John Key, Jono and Ben, my grandchildren, and me

Yes – unbeknown to John Key, we have a history, culminating with Jono and Ben.

From my first glimpse of Key, I formed a view of him that has remained unchanged. I don’t want to put a label on it but, to me, his charm is so strong as to be unreal, his emotions feigned. I read his history and carefully considered his actions; my judgement is that he seems never to have done anything for anybody except for his own benefit. The defining issue, for me and many others I believe, was his position over the 1981 Springbok tour – in turn a defining issue for the country. When as prime minister he was asked where he stood on the tour – he was 20 at the time of the tour – he said he didn’t have a view. And perhaps he didn’t, perhaps he was telling the truth – but that for me, is probably the worst possible position – he cataclysmically flunks a key (excuse the pun) morality test.

In 2008, in ‘National: Smoke and Mirrors’ I wrote:

‘In a nutshell, I see John Key as ingratiating and shallowly eclectic – when I see him on television I always have the feeling that just behind him, just out of view, there is a row of second-hand cars; others I know will see him as a genial fellow worthy of their trust.’

And so the years passed in an entirely predictable way – the corruption through fear, propaganda, government patronage, skewing of numbers, and dirty tricks occurring in unprecedented intensity. In education, for instance, Ann Tolley had a hit list of principals, some of whose names were fed to Cameron Slater, and ghastly things ensued. The practice was carried on to some extent by Hekia Parata. The ministry and review office became accomplices in corruption; the use of commissioners in schools a scandal. Government in neoliberal style became something you did to people, isolated for the purpose.

I went to a World Cup rugby match and Key was called on to the field, the collective grunt of recognition I found frightening and worrying – primitive.

In my postings I picked up the pace, but determined to do something more – a something more that ended in farce – rather immaturely enjoyable, though.

My opportunity would come, as I thought, when I was interviewed by Lachlan Forsyth (lovely guy) for Campbell Live (pretty sound) a year ago. The ducks quacked on a pond (University of Waikato), willows hung poetically in the background, and Lachlan and I were comfortable in our park three-seater. It was, however, to be something of an exercise in frustration which, not by the way, is how interviews with me can often be characterised: I have my agenda and, interviewers, not surprisingly, but most annoyingly from my point-of-view, have theirs. TV 3 had footage on charter schools in New Orleans, for which I cared not an iota, and, as well as that, Lachlan wanted my views on how I thought charter schools in New Zealand might go, which I thought irrelevant. On the matter of charter schools all I wanted to say, and was prepared to say, was that they were brought in by Key as a platform to bad-mouth public schools – end of story.

In turn I wanted to use the situation as a platform to bad-mouth Key.

Oh dear, how the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.

When it came to the moment, I was only able to get in one or two things before I saw from the set of Lachlan’s mouth that the shutters were about to fall: I braced myself and announced as though orating to a fired-up crowd in a large auditorium, ‘John Key is a slimeball!’ Any hope for an opportunity to expand on that philosophical point was quickly dashed when Lachlan hurriedly got in a question on how I thought charter schools might go.

A few nights later, the family sat around the lounge wondering what mischief I might have got up to. The auguries for their fears were not encouraging. All through the news, I came on in trailers angrily denouncing the motives for the government’s introducing charter schools. But, to their relief, in the actual programme, my contribution was more-or-less just a repeat of those angry trailers – the slimeball comment left on the editing floor.

Oh well such is life.

About two months later my northern and Waikato grandchildren rang me up excitedly. There was amazement in their voices: ‘You were on the Jono and Ben Show’, they said.

On Friday night both sets of children are allowed to stay up to watch what they consider the acme of TV – Jono and Ben. And their granddad was on it, and what’s more he said ‘slimeball’. I was a hero in their excited eyes; they looked at me anew. They became modestly famous at their schools. For a grey-headed guy comfortably in his 70s – it is, of course, highly inappropriate, and would have been something of a shock to the systems of more sensitive viewers. (Unfortunately, for the Shadbolt family, it is par for the course.)

But rest easy – things did not end there.

