Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Claire Trevett – is Sir John Key’s comments a bigger headache for Judith Collins or Jacinda Ardern?


Here’s Johnny!The scene in The Shining in which Jack Nicholson’s character pops his head through a hole in the door was once judged the scariest horror movie scene of all time.

It would be fair to say Sir John Key’s leap into the debate about the Covid-19 plan is more of a horror story for National Party leader Judith Collins than for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Key’s forthright call for more certainty around when the borders will reopen, suggestions of ways to get there, and scathing criticism of the MIQ system hit the newspapers on Sunday.

Since then, he has done interview after interview on it. He has had more publicity in one day than Collins has managed since the outbreak began.

Key was motivated by more than genuine and growing concern about what was happening.

The other motivation was concern about the collapse of the party he once led.

National was having little impact in the debate around Covid-19.

It was tanking in the polls – and tonight’s 1 News Colmar Brunton could help clear up whether or not the Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll which put National at just 21 per cent was rogue or not.

If National could not be on message and grab the agenda a bit, he would do it for them and remind people of what National could be like.

The trouble for Collins is it will have done just that: reminded people of what National under Key was like. The massive reaction to his piece shows he still has a lot of clout.

Collins had no warning his piece was coming. It was published days before Collins is due to release National’s own Covid-19 policy, which will happen on Wednesday. It is understood Key was not aware of that timing.

The Herald has been told that the policy is a more timid and cautious than Key’s prescription: and that in itself may now cause National more problems.

Key’s dominance of the news bulletins has sidelined Collins.

It did not escape National MPs’ notice that Key voiced appreciation for Act leader David Seymour and his policy for privately run MIQs – but did not even mention Collins.

It has given us a glimpse of the two great political persuaders of our time – Ardern andKey – going head-to-head.

It’s safe to say that those who never liked John Key will dismiss every word he said as complete bollocks, and have decided they still do not like John Key.

In such debates, nuance is sorely needed.

It was present in Key’s arguments about when and how the borders could start to reopen.

It was present in Ardern’s arguments about why things are too uncertain to make those determinations.

It is present in the science and modelling that are being considered in making those decisions.

It has and will always be the case with politicians (and former politicians) that it becomes more about the politician than the point they are actually making.

The trouble is that each side expects their own nuances and caveats to be recognised while merrily ignoring the other side’s.

Nuance is no fun to argue about so people grasp one aspect of an issue that angers them and cast a verdict on the entire discussion based on that one aspect.

In Key’s case, the aspects grabbed on by his critics was the, admittedly deliberately provocative, use of “hermit kingdom” and casting Auckland as the Pyongyang of the South Pacific.

There was his call for the borders to reopen “and soon” without any regard to the steps Key said had to be taken to do that.

Those who never liked him have quickly gone to the extremes of saying Key wanted the throw those border restrictions aside, let Covid-19 in and damn the consequences just so he can go to Maui.

But take away the rhetorical flourishes and what you are left with is this:

A call for certainty about when NZ will join those other countries opening up. A call for more to be done to get us there. A valid criticism of the MIQ system’s inadequacy in catering to the demand for it.

He put up some ideas to get vaccination rates up and relieve the bottleneck of MIQ. He did not pretend his ideas were all that is needed: it was to kickstart other ideas.

Some of his ideas are the same as those the Government is looking at anyway, including home isolation for travellers.

It was, above all, a call for the Government to put a little trust in someone other than the State to come up with ideas, and how to implement them.

Key’s entry into the debate will cause problems for Ardern – because there will be people who agree with him, and it will intensify the demands for answers on the questions he has raised.

Key’s call for that information has already pushed Ardern into specifying a threshold, although not one related to the borders.

This morning she set out that getting 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated would mean about 75 per cent of the whole population was vaccinated – and that could be enough to ensure lockdowns were no longer needed.

That number may grow as vaccination rates grow and time drags on.

Key was highly trusted for a very long time by a lot of people.

Ardern too is highly trusted by a lot of people, and when it comes to dealing with Covid-19, she would be more trusted than Key.

At the moment, public support for keeping the borders closed until the 90 per cent mark is much higher than for Key’s proposal of opening the borders once everybody has had a fair chance to get vaccinated. But if we can’t hit that 90 per cent, will the PM get to the point of considering the latter?

Disgruntlement at having to wait while the unvaccinated are cajoled into getting vaccinated will only grow. People will wonder when they can actually use the “golden ticket” they were promised by getting vaccinated.

As for that trip to Maui, it may not be as easy as that. Hawaii has just lifted its restrictions on visitors again because of another outbreak.

It means only people from a handful of countries can enter without having to do 10 days’ isolation.

New Zealand is not one of those countries, despite its strong record in containing Covid-19.

Key may well have a few words to say about why that is the case. As long as Auckland is in lockdown, he’ll have plenty of time to put them to paper.

Source: Read Full Article