The eyes have it ... Key's charms fall flat

By Derek Cheng

John Key startles Isabelle Mein, 2, as she clings to mother Cathy during a walkabout in Ponsonby. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Key startles Isabelle Mein, 2, as she clings to mother Cathy during a walkabout in Ponsonby. Photo / Dean Purcell

There are two distinct reactions to the sight of John Key in Ponsonby's main shopping street: gushing, or hiding.

But spare a thought for those in prams who have no choice but to be coo-ed at by the Prime Minister.

There was no escape for Jack Kelly, 15 months old, as Key grabbed both his feet and rubbed them gleefully while smiling at Jack's rather startled look.

Jack looked to his mother, Nicole, for an exit strategy, but Nicole was too busy gushing; she had just signed up to volunteer for Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.

Only when it looked like a baby tantrum was imminent did Key relinquish control of Jack's feet ... and turn his attention to Isabelle Mein, 2. Cradled into her mother Cathy's shoulder, Isabelle was more than a little wide-eyed at the prospect of a gentle back rub from the Prime Minister.

Baby Jeff, imprisoned in his pram, looked terrified as his cheek was brushed while Key talked politics to his mother.

The walkabout was an opportunity to show the public his personable sideand to shore up Kaye's support.

Kaye won Auckland Central by 1497 votes in 2008, but is facing a strong challenge from Labour's Jacinda Ardern.

Key has an insatiable appetite for meeting the average punter. In a hair salon Kaye was halfway out the door when she realised her leader wasn't trailing, but in the back acquainting himself with the latest hair-dos.

He stopped repeatedly to take photos with people - some requested, others he offered - which revealed Kaye's inability to use an iPhone.

It wasn't all smooth sailing for Key. Georgia O'Brien, whose mother lives in Raumati Beach, had him up about Transmission Gully. "A lot of the community feel that they're not being heard, and the Minister of Transport has not been listening to what they've had to say."

And Pauline Mortimer, a former aged care nurse, compared the state of the health system to excrement.

"Just make sure you do a better job with the health system," she told Key.

Key guffawed defensively and then said he had hired more doctors and nurses.

It was good enough for Pauline, who replied, "Sweet. I think it's great that you get out in the public."

Given the babies' reactions to Key's touch, Labour may be disappointed they are too young to vote.

- NZ Herald

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