Friday 23 September 2011

Informal NZ politics

Add this to the list of "Never would happen in America".

The Prime Minister visited campus [unbeknownst to folks my side of campus]. The Mechanical Engineering students' computer lab overlooked the spot where he was meeting with folks outside. They put a sign in the window inviting him to "come up for a yarn with the country's future engineers." So he headed up. When one of the students invited him to put his best security guy up against their best arm-wrestler, he accepted; they all headed over to the students' arm-wrestling desk. And "Mad Dog" soundly beat the guy from the security detail.

The video seems to be from a student's phone cam; John Key notices the students somewhere around the 2:20 mark then heads on over.
  • There is, effectively, no security while the PM wanders among a pile of Engineering students and hangs out for a short visit. No pre-clearing the room, no background checks for the folks he could potentially meet.
  • I love the informality of NZ politics:
    • The Prime Minister tells the students a story about a friend of his, an underachiever in high school who went to Canterbury to do Mechanical Engineering. I'm transcribing from the video, but I think this is what he said: "...when he came to Canterbury, his old man really got stuck into him just before he came in and said, 'Shit, you've got to pull your finger out and do some work,' and so every grade, every subject, an A+. So get off your ass!"
    • The guy from the PM's security detail admits his "left arm is stuffed" and so only challenges with the right.
    • It's not quite Bart vs Australia, but close.
  • In 2005, when then Prime Minister and Labour Leader Helen Clark visited the University of Canterbury and gave an address outside the library promoting her bribe the students zero interest student loan policy, she faced a pretty mixed reaction. Some supporters, some loud angry boos, and one wag waving a sign reading "Gerry Brownlee will eat us all!" Now, Key gets a big cheer when he enters the room. National is probably underpriced at 95% likely to win the next election.


  1. We were just talking with a friend about this informality (or familiarity or parochialism) of politicians in New Zealand. One may like or dislike a particular politician but they are very accessible. In several occasions I have approached MPs and, in a couple of occasions, the PM without the need for a body cavity search and background checks. It is nice to see that we have not yet been polluted by the security theater so prevalent in other countries.

  2. The bodyguard doesn't need strong muscles he's got a gun under his jacket!

  3. I remember a friend in Rotorua a few elections ago complaining about then defence minister Max Bradford hanging around local intersections with signs saying "Vote Max."

    I said I quite liked it. I like the idea of living in a country where your defence minister jumps out at you at the traffic lights to say hello.