Will John Key ever catch up?
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.