Fresh FM's Matt Lawrey asked John Key a good question last week: "In 1981, were you for or against the Springbok Tour?" It's a good question because it explores a fundamental divide in New Zealand society. You couldn't be older than 12 at the time and not have an opinion on it.
But Key's answer is insipid: he claims at first not to remember what he thought at the time, then says he doesn't have "a strong feeling of it at the time - it's such a long time ago", then eventually "guesses" that he was probably in favour. Listening to it (and it's worth listening to the whole thing), the impression is that he's unsure what he should say.
The interview moves on to why he voted against the civil unions legislation and again he gives vague, even contradictory answers. He doesn't care "whether people are gay or lesbian," but thought the government was being dishonest and ought to have said its aim was really gay marriage. So he's in favour of gay marriage? No, he's "not entirely sure whether gay and lesbian people should be able to get married."
You also get the impression that the new National leader is striving to say the right thing in another broadcast interview, with the Christian TV channel Shine TV. "I live my life by Christian principles," he offers hopefully at one point.
Key doesn't seem able to articulate a strong political philosophy, even to back up his stated beliefs. It seems unlikely he'll develop one now, and it may even be that he doesn't need to.
But I do feel bound to make the comparison with Colin James' interview with his deputy, Bill English, for the Weekend Herald. English uses the interview to clearly mark out his philosophy and beliefs, his religious faith included. It's quite crisp.
Speaking of belief, Jesus Camp is currently sitting on Google Video, in its entirety. I got off the torrent a couple of weeks ago, and I was actually surprised at my reaction to it. The first time Becky Fischer started fanning hysteria in her infant flock, I felt so upset that I had to pause the video and go and get some fresh air. (Update: The clip has been removed.)
Oh, and it's iTunes a-go-go tomorrow. Unless they have a glitch and it's Thursday. Or, I guess, something really fscks up and the date fall back to Christmas ...