Friday, April 05, 2013

This is not how democracy works

You're an elected politician. You've just been caught out in a clumsy lie over appointing a crony to a sensitive position. So what do you do? In John Key's case, he is now refusing to answer media questions:

Prime Minister John Key says he will no longer answer questions about his actions without warning, following controversy over his role in the appointment of spy boss Ian Fletcher.

During an interview on Radio Live, Key described those reporting on the story as ''knuckle heads'' and said he would change his approach to answering questions both in Parliament and to the media.


Denying accusations that he had lied by omission, he said he had only had ''15 seconds, with no warning, on a process that happened 18 months ago'' and he should have taken time to research the answer.

''What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I'll be doing that to the journalists as well,'' Key said.

This is not how democracy works. Democracy isn't just about free, fair and regular elections, but also ongoing accountability to the people. Scrutiny by the media is the basic means of that accountability. Refusing to accept that is the act of a dictator who believes himself unaccountable, not of an elected, accountable representative.

Still, there's a plus side: if the media don't roll over and obligingly submit all questions early so the appropriate lies can be put in place, then we will have a new form of entertainment: watching the PM wriggle and squirm as people keep asking him stuff he's said he won't answer. Either he runs away, or he looks arrogant and shifty; either way its not a game he can win. The only question is whether the media will actually show some backbone in the face of this arrogance, or whether they've been bought off by their annual bottles of "PM's Pinot".