Editorial: Time to ask John Key a serious question

OPINION: It might be time for one of John Key's closest confidantes to pull him aside and ask him an important question.

Someone familiar enough to put it to him in the sort of language he should understand.

"Mate, are you serious?"

It's a question that probably needs asking in the wake of his ever so serious comments on Saturday relating to the events of Friday at Waitangi. In relation to those comments, the chosen confidante might follow up the initial question with something along the lines of "Did you hear yourself on Saturday?"

That was the day Key, not at Waitangi himself due to what he said was conflicting information from Nga Puhi and warnings of violent protests if he had gone, told media he thought an incident in which a protester threw a sex toy at Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was "appalling".

"The image that has now gone worldwide - it's been one of the lead stories on the BBC, it's been huge media coverage around the world - that's the way now that people from overseas are viewing how we have a celebration on our national day. It just isn't the right image for New Zealand," he said during a media stand-up at his home, prior to heading to the Auckland Nines at Eden Park.

It's relevant to point out that he had a pretty serious look on his face when making the comments too. So, a prime minister fuming about an incident which has people laughing at New Zealand. Which, in most circumstances, might be considered an appropriate reaction from a country's leader. 

Key has a couple of problems here, though. Firstly, if he really thinks people overseas will view the incident as "how we have a celebration on our national day", it's a tacit acknowledgement that few people outside New Zealand would have given our national day a second thought. They'll be laughing at the event because it's funny.

Perhaps he's concerned that anyone who does choose to dig deeper will find Josie Butler's action, apparently accompanied by the words "That's for raping our sovereignty", symbolic and indicative of deep divisions within New Zealand over the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The major problem with his comments, though, is that saying something of this nature is not "the right image for New Zealand", when you've taken part in several widely condemned radio gags, such as one about "dropping the soap" in prison, or, damningly, been outed as persistently pulling on the ponytail of a woman working at a favourite restaurant, it comes across as somewhat hypocritical.

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Perhaps it would have been wiser for him to follow Joyce's example - take it on the chin and move on.

 - Stuff

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