Eleanor Catton has 'no particular great insights into politics', says John Key

Eleanor Catton has been heavily criticised for her attack on the Government. Photo / Doug Sherring
Eleanor Catton has been heavily criticised for her attack on the Government. Photo / Doug Sherring

Prime Minister John Key has dismissed Eleanor Catton's criticisms of his government, saying they should not be given any more credence than those of the Mad Butcher or Richie McCaw.

The Luminaries author and Man Booker Prize winner attracted controversy last week after comments she made at the Jaipur Literary Festival in India were published on the Live Mint news website.

She said she was angry with the Government's treatment of the arts and the country's "neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians".

"I feel uncomfortable being an ambassador for my country when my country is not doing as much as it could, especially for the intellectual world," she said.

Appearing on TVNZ's Breakfast show this morning, Mr Key said Catton's views on politics shouldn't be taken any differently than those of any other New Zealander.

"She has no particular great insights into politics, she is a fictional writer. I have great respect for her as a fictional writer [sic]."

Mr Key conceded he had read some, but not all of the Luminaries.

"Obviously it's done phenomenally well and I'm really proud of her, but it would be no different from Richie McCaw or the Mad Butcher or anybody else having a view on politics.

"They're absolutely entitled to do that, but her views on politics are no more authoritative than anybody else's.

"I mean, if it's Corin Dann, and he's the chief political reporter, then his comments carry more weight because that's what he does for a job."

Mr Key previously dismissed Catton's views on the Government as being those of the Greens.

Her comments have attracted the ire of the right, with Radio Live presenter Sean Plunket calling a "traitor" and an "ungrateful hua", a Maori slang word that was widely mistaken for "whore" by listeners.

The Taxpayers' Union meanwhile revealed she had received upwards of $50,000 of public funding in the past few years.

Catton responded to the accusations with a statement on her blog. In it she accused New Zealand's mainstream media of publishing "inflammatory, vicious and patronising" things about her.

In an interview with the Guardian at the weekend, she criticised "the scale and shabbiness of this jingoistic national tantrum", which she said "shames me deeply as a New Zealander".

"I believe it can be countered only with eloquence, imagination, and reasoned debate - qualities that might seem to have disappeared from our national conversation, but that persist, and will continue to persist, despite efforts to humiliate and silence those who speak out."

- NZME.

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