Trying to get a glimpse at who politicians really are is difficult at the best of times. But more so in an election year. We have their personal branding on the one hand and their often uncomplimentary actions on the other. Often, we resort to simply acknowledging and perpetuating the faults or flaws in those we dislike, while downplaying the negative aspects of those we preference.
We are exposed to many faces of the politicians depending on how charitable the writer is feeling, and this shapes our perceptions of these people. I have focused on the good and bad faces of David Cunliffe and John Key, because it is one of these two who will be running the country post-Election, afterall.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Opposition Leader – Labour Party NZ)
The Good Face: the Harvard graduate, the man from humble beginnings, the man who will bring about unity in the Labour Party, the man who wants to ensure the opportunities he had are available for future generations. the man who will challenge the neoliberal consensus, The Union’ s choice, The Peoples’ Choice.
The Bad Face: the man who refused to confirm if a trust was used for his Labour Leadership campaign, the man who failed to disclose a savings investment trust, the man who divided the Labour Party and sought to undermine David Shearer, the man who embellished his CV (not an exhaustive list). Tricky.
JOHN KEY (PM, Leader of National Party NZ)
The Good Face: the Harvard graduate, the foreign exchange expert, the man from humble beginnings and raised by his beneficiary solo-mother, the man concerned about the growing underclass developing in NZ, the genuine kiwi bloke, the man who can fix the economy.
The Bad Face: the man who treats ‘gay’ as a shallow insult, the man who sold out NZ for transnational corporations (Warner Bros, Anadarko, Rio Tinto), the man who likened our ‘clean green’ ‘100% pure’ image to McDonald’s ‘Lovin it’, the man who forgets everything and nothing, the man whose Ministers (or ministries) have run amuck under his leadership such as ACC – privacy breaches, MSD – privacy breaches, Min Edu – NovoPay deabcle, GCSB – illegal spying etc, (not an exhaustive list). TricKey.
Fran O’Sullivan remarked on NZ Q + A, that the public are still trying to work out who Cunliffe is and what he stands for; but she says that Key has successfully translated who he is to the public. O’Sullivan seemed to presume that it was the ‘good face’ that the public sees or that Key is perceived of in favourable light, which is extremely questionable. A problem as identified in the introduction is that both leaders brands do not match their actions and I think that is the price of power seeking in party politics.
National Party and Labour Party loyalists will respectively downplay the bad face and defend the good face of their leader to the death (not literally of course). So its important to be aware of how our perceptions are shaped by the media or information outlets we choose to expose ourselves to and the importance of digging a little deeper, especially in an election year.