Key’s regrets

Tracy Watkins reckons John Key will have a few regrets…and from where she sits in the political spectrum you can understand why she thinks that way.

For a leader who is not used to losing, however, it will rankle with Key that he has burned up some of his political capital on a failed campaign. That will be his biggest, if not his only regret. And the others?

Has he used up political capital? I see no evidence of this. National and Key’s personal popularity are still higher than at the election, and for that matter than the past three elections. It seems this loss of political capital is imagined by the media commentators.

• He didn’t throw more at it. When Key launched his campaign to change the flag, he knew there was no groundswell for change. But he banked on his personal popularity giving the debate momentum, and pushing a new flag over the line. Being the face of change was a double-edged sword, however, and proponents for a new flag on the left began baulking at what felt like a vote for Key. Key made a partial withdrawal, believing that might bring them back. But Thursday night’s result suggests he might have done better sticking to his guns. Sentiment in favour of a new flag had picked up momentum, most notably in conservative National strongholds like Clutha-Southland. So Key’s initial instincts that his own popularity might win the day were probably correct. If he had pushed it more, would the outcome be different?

I think if he had of thrown more at it then the left-wing would have gone full retard. They came close to going full retard in opposing something that remains their own policy. They just got focussed on the propsect of getting a rare win over John Key.  They like the media make the mistake of thinking John Key cares…he doesn’t.

• His mana is diminished. Key’s incredible winning streak is what gives him huge mana with his MPs. No leader in recent times can match his record, or his long run of popularity. But Key has suffered not one, but two, losses in National’s third term – Northland, and now the flag. It’s not fatal and Key remains freakishly popular for a third term prime minister, meaning he is supremely secure as National leader for the forseeable future. But among his caucus, it’s been a touch stone for so long now that Key is bullet proof, any defeat will shake their confidence that the winning streak won’t turn into a losing streak. Is it a coincidence that Paula Bennett’s star continues to rise?

Is it? John Key promised a referendum on the flag. It was National party policy, he delivered. That is a win. The loss is that of the Green party and Labour party, they actually have a policy to change the flag and here was a chance to do that and they opposed it, betraying their own support base. Their hatred of John Key has blinded them. As for claiming Paula Bennett’s fortunes continue to rise…well…that is just media hype. As soon as it becomes serious her skeletons will tumble out and overwhelm any chance of her becoming leader of anything.

• A failed campaign will form part of his legacy. People accused Key of using the flag change debate to help write his legacy. It is hard to disagree, given the lack of any impetus for change before Key launched the referendum. But if Key was hoping to leave his mark with a gesture of nationhood, hindsight shows he picked  the wrong issue. But did Key also underestimate the power of the legacy he has already created? Key’s opponents accuse his government of lacking a bold vision. But most Kiwis will remember this Government as the one that steered New Zealand through some of its darkest days, including the Christchurch earthquake, in many ways a nationhood moment. That’s how the history books will also remember Key. But there will always be a footnote now about his failed campaign to change the flag.

Again that is pure bullshit and wishful thinking on the part of Tracy Watkins and the Media party. In a years time no one will care or even remember. The footnote she speaks of will only be written by bitter old bags like Watkins.

• He failed to get cross-party buy-in. Key backed down on Red Peak and made other gestures in an effort to win over his opponents. But he blundered at the start by assuming he had Labour boxed into a corner on supporting the referendum and failed to give them a meaningful say on the process. Labour’s opposition to the referendum might have been either cynical or unprincipled given its own policy to get rid of the union jack, but it undoubtedly had an impact on the result.  A breakdown of votes shows support lowest for a change of flag in some Labour strongholds.

Really? It was Green party policy and Labour party policy too. Most people would have thought that was plenty enough cross party support. No one could really have predicted that Labour and Greens would campaign against their own policy. The voter breakdown just shows that Labour voters are susceptible to direct orders from above and not able to think for themselves. If Watkins is right about the voter breakdown then it is Labour who is tone deaf with a policy to change the flag. Key should never have backed down over Red Peak, that was a joke to fall for pressure from social media and Media party luvvies.

The truly silly thing is that media commentators like Tracy Watkins actually believe in a flag change, but wrote endless columns attacking John Key for wanting change. Now they got what they wanted (John Key losing something), but also lost what they wanted (a flag change). Talk about a Pyrrhic victory. That Pyrrhic victory will hurt even more when John Key goes on to win the 2017 election.

 

– Fairfax

 


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