Island Life by David Slack

74

What it don't get, I can't use.

In December 1948, a Washington DC radio station asked ambassadors from a number of countries to say what they would most like for a Christmas gift.Their replies were recorded for a special holiday broadcast.

"Peace throughout the world," said the French ambassador.

"Freedom for all people enslaved by Imperialism," said the Russian.

"Well, it's very kind of you to ask," said the British ambassador. "I'd quite like a box of crystallised fruit."

If you suddenly had a billion dollars, what would you spend it on? asked Tearaway magazine of Mr Key and Miss Clark.

Helen said she’d give it to “development agencies offering education and opportunity and campaigns against HIV and AIDS in developing countries.”

John said he’d quite like “a jet, a personal jet.” And he’d donate some to charity.

John, John, you’re not following the cue cards! Will you get it right the next time you're asked?

'Next time' came yesterday, when Wammo put the same question to him. Either John is sticking to his guns, and being his own man, or he’s alert to the perils of inconsistency. “Well I told Tearaway I’d like a private jet,” he laughed. “Who wouldn’t?”

"Really?" asked Wammo, "You know, Helen gave all hers to charity."

”That’s nice,” said Candidate Key in a rather hurt and vulnerable little voice. Awkward questions seem to strangle his vocal chords. The same thing happened when he was first asked that Springbok tour question. But he was off balance for only a moment. Back he came with a good left cut: He reminded Wammo of the substantial amount he gives to charity already. He wondered how much Helen gives.

It’s a free country. John Key has the right to decide for himself whether to spend his money on a private jet and of course we have the right to decide for ourselves whether we would like that in a Prime Minister.

Perhaps my ambitions are too modest, but I cannot see myself reclining in one of those things. If I had to, I’d at least want to leave CNN turned off, lest they should run any pictures of Darfur. All of us who live in relative comfort could be equally criticised for enjoying more than our share, but some of us would seem to reach gagging point a little later than others.

The people I have known who work in the world John Key once lived in are ridiculously, trivially and endlessly competitive. They brandish their trophies, they covet their scalps:

I have this.
I have a bigger one.
In your face!
Burn!

Candidate Key, the man without a non-negotiable belief, has thus far presented a puzzling empty canvas. What makes him run? A Fourth Way? A reinvented mixed economy? The West Wing? His taste for private jets suggests a simpler answer: perhaps it’s trophy fever. Picture the trader buddies swapping bragging rights over drinks in Maui.

I took Merrill Lynch for a billion last month.
I took KKR for two.
I scored two supermodels and a Russian tennis player last night.

Trader John looks at them with a slow, assured, smirk of triumph.

Pussies. I just got voted Prime Minister of a country.

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