Live by the sword . . .

Last updated 10:25 16/11/2011

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METHINKS he doth protest too much.

When Prime Minister John Key visited New Plymouth recently and wandered around Centre City shopping mall, he was accosted by upset Act Party man Morris Hey, in a confrontation that attracted the attention of the national media.

Mr Hey was unhappy that the desire of himself and many others to have an Act Party candidate representing them in the New Plymouth electorate was railroaded in a deal that may or may not have occurred behind closed doors between National and Act leader Don Brash. That 'deal', if it did exist, involved Act not putting up a candidate in the vulnerable New Plymouth seat in return for National doing likewise in the Epsom electorate coveted by former National minister John Banks.

But National appeared to have reneged on the deal when a blue candidate was announced in Epsom, leaving New Plymouth's Act supporters and prospective candidate Kevin Moratti fuming and isolated.

Mr Key's response was a shrug and a wry grin: with the wave of a wand and skilful use of smoke and mirrors he had cleared the way for an at-risk candidate in New Plymouth and implemented a sound insurance policy against an Act implosion in Epsom.

Politics 1 democracy 0.

So it galls a little that he doth protest so much at the cup of tea taping that may or may not have been deliberate.

The meeting between Mr Key and Mr Banks was a grand media manipulation that suggested the arrival of a rock star or troubled celebrity rather than two politicians simply catching up for a chin wag and a bit of political 'gossip'.

It was a stunning ruse worked out by the two parties to give Mr Banks a boost and hopefully shore up support on the political centre right. And no doubt both men would have chuckled to themselves at the media lapping up this latest "photo opportunity", this backroom deal so cleanly rendered by the media-laundering machine.

More smoke and mirrors. And once again the virtuous lady of democracy is sullied by men of ambition.

But like the rock stars who wander so easily from the path and the sports stars who fall drunkenly from their pedestals, the politicians who court fame and power through so many camera lenses and microphones should not be so surprised when their plans come awry and scrutiny reveals more than they had hoped for.

Celebrities, sports stars and politicians crave attention and the power it provides to lift their profile, raise the status and augment their bank balance. But they want their cup of tea and to drink it too. They see no problem in manipulating the many-headed hydra that is the media but cry foul when that beast becomes a burden, a dog that breaks free of its leash.

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National and Act have struck a secret deal that arguably denies people their democratic right. So they should not protest that some of their clever machinations have been revealed. Even if the means appear highly questionable.

- Taranaki Daily News

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