Oct 23, 2008

Armstrong On Smith

John Armstrong sees Lockie's reported clanger as something of a blessing in disguise for John Key

Smith's clanger pales in comparison. He may have made the first major gaffe of this election campaign. But it will be a one- or two-day wonder.
He has probably damaged himself more than his party with his appalling remarks that Asians have "small hands" and some seasonal Pacific Island workers have to be taught how to use the shower and toilet.
Smith can forget becoming Minister of Immigration in a National government.
He might not mind. Although he has done a good job hounding Labour as Opposition spokesman, he is not particularly enamoured with the immigration portfolio.
Unfortunately for Smith, Key is unlikely to stop there. He might leave him out of the Cabinet altogether if National wins on November 8.
With younger MPs knocking on the door, Key now has every excuse to give the long-serving Smith a lesser role.
The same applies to Maurice Williamson for talking aloud (again) about charges for using toll roads.
Key will not publicly flag his intentions before election day.
Yesterday he was merely noting that Smith had apologised, that Cabinet selection depended on a number of factors and that - echoing Helen Clark - it was time to move on.
It is sufficient that the impression be created that big question-marks hang over the futures of Smith and Williamson.
Labour has made much of the fact that while Key is a fresh face, many of those sitting alongside or behind him are the faces of the 1990s. The message is that whatever Key might say, he is just the front man for the old guard.
National needs to blur that image. Smith and Williamson may have unwittingly helped their party to do so.