John Key’s credibility has taken a hammering this week – at least among the 50% of the electorate who have always had doubts about him on that score. The other substantial story of the week has been about Andrew Little’s debut as Labour leader, which has received top marks, especially among the 25% of the electorate still voting Labour. According to some reports, the Labour caucus has been ‘in seventh heaven’ about Little’s success this week in taking it to the government in the House.
This is encouraging news for the centre left, given that Little’s oratorical/debating skills were actually supposed to be his weak link. His strong suit is acknowledged to be his organisational nous, very much in evidence in the way he put together his team. Putting Annette King in the Joe Biden role – as the only possible deputy with no ambition to become leader – was a smart move, and so was offering Finance to Grant Robertson, who is being invited to regard this role as lending gravitas to Robertson’s own ambitions to someday lead the country. What Little did was promote the caucus grandees, while putting them on notice to perform – in that everyone’s role would be re-evaluated in a year’s time. A caucus reshuffle, if needed, had thereby been flagged well in advance. Smart planning in the long term, and short term.
All very impressive. The wider public may still be on the fence about him, but it has been a good start. Even this morning on RNZ, Little was cannily choosing not to overplay the PM’s current troubles. It has been quite a while since someone succeeded in patronizing John Key, but Little almost pulled it off. Just affirm the I-G’s report, Little said, apologise, say that was then but you’ve fixed the problem and it won’t happen again, and we can all move on. Happily for Labour though, sheer hubris is preventing Key from doing any such thing, and he keeps digging himself into a deeper hole. Even if polling is telling National that the public currently don’t care, the tipping point can’t safely be predicted, so caution is advisable. Instead, the government is doubling down on its arrogant refusal to concede an inch.
J-Law and martial law
Given that the Hunger Games books and movies are almost obsessively about the ways in which political perceptions are media-driven, it must be weirdly gratifying to the makers of Mockingjay Part One to see the events now unfolding in Thailand. For months, the three-fingered salute of Katniss Everdeen has been a political rallying call against this year’s Army coup and subsequent entrenchment of Army rule – and now the latest film in the Hunger Games series has been banned from major cinemas in Bangkok.
A cinema chain in Bangkok has cancelled screenings of the new Hunger Games film after protestors adopted the movie’s defiant three-fingered salute against totalitarian rule.
Activists say police ordered the move after hundreds of students planned to protest at an opening day screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on Thursday. Thailand has been under military rule since May, and authorities have banned the salute as part of an ongoing crackdown on pro-democratic dissent.
Katniss is not the only source of that dissent. There has been a political crackdown on people eating sandwiches as well.
With political gatherings of more than five people banned, “sandwich parties” – organised via social media – have taken off… State-run newspapers have warned people against eating sandwiches, and a senior police chief said they’re keeping a close eye on the sandwich-eaters. Eating sandwiches is not illegal per se, he said, but if sandwich-eating is being used as a front – when the real intention is to criticise the coup – then that would be.
In another weird echo of Mockingjay, the regime’s President has released his own propaganda video.
A ballad penned by a coup-making army chief promising to bring happiness back to Thailand has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube, in the military’s latest effort to put a positive spin on its putsch. The normally stern-faced General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who led the May 22 military overthrow of the civilian government, can now list songwriting among his talents after writing the lyrics to “Return Happiness To Thailand”. The song [features] reassuring lines such as “we offer to take care and protect you with our hearts” and “give us a little more time” …
Finally, and in the same spirit of public service messaging that moves the Thai generals…it probably goes without saying that it is almost always a bad idea to try texting (or tweeting) when drunk. Not saying…but it could conceivably explain why (a) Cameron Slater texted the PM that the Labour Party was out to kill him, and why (b) the PM couldn’t remember a thing about it the next morning. Gone. Totally. Cameron Slater? No, haven’t been in contact with him for months. Unless…was that who I was texting last night? Ho-ly shit.
In the last 48 hours, Anna Kendrick has been writing in Cosmopolitan magazine with some sage advice for people who tweet when they’re drunk. You can read about it here. The Cosmo story contains this same gif, but its worth repeating.
By co-incidence, Anna Kendrick has also been at the centre of an important message about the 9/11 conspiracy, which she cunningly disguised inside the 2012 musical comedy Pitch Perfect. Everyone – including some of the folks who have been berating me recently about MH17 and the Ukraine – should watch this clip carefully.