Is Key a subscriber to ‘canoe theory’?

Todd S. Purdum looks at California’s Governor Jerry Brown:

Brown’s politics have long been tough to pigeonhole. He is personally ascetic, like the Jesuit seminarian he once was, and in his first term famously drove a plebeian Plymouth. He has always been a bit of a fiscal skinflint and now bucks liberal orthodoxy on questions like legalizing marijuana. His long-standing credo has been the “canoe theory” — that the best way to head in a straight line is to paddle a little to the left and then to the right. In contrast to a Legislature widely seen as left of center, he is viewed as middle of the road.

It is hard to argue when reading that description of Jerry Brown that it doesn’t also fit John Key perfectly.

John Key sits squarely in the middle, with little paddles to the left, and then little paddles to the right. So far he has got the balance in the canoe just right.

But all it takes to tip a canoe over is a rogue wave, or a boat to speed past or the canoe to spring a leak.  

It is then that the poll driven fruit cakes get flummoxed. They don’t know which way to paddle and furiously start back paddling in many instances.

The key to understanding how to unseat politicians like John Key is to be disruptive. And by disruptive I don’t mean act like dicks like the Labour party or the Green party.

I mean disruptive in the sense of doing things differently.

It doesn’t have to be by much, even just a few percentage points different is enough

The problem in NZ politics is we pretty much now know what John Key won’t do, stuff all about what he will do, and the same goes for the opposition.

There is simply no compelling reason for voters to move from the so far safe, warm embrace of John Key and his bland government.

But eventually the canoe will tip and no amount of paddling is going to save him. There are only so many people in your caucus that you can lie to about their prospects before they start thinking that their prospects would be better served working for someone else.


– Politico


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • If your going to insist on a boating analoge, National and JK might be a canoe, but the opposition parties have built themselves a home made raft made with tractor tyres and each paddler has a knife.

    • johcar

      …and each paddler’s knife is used alternately to slash the tractor tyres and then stab their fellow paddlers in the back,,,

      • Eiselmann

        While ensuring the raft is gender balance culturally sensitive and that no one on benefit was harmed in the making of the raft while ensuring that those who built the raft pay more tax to compensate those who didn’t do any work. They are still discussing whether the raft is subject to Capital Gains Tax.

  • caochladh

    Are we talking about the personal JK canoe or the National Waka?

  • George

    I think JK may call it a day either before or soon after the next election. His motivation has always been to move on before his interest wanes. He has achieved his goal and has made a difference. He is young enough to seek new opportunities and even without him I believe National is in good shape. He is a safe pair of hands and his legacy will be the strength of National after his departure.

  • I don’t believe Key is primarily poll driven. He does appear to have an agenda but has enough nous to realise he must be in government to be able to do anything.

    • kiwibattler

      If Key was as poll driven as some on here say then he wouldn’t have gone into the 2011 election with a partial assets sale policy. That took some balls.

  • cows4me

    I guess JK and National are doing the right thing in the public’s eye but how will history see their rein. Personally I believe much more could be done to raise the expectations of the people of NZ. Steering the canoe in claim waters may get the job done but it hardly raises the adrenaline levels, a life of mediocrity isn’t living, it’s simply existing.

  • JustanObserver

    For me, I am quite comfortable to have a ‘Steady-as-she-goes’ government in place, particularly with the world having been through the GFC, little ‘ole NZ faired reasonable well when larger and more ‘flamboyant’ economies struggled.
    In time, there may be ‘need’ for some ‘risk’, but for now, we are mostly comfortable and that is reassuring for the majority of NZ

  • Captain Darling

    “The best way to head in a straight line is to paddle a little to the left and then to the right.” What an excellent analogy. Giving both left and right hope without annoying either. John Key to a tee.

  • JC

    When you look at the US, a nation of stunning size and population and about the greatest repository of riches, power and human brilliance thats ever existed you expect an array of great presidents.. yet the nation has elected an equally stunning array of seemingly mediocre national leaders.
    Yes, you get guys like Reagan but he was over thirty years ago, so you have to assume that Democracy brings everything back to the median even in truly great countries.

    NZ has had some pretty good Prime Ministers in the last near 35 years but its the effects of two Ministers of Finance of just three years each who have absolutely dominated the picture (Douglas and Richardson) and whose legacies remain fresh in the minds of most older voters who determine the outcome of elections.

    Those legacies are what have controlled the two best PMs since WW2. The utterly ruthless and brilliant Helen Clark had her worst socialist features kept in control by those legacies and Key’s mercantile instincts similarly blunted.

    The greatness of both (and Bolger to an extent) lay in their ability to work within the constraints of Democracy and MMP to deliver their policies and programmes without recalling the memories of Douglas and Richardson so much as to get them kicked out after just one or two terms.

    But here’s the dilemma.. Lange, Palmer and Moore could be kicked out because the competent Bolger, Richardson and Birch were in the wings, Bolger and Shipley could be replaced by H1, H2 and Cullen and they could be replaced by Key, English and Joyce but where to now and for the next few years?

    There is simply no credible replacement for the current Govt and it doesn’t look likely there will be an alternative in 2017. I think the country believes Key must stay on until there is a credible replacement Govt and I think Key understands he’s there on sufferance and that he’s expected to not rock the boat.. indeed I think the country wants him to take on the better social ideas of the left and act for both the political left and right of the country!

    Does that sound weird? When you think about it it’s not.. we expect our PMs to be able to step off both feet anyhow as befits a middle of the (political) road country and we punish Govts that move too far left or right.


  • Lord_Montrose