Graham Chaplow: Key master of manipulation

By Graham Chaplow

3 comments
Graham Chaplow.
Graham Chaplow.

It's the oldest trick in the book: get someone saying yes and you're half way to getting them on your side; them feeling more positive might get you your way (think D.J. Trump). It's a psychological ploy; something used in questionnaires, the way questions are asked, or in surveys on the internet, or in person or on the phone; that when someone is adamantly opposed to your view, the quickest way to bring them round to your way of thinking is to ask two or three questions where the only answer they can give is yes.

The idea is that, once they've said it (yes), you'll find it much easier getting them to say it again, and again, and then hopefully, in the end, they'll accept your point of view.

And it works.

We often see an offshoot at play in parliament, especially when watching John Key on TV, on the news, with him back-dropped by three or four ornamental nodding dogs, like the ones once all the rage in the back windows of cars, all strategically seated captured on camera behind, all nodding yes in unison at his every utterance, or shaking no whenever Key is in shot grinning, listening to his opposition.

Former National MP Chris Tremain was a dab hand at it. And Key's caucus puppet Craig Foss, too, questioning his constituents' ethics in his columns, making it hard to disagree.

And, whenever Key's on a whistle-stop tour visiting an electorate somewhere, you'll see a Nat nodding like a lap dog in behind, drooling over his or her leader; or his press secretary if required.

Look back on Key's visits to Christchurch post quake, or Pike River; those poignant occasions when he was promising "whatever it takes" to sort things out, and you'll probably see someone behind him there too; some sycophantic lackey salivating like Pavlov's proverbial dog.

And as for our choice of flag - the contrivance to select a white feather referendum. What a costly yes rort that turn into, when only one question was required: do you want to change? Voting for an alternative meant saying yes to the process. Rating all five flags equalled five more yeses, when one vote sufficed. And at what cost now, considering it's likely Key will be left simpering like the cat chundering up his own cream?

Recently, when conducting a survey of Arataki residents about the mushroom farm in Havelock North, regional councillors employed an impromptu version of the yes ruse too. But theirs was a cleverer version: a survey to rate the smell and discomfort from the farm from one to 10 (anything over about four or five meant that, yes Havelock, we have a problem).

What they found, though, was no, that most home owners weren't too bothered by the sporadic fungal stench from the farm at all, but were far more upset about their new kura - a complete backdown from the state primary school promised throughout the 2014 elections.

Now that was when we should have thought long and hard about who we were saying yes to, and who we gave our big fat yes tick. But in 2014 - despite grumblings and concerns over broken government promises at Pike and Christchurch, Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics' big reveal of Judith Collins meddling with the SFO through Cameron Slater's Whale Oil, and Key's what-New-Zealanders-really-want yes rhetoric - the country unanimously voted him carte blanche to let rip.

With the likes of his flag referendum, the TPP, rampant overspending on government buildings when there's widespread poverty, Pharmac's failure to fund the melanoma drug Keytruda, and rewarding charter schools for poor performances, that's exactly what he's doing.

So what's the next step for charter schools - for our new kura (Key's sweetener for the Maori Party's confidence and supply yes vote)? To be run by Serco, maybe?

Residents saying they won't vote for Foss in 2017 is a tad late. Parata's last caravans are about to vacate their ranks.

And with the flag referendum almost over, is Key's new red herring Crusher's pledge to get tough on gangs? Like beneficiaries, they're a grandiose distraction; just another easy target to get us all nodding yes.

- Graham Chaplow is a retiree, volunteer teachers' aide and award-winning writer.

- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz

- Hawkes Bay Today

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