’s only got 45.8% of the vote’, really is an extraordinary testimony to his political skills.”

Trotter contends that the left-wing of New Zealand politics always “grossly underestimated” Key’s skills – to its cost. “There is a tremendous amount of intellectual snobbery in the Labour Party particularly, if not across the left in general, which regards someone who’s done very well in business as a lesser being than someone, perhaps, who’s won the Booker Prize. There’s just this attitude that ‘he can’t be that good if he hasn’t lectured at a university or if he isn’t called Dr’. And this approach is very, very self-defeating on the part of the left, because you just have to be guided by the facts.”

Labour think this about a number of National politicians. They believe that their university politics courses educated and groomed careers in the beehive mean they are superior in every way to the life experiences of politicians like John Key, Judith Collins and Steven Joyce. They have an abiding belief that they are smarmy, stupid or devious and their brilliance will shine thrrough in the face of political reality.

The facts, says Trotter “are that this guy took over the National Party, its numbers recovered almost immediately and they soared to unprecedented levels in the polls”. What’s more, that polling occurred under a proportional representation system “when it is extraordinary to see any single party win 44-45% of the vote. “So, unless you’re putting National’s success down to sunspots, you have to sheet home responsibility for those results to the political leadership of the party.” Key lacks some of the hallmarks of recent admired political leaders, says Trotter. “He may not be as menacing as Rob Muldoon, he may not be as eloquent as David Lange, he may not have the amazing grasp of detail and very broad general knowledge and mastery of her party that Helen Clark had, but you have to go back to figures such as Savage or Seddon to get anything like the level of support that John Key has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy.”

Key has significant political capital.

Key’s skill was demonstrated by dropping the class-size issue, Trotter says. “That ability to simply say, ‘This isn’t worth it, get rid of it, go hard to starboard’, is rare in politicians. Most will die in a ditch rather than admit they were wrong. “Key has this facility, which we saw over mining in national parks and now over class sizes, where he just cuts his losses, and I think that’s attributable in a strange way to his experience in the currency trade, where you do not throw good money after bad. If you’ve made a bad choice, take the loss and make it up somewhere else in the next few hours or next few days. That’s a marvellous ability to bring to politics, because if you’re on a hiding to nothing, then accept nothing and stop taking the hiding.”

Basically you got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em….Labour tried to label John Key a gambler in their silly song, but the fact is John Key is a pretty good political cards player….and he keeps on trumping Labour everytime.


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  • Sym Gardiner

    Trotter gets it right for once.
    Key is pragmatic… which is what NZ needs for a good decade or so. Then we might be able to afford some ideology.

    • MrV

      Yeah, but he needs a mirror.

  • Mediaan

    We owe a lot to John Key’s intelligence, good humour, specific business skills, and steely endurance. Thank you to the man.

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    Gross domestic product grew 1.1 per cent to
    almost $35 billion in the three months ended March 31, the fastest
    quarterly pace since March 2007, according to Statistics New Zealand. I think we should credit Sheep Shearer and Russell Norman for this great achievement. Many countries in the world will give their arms and legs to achieve a double digit growth in a quarter result. Well done Labour, you have proved that you are capable of governing New Zealand….but wait we are under a National Government and according to idiot lefties has no idea of how to grow economy….I am confused….

    • johnbronkhorst

      Whats more the only western, local, labour govt. …Australia, are expecting ZERO growth for the 2nd half of this year…Labour everywhere don’t have a clue!!

    • kehua

      The result of an unusually kind farming season from last July through to April, thank God.

  • I’ve also blogged about Trotter’s comments today. My post closes thus:

    Labour made a huge mistake when it dismissed Key as a threat when he was elected leader of the National Party in late 2006. It is still paying
    for that mistake after getting an absolute spanking in a second General
    Election against Key. And until such time that Labour actually acknowledges John Key as a clever if unorthodox politician, the party will struggle to gain traction.

    Judge Holden won’t like this. But we reckon that Chris Trotter has a much better handle on what is wrong with the Labour Party that deserted him and his counterparts in
    the 1980’s than the Judge gives him credit for.The Labour Party could do far worse things than actually swallow hard and listen to Chris Trotter, rather than continue to take the advice of their strategic genius Trevor Mallard, to whom much of the credit for Labour’s 27% 2011 disaster is due.

    Trotter is no fool, as Labour likes to paint him. His Waitakere Man post from a couple of years ago should have shown Labour where they went wrong. Instead Labour stumbled on and on, and got caned at last year’s election.

    Let’s hope that they continue to ridicule Trotter, and that he continues to risicule them!

    • thesorrow&thepity

      sometimes it’s better to have someone who’s a bit more distanced from the internal party politicking to be able to objectively tell the wood from the trees. Lucky for us the Labourites hate Chris with a passion, I liked his autopsy on election night of the great Labour train wreck. Still maintain they should rebrand themselves as the ‘Academia party’, after all they’re a bunch of ivory tower twats who think they’re better than those of us who actually work for a living, case in point mp for wigram Megan (never done a days work in her life) Woods who’s just a left wing revisionist history lecturer from the elitist clique of the humanities dept at Canty uni, hehe yeah a real person of the people!

  • Paddles83

    As much as I normally cant handle Trotter he is right on the button this time and has a handle of Key and his team

  • Will

    Well Mr Key does not impress me much; I think the point Trotter is missing is that National’s sustained popularity owes more to the outright fear and disgust many New Zealanders have for the prospect of a socialist Labour/Green/Whatever coalition forming the next government.

  • Sideshow Bob

    I agree with Trotter. John Key was a superb currency trader and a great skill in that trade is to know when to cut your losses and not hang on to a losing trade until you are broke. He is not acting like a politician but a businessman. Cut your losses and let your profits run! Excellent.