While the programme was being shown, a viewer texted in, which was flashed on the screen, saying, ‘That was great, could you show it again?’ Well, no they couldn’t, because when I went to see myself making a fool of myself, it had been taken down.

And that ladies and gentleman makes history: it must surely be something for an item to be so tasteless as to be required to be removed from easily the most tasteless programme ever to be screened on New Zealand TV.

Some say attack the argument not the man, but I say the man (or woman) is the argument. Anyway, I was more than willing to expand on the theme. And haven’t I been justified? What do you call a prime minister who gives sympathy to a blogger for the criticism the blogger received after he had written that a young man killed in a car crash was ‘feral’, adding that his death did ‘the world a favour’.

And the motivation for those sentiments was Key’s view ‘that the man’s mother was the same feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings.’

I won’t resile … he is a slimeball, and anyway, at the mere mention, I get a chortle from the grandchildren and a hug.

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9 Responses to John Key, Jono and Ben, my grandchildren, and me

  1. joceje says:

    Great comments, slime ball yeah

  2. Slimeball. Fits key to a tee! When i first saw him in 2008 I knew he was full of BS – all smile and wave. I knew he was big trouble for NZ. He has his Australian connections – his advisers, who in turn have their American connections. He was head-hunted for the job of National leader and consequently PM. For New Zealand’s sake, he has to be beaten. i get the feeling bill English is getting peed off with the carryings on with Cameron Slater and the emails.

  3. stephen dadelus says:

    Yep Kelvin, you and Abe Lincoln

    “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”

  4. Adriaan Steyn says:

    More like megalomaniac slimeball. Why does he have to regurgitate the American and Aussie positions on Russia and look a bit like a pet poodle. So he can play golf with Obama more often? He should rather have organised a top level trade delegation to go and sell them Kiwi meat, seafood and wine to replace the produce they are sanctioning. Whilst they’re there, might as well tell them about the great education opportunities in NZ.

  5. Paul says:

    Kelvin, if you have evidence that “In education, for instance, Ann Tolley had a hit list of principals, some of whose names were fed to Cameron Slater, and ghastly things ensued”. Then this should be shared as widely as possible. It seems to me that this would be consistent with the ‘work’ done on Simon Pleasants and in short deplorable. In Dirty Politics pg, 43 Nicky Hagar says ” Other Ministers offices also began feeding information to Slater, such as Gillon Carruthers, press secretary for Anne Tolley. “I got those stats out of Tolley’s office, seems Gillon has worked out that feeding the whale might help” Slater wrote in 2011. Tolley herself told Marcus Lush on Radio Live this morning that she has never provided bloggers with attack politics information. I’d ask Alan Allach about that.

  6. Kelvin says:

    Yes – noted that reference. Will watch Whaledump with interest for more information. The previous NZPF executive knew about a hit list of principals, and who was on it. I don’t want to say too much at moment because a related development is due any day.

  7. Stephen says:

    Kelvin I am absolutely appalled and saddened by the recent events involving those that are elected to guide and look after the people who elect them. The clear absence of any ethical or moral conviction from the (so called) leadership of this country from the Prime Minister down is alarming. I don’t care what anyone says but I would struggle to see Helen Clark behaving like this as PM.
    Teachers have endured an orchestrated smear campaign from these bottom feeders over the last 6 years and it is hard not to get some satisfaction from seeing them currently squirming in the filth they have created.
    If this list of troublesome Principals existed and if it was given to these odious bloggers then it is something that everyone in education needs to be aware of.
    Kind regards and keep up the good work.

  8. Steve and Val Horne says:

    Hi Kelvin
    On 20 May, 2012 the Sunday- Star Times printed my ‘Letter to the Editor’ about John Key. the letter heading is ‘John’s Wrong’
    Dear John, please don’t pretend you are one of us, the guy next door. Your folksy smiles, photo opportunities and insincere words are becoming tiresome. Our country’s fortunes appear to be driven by a view that money buys happiness. Please tell me I am wrong. Perhaps you were one of us in your early years. I’m not so sure any more.
    I am currently reading ‘ Dirty Politics ‘ by Nicky Hagar. Hmmm, you know, I may have been too polite…

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