Having heard comments about how dreadful Jack Tame was and how terrible Todd Muller looked I thought it might be interesting so I went looking for it.

The first thing that struck me was how uncomfortable Muller looked and how totally distracting his arms are. I’d noticed that in his first Press Conference and thought that by late afternoon Friday, his media team would have sorted those arms out.

To quote Cam in his post “Woop, Woop, Pull Up!”

“At the very least stop his damn arms flapping like a seagull and get him some media training, fast…oh, and get him to stop talking in corporate riddles”

Spot on. If Mr Muller wants to succeed as leader of the National Party, he has some fast learning to do. Keep the arms still. They’re a distraction. Every movement on TV is amplified at least ten fold. Twitch a lip and it looks like a huge scowl. Nod your head and you look like you’re shaking all over. Move your arms to emphasise a point and you look like a sea gull flapping.

His earnest overtalking (often in corporate riddles) in response to every question has to stop too. It will only bring him more grief and strand him in the headlights like a startled rabbit just as he was in this interview. He looked uncomfortable. He looked awkward. He looked as though he was perspiring heavily. And there’s no point looking at Tame and blaming him. If anything, much as it pains me to say it, Jack Tame did a very good job asking the questions and trying to keep the answers on track.

The political ploy of diverting the answers to where you want them to go failed abysmally for Muller and he needed to adapt immediately and drop that technique.

Tame’s questions were clear and concise and every one of them was legitimate and open to simple, straight forward answers.

First question: “Should we be moving to level 1 sooner?”

It took Todd Muller 53 seconds of breakneck speed talking and bumbling all over the place trying to cover off everything and he slipped in the political diversion technique at 45 seconds

“and that’s why I’m so proud to have announced the team that I have this afternoon ah we’re going to have the best team and the best plan for that recovery and I know New Zealand will look forward to what we’ve got to say”

At long last he stopped talking. Most of what he said was irrelevant. Here’s how it should have gone:

“Should we be moving to level 1 sooner?”

”Yes. The health crisis is over and the sooner we get back to normal life the better and we can start repairing the economy. I urge the government to move to level 1 quickly.”

Next question: “How would your economic plan from this point differ from the government?” Muller replies:

“Well there’s elements of that that we’ve already signalled ahhh we’re particularly focussed on the importance of opening up ahhh at the um greatest pace prop ahh possible ahhh our economy, of course connecting ahhh quickly with Australia and in my view beyond that and ahh we have a particular focus on the importance of supporting businesses to ensure that they actually stay afloat……”

Tame interrupts saying “Aren’t they doing all that?” The digital delay caused by the link between parliament and the studio at this point meant Muller was still talking and stopped in his tracks when he heard the question so he then started responding to that:

“No, I don’t think they are. Far from it…… I mean look at the amount of money that they are spending, which is extraordinary and we don’t quibble with the fact that this is a time in our history where money needs to be spent but they aren’t spending it in our view in the right areas, they are more focused on supporting people who have lost their jobs which is understandable because thousand of New Zealanders a day are losing their jobs, but they’re less focused on keeping those businesses afloat”

All of this disaster has occurred inside 2 minutes 12 seconds of what is a 14 minute interview. Two questions asked, two questions not answered. Here’s how it should have gone:

“How would your economic plan from this point differ from the government?”

“Well Jack to be fair, we need to start from the beginning, not from this point as in today. So let me tell you what we would have done differently and then what we would do differently today. Under my leadership, we would have closed the borders earlier which would have meant no need to move out of level 2. That means that today, we would be dealing with a vastly different economic situation. But we are where we are so here’s our plan from right now:

  1. We would go to level 1 immediately
  2. We’d find a way to open borders with Australia as quickly as possible
  3. We’d fund small businesses beyond just wage subsidies so they can survive. We need to make sure employers are still in business once the subsidies run out
  4. We would immediately remove the draconian legislation introduced by this government in the name of the crisis
  5. And finally, we need focus on what drives our economy and that isn’t government management of everything – we would make it easier for businesses to do business”

I don’t know if what I’ve said would fit for National or Mr Muller. It’s just an example of “How to Manage an Interview for Dummies”. You put in your own policies, but meandering all over the place means you really don’t have the answer and that really is not acceptable and it is an open invitation to the interviewer to interrupt and try to get answers. You can’t ad-lib your way through stuff like this unless you’re really good at it. Very few people are.

But there are some questions that are so obvious that he should have been fully briefed on. Like the question of the all white front bench. Confronted by the question:

“No one in your top 12 is maori. Why is that?”

Talk about a stunned mullet. Cough splutter and arm waving then some comment about looking at the top 20 and how wonderful Shane Reti is. The real answer surely should have been: “Come on now Jack, I’m sure you’re not suggesting anybody should be appointed to any position on the basis of race or gender. In the National party we don’t think it’s appropriate to consider or even comment on that.”

I’m not going to do an analysis of the entire interview. Have a look for yourself and think of what I’ve said here. Put aside any thoughts you have about mean Jack Tame because he actually managed it very professionally and very well. The train wreck was in the appallingly poorly structured answers and Muller’s repeated attempts to “divert” the questions to where he wanted them to go – to talk about his new team and how wonderful they are, and how wonderful it is that Amy Adams is staying.

Politics is a tough game and Mr Muller needs to get some competent helpers around him or he’ll be toast. As a new leader, the media are clamouring for his views. Another one or two interviews like this one and they’ll lose interest – and so will the public.

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Danny
I've worked in media and business for many years and share my views here to generate discussion and debate. I once leaned towards National politically and actually served on an electorate committee once, but the party lost its way and is still lost in the wilderness. Nearly voted Labour once when Roger Douglas was Minister of Finance. I could never see my way clear to voting for NZ First for many reasons but I'm far from committed to one party or one set of views. Years ago I supported Bob Jones and the New Zealand Party and a quest for change and I have voted for Act more than once. Today, politically I don't have a natural home - so I have an open mind.