PM snags votes at Parachute music festival

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2014

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Not for the first time, John Key wielded the barbecue tongs for the cameras, invoking an ancient political tradition at the Parachute Music Festival in Hamilton yesterday.

Parachute chief executive Mark de Jong tweeted pictures of Key presiding over the sausages with the caption "The Prime Minister serving some love to the #parachute2014 crowds".

Key last manned the barbecue for PR effect in 2010, chugging on a Monteiths while flipping steaks for the visiting Prince William, an occasion judged a success despite a teenage radio DJ arriving as an uninvited guest, leaping the fence with a packet of Sizzlers.

Across the floor, barbecues have been a more sensitive subject. "Barbecue at Phil's" became politician-speak for an attempted coup after a January 1999 flame-fest at Phil Goff's house where it was later alleged a plan to roll Labour leader Helen Clark was hatched.

But by 2011, Goff had clearly overcome any negative associations with charred meat and was keen to join Key in extracting publicity from the humble barbie, hosting a celebratory sizzle at his Clevedon farm after being re-elected Labour leader. He would go on to supply TVNZ with his recipe for BBQ beef wraps, which involved marinated beef schnitzel, lettuce leaves and coriander.

In Canada, the "barbecue circuit" is a disparaging term for the off-season political circuit of flesh-pressing, but in America it has long had a pivotal place in political campaigns, originating from when candidates would attempt to influence voters with free barbecues outside polling stations.

Democrat candidate Stephen Douglas' 1860 campaign for the presidency faltered when a giant barbecue involving a whole ox, heifer, hog and two sheep was burned and a hungry mob smashed through the fences and caused a riot; the New York Times reporting a "wild scramble for the choice bits".

More recently, both Lyndon B Johnson and George W Bush were known for hosting state barbecues at their Texas ranches; Bush was visited by the leaders of Britain, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, with the Chinese describing a barbecue of catfish, brisket and pecan pie as "the highest level of reception" for president Jiang Zemin.

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