(Repost) When is a nasty attack not a nasty attack?

Originally posted at On The Left.

John Key was on Breakfast on One this morning talking about the political year past and the challenges facing him in 2015. And it was a fascinating display of how someone can say utterly contradictory things with a straight face.

On the “low point” of the election campaign – after talking dismissively about Nicky Hager – Key says:

“The low point was the campaign … it was a style of campaign that New Zealanders aren’t used to, don’t want … the whole thing was just awful.”

“[Labour] have done every rotten trick in the book.”

But of course:

“It’s the nature of politics and I don’t complain about it.”

Then, after the ad break:

“The one difference with [Andrew Little, compared to previous Labour leaders] is, he’s comfortable in his own skin … he’s got a pretty narrow base … and he’s always been the aggressive hard man, there’ll never be a change of dial or temperature, if a kitten crosses the road … he’ll be screaming like that.”

What was that about nasty attack politics being a turn-off to voters?

This has been the rightwing response to Dirty Politics since the day it dropped, throwing up utterly contradictory defences (“everyone does it so get over it”, “no you’re the dirty ones”, “it turns off voters”, “it’s a beltway issue voters don’t care about”) and assuming

The problem is, it’s worked. So in under 12 minutes on Breakfast, Key can attack the integrity of one of our best investigative journalists, repeat the WhaleOil smear about Andrew Little having no support, and literally accuse him of yelling at kittens.

But apparently it was Labour’s nasty attack politics which resulted in their bad election result.

To add insult to injury, he even kicks off the resurrection of Judith Collins’ career by talking about how good a minister she was! The minister who tried to smear a gallery journo to another in order to distract from her shady dealings with Oravida! (Collins is clearly still holding a grudge on that one, too.)

So when is a nasty attack not a nasty attack? It’s basic emotive conjugation: I am making a neutral observation, you are a nasty attack blogger, he just keeps texting me and I can’t stop him.

It’s frustrating as hell: it seems utterly bizarre that our own Prime Minister can sit in a television studio and act like a victim of attack politics then moments later hurl personal insults at the Leader of the Opposition.

Apparently that’s the nature of politics in New Zealand these days. But unlike our Prime Minister – who will assure you as often as you care to hear that he’s “not complaining about it” – I expect better.

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