David Slack: 'The man with all the answers'
OPINION: I had a cup of coffee with John Key this week. Just him, Fairfax political editor Tracy Watkins and a few thousand losers like me mooching around the internet in our trackies. Click here for a live video chat with the Prime Minister. Click here to send him your questions.
I see him in the Koru Lounge sometimes. He stands in front of the TV and watches the news and people come up to him and act like it's no big deal, but most of what they say is hundred-mile-an-hour suckup. Also, with the greatest respect to Steven Joyce, most of the people in the Koru Lounge look like Steven Joyce, and the Prime Minister already knows what Steven thinks.
John ordered a trim latte, Tracy wanted a long macchiato. If the barista wearing the black cheese cutter cap had asked, I'd have said "flat white thanks", but he didn't. That's the internet. You feel invisible. But full credit to John, it only took a moment or two before it felt as though we were right there on Lambton Quay in Cafe 86 with the DPS, assorted hipsters and a recording device.
Tracy said: "You've been PM for 10 years. What was your most cringeworthy moment?" The ponytail thing, he said. Explaining is losing in politics, he said, and that was one not to be repeated. Pffft.
Say what you like about the Prime Minister, the man knows how to talk. Nothing is a problem and if it is we're on top of it.
It's not just what he says, it's how he says it. If Auckland had three volcanic cones erupting, he'd talk about it as though it was just another day in heavy traffic and you know, people get volcanoes all the time.
After a few minutes you can quite put it out of your mind that a basic Auckland house can cost ten or fifteen times your annual income and it's only getting worse, and the cost of living is just fine if you're a merchant banker or a TV CEO, but a little bit insane if you're a nurse or a teacher or a cleaner and have you seen the mould in this flat?
Dr Seuss bet his publisher he could write an entire book using no more than 50 different words. That's all there are in Green Eggs and Ham. John Key has collected 50 or so of the most elastic words in the English language and he uses them to set out his position on anything. As he's talking, you think, "well that makes sense". But come back later and you realise he's left himself wiggle room a mile wide.
You ask yourself: what did he actually say? Don't worry, he'll fill you in. Monday - "I said black". Tuesday - "I said white". Wednesday - "I said grey". Thursday - "Look, ordinary New Zealanders don't actually care about colours."
He's proud of what they've done: the first Government to put benefits up in decades. Borrowing rather than retrenching after the GFC. I do, I like it, Sam I Am. But is it enough?
He's very optimistic about our future. He sings a kind of We Don't Know How Lucky We Are taken out of its gumboots and put into an Armani suit, with all the irony scraped away.
He's so at ease in the chat that towards the end he gives the Opposition a free lesson: don't fixate on these so-called tax haven scandals, my son. Ordinary New Zealanders don't actually care about our small contribution to helping plutocrats and multinationals keep all their money. What they care about is health, education and the economy. My son.
Click here to send him your questions. "Now that your friend Mark Weldon has thrown himself under a bus, might we see the return of hard-hitting night time TV current affairs that gives the smallest amount of oxygen to the Opposition talking about health, education and the insane housing bubble? Also, is it too much to hope that we won't be seeing anything as medieval as The Bachelor again?
But he won't have an answer for that because if you step back and look at it all, you see a spectator Prime Minister. It's over to us to make our prosperity. It's over to us to milk more cows or build more hotel rooms or milk more cows or build more hotel rooms. Or we could do something entirely different and new, and maybe make enough to afford a house in Avondale.
But that's over to you, my son. We're just the Government.
- Sunday Star Times