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Dr Jekyll’s column in today’s DomPost


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It’s Friday and Adam reads Dr Jekyll’s column in the Dominion Post under the pseudonym Chris Trotter. Like last Friday’s Dominion Post column this is a well written piece, which makes some good points.

Mr Trotter writes approvingly of the approach taken by John Key to forming a government and selecting a cabinet.

If it is not too soon to reuse the word “adroit”, that is certainly how I would describe Mr Key’s management of the 14-day political transition from Labour to National.

In addition to securing both his right and left flanks, Mr Key has also selected a Cabinet in which old and new (and, in the cases of Stephen Joyce and Paula Bennett, very new) faces are judiciously blended.

Some have characterised the new lineup as reflecting a greater step to the Right than the broader electorate had been given reason to anticipate. I disagree.

It is hard to reconcile the tone of this column with the venomous bile which Mr Hyde in his turn as Trotter spewed forth in last Sunday’s Sunday Star Times. Adam is now convinced that Mr Trotter is in fact two people – a ‘Dr Jekyll and a Mr Hyde’ if you like.

Trotter does not buy into the argument advanced by some that Key’s cabinet is a lurch to the right, noting:-

To my eyes, Mr Key and Bill English have allowed the National Party to assume the mantle of sweet moderation, and his Cabinet choices reflect not a betrayal, but a very fair reflection, of the public mood.

Had the prime minister been hell-bent upon a lurch to the Right, he would not have exiled Maurice Williamson to that wintry region beyond the Cabinet door. Nor would he have decked out Lockwood Smith in the Speaker’s wig and gown, and left him to the tender mercies of Phil Goff, Michael Cullen and Trevor Mallard.

If the National Party leader had really wanted to come over all right-wing horror-show, he would have allowed the nation’s beneficiaries (instead of the nation’s criminals) to fall into the sharpened talons of Judith Collins. And, with more than a nod to Night of the Living Dead, have appointed Sir Roger Douglas associate minister of finance inside Cabinet.

Further, rather than terming Key’s use of ministers outside cabinet a flip-flop he commends Key for learning from Helen Clark, as indeed does Adam. Adam will admit that he was against the concept when W. Peters was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, but the approach does appear to have some advantages.

Trotter in his Dr Jekyll persona considers John Key has cleverly positioned National at the centre with ACT and the Maori Party as ‘pathfinders’ to show where the pitfalls are. Likening the support parties to ‘punishment battalions’ of the Stalinist Red Army sent forward to show where the landmines are through their ‘sacrifice’ for the Rodina.

In his conclusion Jekyll as Trotter writes:-

But, for my money, Mr Key’s most adroit move has been the appointment of a feisty, 39-year- old, former solo mum with a whakapapa as his minister of social development.

Ms Bennett and the prime minister both pose a formidable symbolic problem for the Labour Party. They speak to an ideologically unmoored working class about the power of aspiration and the possibility of self- improvement.

He seems to see the possibility of a longer term shift in the political spectrum with those comments.

To Adam in those concluding remarks Trotter sums up the major challenge facing Labour. The possibility of a society focused on achievement rather than on handouts. Where welfare is a means of attainment, not just a means of existence.

It will be interesting to see whether Mr Hyde returns in the SST column scheduled Adam thinks for Sunday 30 November, as in the main it has been the SST columns that have been the most vituperative. Though some Dominion Post ones have been quite spiteful.

On the other hand should we be concerned when Trotter praises Key?

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