Which trait do you find least objectionable in your next Prime Minister … being clueless, or arrogant?
That’s the choice I’m stuck with as I ponder my party vote next Saturday. Because I do feel I should be choosing — on positive grounds — the leader of the next government. Not voting for some minor party that might, on a good day, have some marginal influence on that leader.
Let’s start with John Key and clueless. Here’s the exchange that caught my eye:
Herald: As tourism minister, how comfortable would you feel marketing New Zealand as 100 per cent Pure when you’re not committed to taking a lead on emissions reduction?
Key: I don’t think we need to lead the world in climate change – that’s been my point. I think we certainly need to play a part when it comes to climate change, and in that regard we’ll stay in Kyoto, we’ll honour our obligations, and we’ll have a balanced emissions trading scheme. But I think there’s a vast difference in arguing we need to be a world leader and closing down our economy.
Herald: But surely 100 per cent Pure is about leading the world, about being the best.
Key: No, I think 100 per cent Pure is about how New Zealanders feel when they walk out into a wide open landscape, in a sparsely populated country where you’re over whelmed almost by that sheer beauty and cleanliness. The drinking water is still great; the air quality is great; you can see the stars when you look up at night.
Hellooo John! There are plenty of places where you can see natural beauty and stars. Most of them are not utterly dependent economically on exporting farm products (produced safely, healthily and sustainably) and attracting tourists from abroad, as NZ is. To say nothing of the moral imperative to be clean and green.
The environmental bar has been lifted so high, appropriately, that I fear it’s beyond John’s vision. The inter-relationship between environmental and economic well-being is so strong and inescapable that NZ’s next leader simply cannot champion one successfully without the other. Whatever re-tuning John thinks the ETS or RMA might need, the bigger picture assumption voiced by his interviewer is absolutely correct — basing NZ’s economic viability on “100% Pure” requires being the best in class … and that will require some heavy lifting. Of this John seems clueless.
But then there’s Helen and her arrogance … consider this exchange in the Herald:
Herald: I would like to ask you what your biggest regret is about your handling of politics and policy in the past three years.
Helen: I have no regrets, and I wouldn’t even dream of trying to manufacture them.
Herald: I’m sure you do have some regrets.
Helen: No regrets. Never look back.
Whoa Helen! No mistakes; no regrets?! This is the kind of hubris that only nine uninterrupted years in office can create. Personally, not that BayBuzz readers should care, I believe that Labour has bungled health care miserably, that it has treated environmental protection as a nuisance issue the Greens keep harping about; and that Helen’s steadfast devotion to the corrupt Winston Peters (repeated in the Herald interview) is appalling. But that’s just me.
Whatever your politics, wouldn’t you like to have the peace of mind not to have made any mistakes or hold any regrets about your discharge of responsibilities over the past decade?!
Confidence, a “glass half full” perspective, a “can do” attitude — these are admirable traits. But not to be confused with arrogance … which in an elected official translates into not listening, not learning, not adapting.
And the times ahead certainly call for listening, learning and adapting!
So as the November moment of truth draws near, I’m more and more frustrated about the choice I’ll need to make. Clueless or arrogant … in politics can we never escape the “lesser of two evils” conundrum?