Teflon Man No More



teflon man



On 26 August, as Nicky Hager’s expose on New Zealand’s right wing politics hit public consciousness and confirmed our worst fears, I wrote,

“Dirty Politics” has achieved more than simply revealing  unwholesome machinations between National party apparatchiks, ministers, and halfway-insane right-wing bloggers. The book has explained the nature of Key’s seemingly “Teflon” nature. The secret is revealed; the mystery is stripped away; and now, when Key is confronted by a media pack, the brown smelly stuff is sticking to him.

Two days later, I repeated my belief that Key’s seemingly air-of-invulnerability had been swept away;

The Teflon Man is no more. He has been terminally weakened by his own ‘kyptonite’ – truth.

My perception of Key’s new status as just another garden-variety politician has been born out by this extraordinary exchange between TV3’s Lisa Owen, and our soon-to-be replaced Prime Minister;


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Lisa owen - john key - TV3 - The Nation - election 2014


Until 7.05, the rather routine discussion between Owen and Key centers around National’s options to govern, post election. Coalition options and minority government are discussed, and Key confidently handles each scenario thrown at him by the host.

At 7.05, however, matters take a turn for the worst for Key when Lisa Owen raised the subject of child poverty and asked Key,

“One of the big issues this election has been child poverty. And you have said, just last year, you said ‘we are proud of the government’s record  tackling child poverty. Do you stand by that?”

Key replied,

“I absolutely I do.”

At Owen’s further questioning, Key responded by saying that he was proud of his government’s track record in dealing with child poverty.

Owen then lobbed this “grenade” at him, namely a quote from John Key himself, reported  in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 September.

  “Our opponents say more children are living in poverty than when we came into office. And that’s probably right.”

This frank admission runs counter to ever line uttered by Key, Paula Bennett, other National ministers, right wing commentators and bloggers, et al. In fact, with four simple words, Key has effectively demolished his own government’s insistence that child poverty has been reducing over the last six years. Crosby Textor’s spin doctors must have collectively moaned in despair when they read that comment.
From this point on, Key squirmed uncomfortably as he tried to wriggle out from this admission to the Sydney Morning Herald – including at one point revealing his frustration by  blurting out (@ 9.15),
“Lisa, don’t be silly!”
Owen persisted challenging Key as he tried to wiggle out of his SMH comments – but she would have none of it.
For possibly the first time since Stephen Sackur interviewed Key on Hard Talk in May, 2011, this was a moment when our Prime Minister faced serious hard questioning and was not allowed to wriggle his way out with nonsensical, glib answers.

Since Nicky Hager’s revelations and the sacking of Judith Collins, Key’s preternatural teflon-shield has been stripped away. He is now just another politician, and if by some miracle he successfully leads the next government post 20 September, he will find  his interactions with journalists becoming harder and harder.

It may not be what he says that lowers his esteem in the public eye. It will be the way he says it.

Lisa Owen was simply the first.




TV3:  John Key – Minority government possible

Sydney Morning Herald: The Key factor

Youtube-BBC:  John Key on Hardtalk (Part 2)

Previous related blogposts

The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next Leader of the National Party?

“Dirty Politics” – the fall-out continues




Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes



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  1. What is that about the ID , Ego etc?…Freudian slips?….I wonder how much a person can stand before ….the consience kicks in ?

    And would it have happened unless there was a stimulus to draw it out?

    The internal pressures of Dirty Politics , Rawshark , ….the ensuing public debate …and coupled with even solid allies (ie : some among the MSM ) being seen to go with the flow to cover their own rear ends…must have seemed like their reliable allies were diminishing rapidly.

    We can say the ‘forcing ‘ of some sort of inquiry….(exercise in damage control ie: an internal one not a Royal Commission by Key…) …..is in response to ‘allay’ public perception….to come up with a palatable conclusion favouring Key and the Nats…..but also to divert attention from what really needs to be investigated.

    The stress of being caught out…I notice with an interview about Glenn Greenwald….Key took on that same stressed look…facial expressions..he had when Hagers book first came out….Rawshark simply necessitated the need for public ‘placation ‘…. the guy was angry. It was obvious.

