Russel Norman’s speech to the annual conference of the Greens, in which he compared John Key with Robert Muldoon, rated a 10 for desperation and a zero for credibility.I’m no cheerleader for Key, but even to mention him in the same breath as Muldoon is laughable.
Norman arrived in New Zealand from Australia in 1997, and on the basis of his speech I would guess that’s about as far back as his knowledge of our political history extends.None of the prime ministers we’ve had since Muldoon could be compared with him, for which we should be grateful. He was a vindictive bully who cleverly exploited the politics of fear and division, and never more so than during the 1981 Springbok tour.
In fact I would suggest that in terms of personality, Key is the least like Muldoon. Anyone old enough to remember the political unpleasantness of the late 1970s and early 80s – which probably excludes a lot of Green voters – would have reacted with astonishment to Norman’s bizarre attempt to compare the two men.
Muldoon's default facial expression was a snarl. Key's is a grin (or if you want to be harsh, a smirk).Arguably, the politician who most closely resembles Muldoon, and who served his apprenticeship under him, is Winston Peters. Like Muldoon, Peters has a penchant for demagoguery. But even the New Zealand First leader falls far short of Muldoon’s menacing intolerance of dissent, though it might have been a different story had he ever won power.
There are only two possible explanations for Norman’s attack on Key. The first is that, as postulated above, he knows nothing about our modern political history (not that that stops him from promoting himself as a credible alternative leader). The second, which is even more worrying, is that he knows the comparison between Key and Muldoon is absurd but ran with it anyway. Perhaps he senses the Greens’ momentum is slipping and is prepared to resort to extreme measures to get some traction.Whichever way you look at it, the speech will have done nothing to enhance his credibility, other than in the eyes of the terminally gullible idealists who make up the Greens’ core constituency.