James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Learning the lines

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Prime Minister John Key, with Finance Minister Bill English. Photo / NZH
Prime Minister John Key, with Finance Minister Bill English. Photo / NZH

FROM: National Party HQ
TO: All National Party MPs
RE: Learning the Lines

In the wake of recent events and with an election looming, now is a very good time for us, as a Party, to consider the issue of lines - when not to cross them; and how to cross them when it suits us but without making it apparent a line has been crossed or even existed in the first place.

Sometimes it is blindingly obvious, even to the most backbench of List MPs, when a line has been crossed. When a Minister picks up the phone and calls the police about police business, that right there is a line so big and so wide it should never be crossed. Bad line. Avoid this line at all costs.

Sometimes the line is much less clear. Sometimes there are lines that seem clear but which, in political reality, are not clear at all. There are times when it may seem like a minister has crossed the line but then we move the line, because the line was drawn in the shifting sands of politics, and if you shift a line in the sand often enough the sand becomes a desert and the line a mirage.

This, however, is a trick that can only be pulled off a few times before people (also known as "voters") start to notice. Tiptoe carefully along these lines.

Yes, the National Party is the party of business and, as such, it speaks the language business people understand - i.e. money. Make no mistake, money is good. Money is the bottom line. It is the dividing line between getting elected and not getting elected. But money - and particularly the way it finds its way into the party line of credit - is also a fine line. It is also a wiggly line, for good reasons because the wigglier the line the harder it is to follow. Do not mess with the wiggly line, people, because lines can be traced and where a line can be traced, it can be traced back to you.

Threatening journalists is another line that should be crossed at your own peril. There is nothing wrong, per se, with threatening a journalist - for despite all their posturing and bluster they are timid, flaccid creatures who must be brought back into (the party) line from time to time. But remember that journalists are cunning and can record you when you least expect it so when you are on the front line, remember to hold the line before you accidentally put everything on the line.

In fact, when dealing with the press, recent events would suggest it is best to toe the line, do your job and let others do their jobs without blurring their line when they don't want it blurred. For example, if a reporter asks you about wetlands, don't tell them you don't care about wetlands, no matter how peeved you are with the reporter and/or the wetland in question. Yes, this may be an honest reaction, but honesty is not helpful to the Party. We have a person whose job is to pretend to care about wetlands, so point the reporter in that direction so he can reassure the reporter we care very much about wetlands and there will be no harm done - except to the wetlands. It's not rocket science, people, it is politics and the two things could not be further apart.

In conclusion, this Party has invested a lot of time and energy in Teflon-coating itself. We have put a lot of resources into grooming a Prime Minister who can plausibly stand up on the telly and make absolutely everything sound like there is nothing going on worth worrying about. This is the Genius of John - he sounds like an actual bloke you can trust when he tells you no lines were crossed, or even bent, here.

But as anyone familiar with Teflon-coated cookware knows, if enough scrubbers scrub for long enough, the Teflon wears off and stuff starts to stick. This line, the line of sticking, is a line we definitely do not want to step up to. The absolute last thing we need this election are questions that stick to John like burnt egg-white.

Bloodlines are another type of line. National has ruled this country, interrupted by only the occasional electoral abomination, since 1949. The blood of this nation runs blue, people. The blood that pours from the heartland and the people who now own that heartland, is thanks to us. Hold that line for all you are worth, for there is one more line: the line that leads to the opposition benches - the line that leads to political oblivion.

This is a line we do not want to walk.

Are we clear on everything line-related now?

Good.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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