That nice Mr Key has been having a difficult week. If we could read his mind, what a tale his heart would tell.
Five dozen to choose from, and I picked that clown?
Christ, Eagleson, do I have to fix everything myself?
What does this Wilson woman want??
or maybe just:
I know! I'll blame Goff.
A pattern is emerging.
We first saw it in the flapping and fumbling over a small Thai tourist crisis. We saw it again over troops to Fiji and Afghanistan, and again with a Jobs Summit cobbled together to mollify disgruntled Herald reporters asking: "where's the policy to save us from a Depression?" We have seen it more recently in the matters of Paula Benefit, Christine Rankin and Melissa Lee and now, with this Worth affair, the Prime Minister appears to be fumbling once more. Why? Because as the unexpected question is put to him and he blinks in the floodlight, the thought going through his mind appears to be:
I am their leader. I must find out where they are going, so I can lead them there.
Thus we set out on the bumpy journey. First we are offered a slightly awkward and creaky response and then, gradually, if a little unsteadily, two days of refinement as the position is evolved to mesh with public opinion.
Calibrate, calibrate; figure out what the punters want; Always Be Closing.
Our Prime Minister operates to no discernible principle or ideology. Yes, politics is the art of the possible; but this is pushing the maxim awfully hard. When an issue blows up, there are no personal guiding principles he seems able to reflexively refer to or, if there are, they get short-circuited by his instinct to first check with the punters. Thus the stunned silence when he was first asked what position he'd held on the Springbok tour. Of course he knew. Of course he hadn't forgotten. He just didn't want to tell us and disappoint at least half the audience.
I've quoted a friend from the markets before, I'll quote him again: Great antennae, no compass. I remain convinced he is principally in this job for the prestige. If I might borrow his own words from last night's Checkpoint interview, my confidence in him is rescinding.