Key deals well with Cameron story

Posted September 25, 2015

John Key could have damaged his credibility if he got drawn into the David Cameron story this week. But his decision to distance himself from it may have even grown his popularity with some voters.

When asked about his views on Cameron’s university escapades, Key said he had nothing to say about it. In almost all situations, Key is cooperative with the media. But he was right to stay away from this one. It’s got nothing to do with his role as PM, and any answer would have got him into trouble.

If he criticised Cameron in any way, that would have been the focus of media stories. It could also have been sensationalised and picked up internationally. The same would have happened if he backed Cameron. He would have been accused of justifying the behaviour of the British PM.

We tell our media training clients that it’s usually best to front up to media. This is particularly important if you are at the centre of a crisis or serious issue. It’s also usually a great opportunity to get some free publicity. But a case like this is one of those exceptions. It really had nothing to do with Key and he had no responsibility for it. If it was about one of his Ministers, it would be a different story.

He also dealt well with the inevitable question about his own ‘extra-curricular activities’ at University. His response was: “I was in the Chunder Mile once, but nothing there you would want to show footage of. It wasn’t my finest moment.” The Chunder Mile is a race that includes drinking copious amounts of beer (and a few cold pies) over a one mile course. This would have seemed relatively harmless to most and reinforce his image as a ‘good bloke to have a beer with.’

For more on my media training, contact [email protected] or 029 200 8555.

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