    Be that as it may it denotes instability. He knows damn well that the Nats have got a lot to hide. And with the weak link in the chain – and there are many weak links now – any one of which can lead to yet more revelations of political ‘malpractise’…it gets harder and harder to damp out the fires popping up everywhere…….hence the obvious hostility towards Mr Dotcom and Mr Greenwald.

    Its falling apart.

    And the stress of that is going to take its toll now and in the future.

    Even if he and the Nats win this time round…..what Greenwald , Assange , Dotcom have to bring on Monday 15th September at the Auckland town hall may very well mean a positive brand new start for New Zealand.

  2. It’s true that the Teflon coating has mostly worn through, but Key’s continuing popularity from his “base” suggests there is Kevlar underneath – apparently capable of stopping bullets of information that would normally have proven lethal. I do hope you’re right, we’ll see on September 20.

    • I’m unsure of that.

      Key’s a narcissist.
      He’ll quit and head for the beach when he no longer has a completely free rein to bullshit and behave as he pleases.

      A essence he is coward, he’s had free rein throughout his adult career, and no experience of doing it tough.

      I don’t believe there’s a man of steel underneath the teflon. He’ll run.

  3. There is going to be some unpleasant turbulent times ahead for Key and his co conspirators.

    Some hard questions from reporters will just be the start of their troubles.

    The John Banks experience awaits a few of them ……….

  4. Yes, Lisa Owen is one sharp journalist. She virtually stripped Bill English of his pants last weekend as well, when he was unable to respond to her questioning!

    If Lisa Owen can do this to FJK and English, imagine the blood on the floor if FJK was interviewed by Glenn Greenwald, dissecting the GCSB, SIS and Dirty Politics!

    That would be the dream entertainment of the decade!

  5. The teflon shield: This perception of invulnerability is created by nothing more than the circulation of dodgy polls. It justifies the attack-style articles to further demote the opposition. If they prove to be wrong come Sept 20 then John Key’s perceived popularity was conjured out of nothing but hot air.
    Maori Television’s poll had National on 13% and Labour on 37%
    From now on, National are to me the 13 percent party. It has a nice ring to it doesn’t it.


    • Assuming that isn’t a piss take…….how come that never got any air time?
      Other equally biased polls get shown and talked about.
      But OH NO, that wouldn’t be playing to the game plan………lie to the sleepy hobbitts and make them feel it just not worth the effort to vote……….it’s worked many times before, so why change a winning ”plan’………

  6. Keys has come out on the front foot against dirty spy allegations and sounds quite convincing at face value on Q and A Sun morning.

    I suspect the claim and counter claims on Monday will revolve around legalistic style semantics which for the large part will baffle most sleepy hobbits .

    1. John Keys ” I can emphatically state we (SIS/GCSB) do not practice mass spying on NZ citizens.” translates to ” we dont actually have to do it, we get the 5 eyes to do it for us and store it in Utah “.

    2. “We absolutely don’t engage in mass spying on NZ residents , we only collect low level mega data .” Weasel words which translates for “we can get the content detail later if we want to ,its all stored in the 5 eyes super cloud. ”

    There is a huge difference between being truthful and being honest .
    When we don’t tell the the truth , the whole truth and nothing but the truth we risk another legal truism , ” Failure by omission to inform “, which leads to being misinformed and mislead .Partial truth.

    Keys is the master of partial disclosure.

    When applying for a financial prospectus KEYS Finance says it has assets of 50 million ,true ,but he conveniently omits tell you it also has liabilities for 100 million and is about to go under.The first statement is truthful but it is not honest .And you are about to suffer a huge loss because critical information has been deliberately been witheld from you.

    You may have given ” consent” to invest on the basis of the first statement but without the full disclosure you never gave” informed consent “.

    You have been mislead. Its deliberately designed to deceive, its fraud , and the directors will go to jail for misrepresentation .A half truth is a whole lie.

