For those of us interested in political marketing
by Jake Quinn
IrishBill commented last night that “John Key the centrist” is a narrative we’re not hearing much from the commentariat any more.
I thought this was strange given that was the brand they were all so dutifully selling us in the leadup to the election campaign. John Armstrong couldn’t get enough of it.
I wondered what was going on, so I did a google news search to find out. Seems John Key as centrist really began as a narrative on his election as National leader to distance him from Don Brash. It bubbled along steadily until the last few months before the the November election where it reached its crescendo. Now, not so much.
The perception of “being centrist” (i.e. broad appeal, non ideological, safe, mainstream, sensible, common sense etc etc) is an incredibly important aspect for any wanna-be-PM (from the left or right) who is contesting an election against a long standing and reasonably popular incumbent.
National, just as the Conservatives have done with David Cameron, spent a great of deal of energy on selling their guy as the centrist man of the people. The horses don’t get scared and the swing voters line up for a change of face. The media on the other hand, get to write about something new without being that personally concerned with the change of guard.
The “centrist alternative” has the effect of offering a product that is not dissimilar from the original but different enough to appease the mood for change, just as we saw in New Zealand in 2008.
It is interesting to note however, that the “centrist alternative” narrative described above has all but disappeared from National Party PR and subsequent media coverage.
NB: As the comments thread notes, there is a decent chance the graph above displays this trend because of the increase in volume of traffic about John Key around election time. That being said, anecdotally I have noticed far fewer mentions of centrism as a note worthy quality, since the election was decided. So the topic is still a valid one.