Editorial: Key's gags need a little work

23:51, Nov 07 2012
key stand
A professional footballer and a gay guy walk into a bar . . .

Recent polls show Prime Minister John Key's popularity holding up - just.

While it could be argued that his satisfaction rating from the public is incrementally being whittled away, bit by bit, so far he remains head and shoulders above any of his challengers.

That, of course, could be equally due to the lack of any emerging challenger, with Labour leader David Shearer making little impact so far.

In Sunday night's TV One poll, Mr Key led the preferred prime minister stakes with a whopping 42 per cent to Mr Shearer's 11.

That wily old campaigner Winston Peters was on 6 per cent, which serves to underline his own resilience, and the dearth of rising young stars making their mark.

However, a poll is a snapshot of the thinking of the electorate at a certain time.


It needs to be understood that the poll was done before the prime minister's latest gaffes, in which it was alleged he referred to English soccer star David Beckham as "thick as bat shit", and then ribbed a radio host over his "gay red top".

At first glance they seem extraordinary statements for our prime minister to make, and we have every right to expect a better standard from him. As the story about his thoughts on Beckham unfolded earlier this week, Mr Key continued his stumbling stances of recent times by giving an ambiguous answer that did little to put an end to the story.

By refusing to confirm or deny the report, he merely kept it alive.

"It's probably not quite the way you see it in the paper. It was a private conversation; I was talking to a few people and that's what he thought he heard," is as far as he has gone into the issue.

Sorry, prime minister, that does not cut it. If you did say it, accept you got it wrong and apologise, which would put an end to the story.

It is clear that Mr Key needs to be a little more careful about his choice of words in some circumstances.

But it is just as clear that New Zealanders are steadily but surely losing that ability to laugh at themselves with a unique, robust humour.

It is frankly embarrassing that the Greens would see red over his "gay" reference, clearly delivered in a humorous context in which he was gently ribbing a radio host during a light-hearted show, and not referencing his sexual orientation.

Anyone seeing a link to homophobia has clearly missed the pictures of Mr Key standing comfortably among cross-dressers and has not heard the young stretch the meaning of "gay" to mean anything but homosexuality.

Part of the attraction of Mr Key has always been his ability to make light of some things, including himself and his role in world affairs. That has helped to keep us grounded and to cope with some tough times over the past few years.

That some would now see such a harmless jibe as offensive only exposes them as small-minded and mean.

And most definitely sans sense of humour.

Taranaki Daily News