The prime minister has wasted no time in getting back to business following a stunning election win. He announced on Monday that his government’s first priority would be to obliterate the South Waikato township of Putaruru in a nuclear attack, “finally removing all of its hateful inhabitants from the face of the Earth and at last bringing an end to the suffering of nearby Tirau,” to quote the prime minister.
While the announcement has caused predictable consternation among the chattering classes, the move is at heart a simple and straightforward one. It shows that National means to get on with the business of governing the country without further fuss or debate. This is exactly the type of no-nonsense policy that appeals to voters in the mortgage belt who also happen to pathologically despise the people of Putaruru. It demonstrates once again that John Key is a master at ascertaining the mood of the public. With the main opposition party in disarray, the move will barely raise a murmur, and the public will fall in behind the plan once government ministers have had the opportunity to explain why Putaruru should be destroyed.
Key has been careful to downplay the potential impacts of the controversial move. He has not promised that the move will lift job growth, or that destroying the town will provide a stimulus for the economy. He will know that many within the Waitako region are deeply uncomfortable with the plan to build a huge wall around Putaruru, trapping all the people of the town within, and then obliterate it with tactical nuclear weapons. Any survivors would then be hunted down by special forces units equipped with radiation suits, and bayonetted.
But John Key also knows that the public will back him in the end, as they did over the Dirty Politics scandal and asset sales. The left will cry foul over these planned human rights atrocities and crimes against humanity, but people will fall behind the plan once they better understand what the people of Tirau have had to endure for so many years.
Opinion polls indicate strong public disapproval of the plan to destroy Putaruru, but it would be dangerous to assume that such disapproval is strong or particularly focused. A Herald Digipoll released this morning shows that 78% of poll respondents disapprove of the plan to destroy Putaruru, although if poisonous gas is used instead of nuclear weapons the level of disapproval drops to just below 38%. But Key will not be daunted by the task ahead of him. He will be aware that he has considerable political capital to work with following his resounding election victory. The prime minister will know that he can afford to let a little of that political capital go up in smoke, along with the town of Putaruru and all the people who live in it.
The alternative would have been to just do nothing, to leave the problem of Putaruru to another government. For a prime minister into his third term and inevitably giving thought as to what his historical legacy might be, leaving the Putaruru problem to someone else would have been the easiest of options, and hardly anyone would have blamed him had he chosen to take it.
But Key has indicated that doing nothing is just not an option. He does not intend to go down in history as a mere managerial prime minister. In announcing the annihilation of this South Waikato township, Key has laid down a bold challenge to his opponents. National means business, and if the parties of the left thought National’s third term would be one of quiet consolidation, they will have been delivered a huge shock.
The mood on the main street of Putaruru has been understandably sombre since the announcement, and opinions in the town are divided on whether the plan to destroy the place and kill everyone in it has merit. Some locals have expressed the view that the town could do with having a bomb put up it, while others appear more concerned about the inevitably huge loss of life that would result from the plan being implemented. But it is a measure of the esteem and affection the people of Putaruru hold their prime minister in, that even those who oppose the plan seem likely to remain mostly staunch National Party supporters, at least until such time as they are burned to death in the fiery horror soon to consume their small town, or are hunted down by SAS soldiers while they cover in underground drains and are bayonetted.
Although the people of Tirau will be dancing in the streets over the plan to destroy their hated neighbour, this is not really about the people of Tirau. It’s about renewal and revival. John Key knows how quickly voters can tire of a third-term government, and by providing the voting public with firestorms, murder, terror, and other novelties, he is sending a clear message that he intends to keep National fresh. Staying fresh means renewal, and there is no better catalyst for renewal than destruction.