    What about some Wikileaks counter spying to show us Keys bank accounts and investment portfolio, which may show how his personal wealth has been increased by his own pollution economy policies .See how the teflon holds up on that one.

  7. Although I agree that journalists have given Key an outrageously easy ride over the last six years (many of them being sycophantic in their support of him), I think that one of the main problems that has stopped them from exposing him for the privilege protecting toad that he is, is the fact that he’s a master of holding court. Even John Campbell, who tried to be fair in the third debate, was unable to stop Key from taking up the lions share of the speaking time and consistently getting in the last word – even after Campbell had promised it to Cunliffe. This sort of selfish and rude behaviour has not only allowed Key to flourish in the anti-social culture that defines Merrill Lynch, but has denied many New Zealanders the opportunity of seeing beneath the veneer within which he hides. I am now worried that Glenn Greenwald’s evidence predates Key’s. That could make him look like the pinnacle of integrity and turn the soft blue vote hard. Hopefully, Greenwald is on the ball and in that case I believe that the soft blue vote will stay at home and give us the desperately needed change of government before our sovereignty is signed away to a corporate elite.

  8. I am not so convinced his Teflon is coming off in the eyes of the general public. I am not sure what it would take for the majority of the hardcore Nats voters to turn on him.

    What would it take for Nats voters to turn on Key? Short of video proof of him eating a baby I’m not sure there is much. He has been shown to be a liar, heartless towards child poverty and awful on the environment.

    He is almost deified at this point. Almost like Reagan or Thatcher. There is bucketloads of evidence of really nasty shit against those two and they are still fondly remembered by the mainstream.

    • Zugzug, much as I wish for a fresh start for NZ now, I fear that this is the case. On top of the rusted-on Nats vote, you have many people who only have a passing interest in politics who simply won’t find out key points like the one in the SMH article – because the rest of the mainstream media won’t publicise it (imagine if David Cunliffe had made such an omission! The Herald and Stuff would be pillioring him).

      What people don’t know won’t convince them to vote against Key. And then this week we have the spying allegations, which I fear the MSM will spin into a he says-she says situation, with the implicatioon that Key can be believed. Spying could well take all the airtime this week, and then it’s election day.

      In such an environment, how to drive the message home about voting against Key?

  9. Anon, my favourite philosopher, once stated “Beware of stupid people, especially in large groups”. My fear is that there is a large group of such peolpe within New Zealand who cannot see anything but the mythical image that the msm has built around Shon Key and still believe that he can do no wrong!

  10. 85000 jobs? Why hasnt he been asked for a breakdown of hours worked in these ‘jobs’? Are the 40hrs, 30hrs,2hrs, because if you are employed parttime now you are considered in employment. Has any reporter bothered to find out if these 85000 jobs still exist, or do they just count the employment and not the leaving of employment. With the 90 day grace period for employers, it could be, in my opinion, that they are not taking off the numbers that leave so others can take their place. Thanks rant over.

  11. TV3’s reporter Lisa Owen in the discussion with John Key raised the topic of child poverty that is part of one of the policy that has been the concern in NZ.

    There are five functions of the communication media in ideal type democratic societies:
    Firstly, the media inform citizens of what is happening around them, they are referred as the monitoring functions of the media.
    Second, educate people through facts and figures.
    Third, the media must provide a platform for public political discourse where public opinion is formed.
    Fourth function of the media is to give publicity to governmental and political institutions i.e. the ‘watchdog’ role of journalism. Dirty politics, scandals of different political leaders, and public behavior of political actors all this news is represented thru media for public to make choices for election. Political reality where the acts of political actors they are visible, accessible and hence accountable. There must be a sense of openness within the activities of the political class for public to make decisions.
    Finally, the media in democratic societies is a channel for advocacy of political viewpoints. Political parties require a platform for the communication of their policies and programs to a mass audience.

    At Owen questioning John Key and trying to clarify the “rumor” or “reports” that have been taking rounds regarding John Key lying about the concern and stats of child poverty. By creating this argument and discussion, journalist used it as a platform to clarify the reality and make it easier for public to make decision based on the discussion.

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