Earlier this year when I was driving around somewhere in Australia I tuned in to talkback radio which, whether we bloggers like it or nor, is still a good way to get the pulse of what many people are saying and thinking.
Or saying but not really thinking about.
Kevin Rudd still hadn’t reached his 100 days as the new PM as I recall and yet there were the airwaves cluttered with naysayers whinging about the price of petrol and bread, thugs on the streets, teenage pregnancy rates and whatever else people blather on about on talkback.
Of course they were being whipped up by the “host” (as in the carrier of a parasite?) until someone finally came on and pointed out the bleedin’ obvious.
I had a similar experience last Friday -- beautiful day it was in Auckland -- when I tuned in to Willie Jackson and JT, whatever station they are on. (They were just the next up or down the dial I think from the increasingly dreary afternoons with Jim Mora on National Radio).
Anyway, along came Mary to whinge and moan about John Key not being here and saying something about the terrible events in Mumbai.
My guess is that at the time Key was somewhere in mid-air coming back from London so actually wasn’t in a position to say much at all. Just like Helen Clark -- and the rest of us -- was caught on the hop when the tsunami hit.
I wonder if Mary had much to say to Willie and JT about that at the time? I doubt it.
I know that it must be dreadful to be now on the outside of the tent given how the electorate has spoken, but there are times when some commentators -- and I take Mary’s voice to be as valid as any -- need to breathe through their nose a little.
I don’t know Matt McCarten (heard him speak a few times) but I read his Herald on Sunday column and was reminded immediately of those shoving the knife into Rudd when the guy had barely had time to get his furniture into the office.
McCarten opened by saying John Key had spent half his time as Prime Minister out of the country (I’m guess is Helen Clark might have gone to Apec too, if not London?) and made that increasingly spurious comparison with Barack Obama in the “change” stakes.
The opening gambit seemed to be that Key should have been here rather than picking up an Apec poncho and chatting with the Queen -- although a short way in McCarten said that unless Obama and his people get it right it wouldn’t matter what Bill English and John Key did.
American turbo capitalism is over (a corrupt sham) according to McCarten -- although the evidence around me suggests this might be somewhat of an exaggeration, or wishful thinking.
Anyway McCarten seemed especially aggrieved that Key wasn’t at the rudder but was shaking hands with the Queen to assure her that this little part of the Pacific was going to stay loyal, ma’am. Emblematic of him not being a real change leader, apparently.
(His did also meet UK PM Gordon Brown, but that seemed to not be worth mentioning in McCarten‘s column.)
Given that Key said a republic here was inevitable but wasn’t a priority right now (or words to that effect), I would have thought we might have simply taken that at face value. Imagine if he’d started banging on about a republic.
Mary and Matt might have told him to stop wasting his time and concentrate on the economy, right?
People I speak with -- predominantly Left beyond a doubt -- are watching and waiting but right now are moderately impressed at what Key has done by way of talking to the Maori Party (conspiracy theorists here is your chance. . .) and we concede that these are early days. Bloody early days.
No one I know was remotely worried that Key put on a silly poncho or went to London. They seem the kinds of things a new PM (and minister of tourism!) should do. No one thought it was a betrayal of their left-leaning inclinations to say as much either.
And nobody was unduly concerned that he was unavailable for comment on Mumbai, the Air New Zealand tragedy and so on. When he was available he spoke well enough.
What I’m thinking is that this default position which some people have to adopt must be very wearying, because right now they have nowhere to go with it -- other than to make themselves look pretty silly as straw-grabbers.
Even Mary gave up after a quick whinge and McCarten dropped the Key angle for a whole thing about Wall Street and Obama. The whining about Key just couldn’t last the distance -- because there has been no distance yet.
Anyway, life goes on.
We went for a wee train ride yesterday: we watch the damn things rumble by, empty carriage after empty carriage on most journeys, so thought we’d have a trip past other people’s back gardens.
The train arrived three minutes late.
I blame the government.
NB: Much more new music and more at Elsewhere right now.