Bracing for a barracking

He has the first name of one of the great 20th-century orators of United States politics but now he may be considering a name change before the election.

National Party leader John Key has compared himself to United States Democratic Party presidential contender Barack Obama in the British newspaper The Financial Times.

A "ludicrous comparison" snorted Prime Minister Helen Clark.

"I'm a bit like [Barack] Obama," Mr Key (47) told the newspaper in an interview published yesterday.

"I am not institutionalised in Wellington."

"I had 18 years in the commercial world and I will be quite pragmatic," the former Merrill Lynch investment banker said.

The Financial Times described Key as "young, smart and rich", but warned that if he defeated Prime Minister Helen Clark at the polls to be held before November 15, he would become the most inexperienced politician to lead New Zealand in more than 100 years.

With Mr Obama being likened to President John F. Kennedy, Mr Key qualifies on a first name basis with the late former president.

But there are a few other differences.

One is race and the other is Mr Obama being to the left of the political spectrum and Mr Key on the right.

But never mind, it is all about politics and in the lead-up to the election, anything goes.

Miss Clark, when asked yesterday, described Mr Obama as one of the "gifted orators or our time".

For Mr Key to claim a similarity was preposterous, she huffed.

The publication of the article was not good timing for Mr Key as he plans his next attack on the credibility of Miss Clark during question time in Parliament today.

National will be trying to trip Miss Clark on how much she knew of the donation to New Zealand First by expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn.

Mr Key should be bracing himself for some barracking about Barack, however.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen could barely contain himself yesterday: "John Key has a very high opinion of himself, but his claim to the mantle of Barack Obama is laughable".

"Senator Obama's biography is built on turning down of big corporate job offers in order to serve his community and country. John Key hardly did the same."

The publication of the article has played into the hands of Dr Cullen as Labour tries to deflect any annoying questions while it wants to focus on legislation it wants passed before the election.

MPs of the two main parties will walk into the House today with their chests puffed out - each with a confidence it has the measure of the other side.

At the end of question time one side will be tallying up a few more points than the other.

Political editor Dene Mackenzie is in Wellington this week.


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