Will John Key ever catch up?

Central Leader - - News -

I’ve had trou­ble over the years warm­ing to Na­tional politi­cians, of­ten too pleased with them­selves and their priv­i­leged sta­tion in so­ci­ety, and too ready to as­sume those who’re not well-off should some­how mag­i­cally sort them­selves out.

The phi­los­o­phy of the Nats has been too smug, selfish and ar­ro­gant for me.

So just over five years ago, when I first talked with John Key, I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to be won over. But I was.

He in­tro­duced him­self at Wai­tangi at a time when Na­tional’s heavy­weights were still shel­ter­ing their won­der­boy and keep­ing the me­dia at bay. But John was, as he still is, more than happy to check out new peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ences.

He’s open, out­go­ing, bright, af­fa­ble and un­pre­ten­tious – which means he’s easy to like.

They’re among the virtues that en­able him to cosy up to the Maori Party and, in his own way, match He­len Clark’s skill in pulling to­gether an un­likely coali­tion.

But when you talk with him th­ese days, for all his good hu­mour, brains and ad­mirable in­ten­tions – such as deal­ing with the bulk of the his­tor­i­cal Treaty of Wai­tangi claims in the next five years – you can’t help hav­ing a few mis­giv­ings.

One con­cern is this idea – as he in­di­cated on my Eye To Eye TV show last Sun­day – that democ­racy works for us all. It doesn’t. It serves the ma­jor­ity – which means it serves Pakeha, not Maori. He needs to get his head around that.

Al­though he ac­knowl­edges Maori have been gen­er­ous in ac­cept­ing tiny com­pen­sa­tion in treaty set­tle­ments, he scoots over that as if it’s in­con­se­quen­tial. That en­cour­ages Pakeha to feel no re­spect to­wards Maori for their sac­ri­fices.

At the end of our in­ter­view, John men­tioned he had no ground­ing in Maori as a boy grow­ing up in Christchurch, but that he was mak­ing an ef­fort to catch up.

I thought that was the per­fect time to test whether he had any Maori lan­guage skills so I asked him: “Kei te pe­hea koe?” (How are you?)

He in­cor­rectly replied: “Yeah thank you.”

It’s ob­vi­ous to me he has a lot of catch­ing up to do.

I hope it’s ob­vi­ous to him too.

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