By Willie Jackson
New Zealand's two most prominent politicians are both having a problem convincing Kiwis that they deserve support.
Prime Minister John Key has the advantage of still having the backing of thousands of Nats who either can't see the man's faults - or aren't concerned by them as long as he keeps National in power.
David Shearer, the leader of the Labour Party, has it tougher. He's fairly new to the rough and tumble of politics and he hasn't come to the game with the instincts of a cage fighter which is what you really need in Parliament.
There are still Labour folk who reckon David Cunliffe would've made a more forceful leader because he's a sharp-tongued operator who might have had John Key ducking for cover more often than David Shearer has managed.
The party, however, opted for Mr Shearer on the basis that he's a bright, principled man whose decency would soon - or at least eventually - win the voters over.
That may still happen. But for Labour it's a worryingly slow process.
Luckily he has the advantage of John Key making himself more and more unappealing week by week.
Increasingly, the PM has been viewed by many as cocky, smirking rather than smiling - and revealing himself as a guy mainly guided by business instincts and who tends to do what he can get away with rather than what is moral.
There's evidence of that at every turn. Cosying up to his casino cronies was one unsavoury move. Another was ignoring the lunacy and lying of John Banks when he was trying to distance himself from Kim Dotcom. The dance he's been doing himself in connection with Mr Dotcom hasn't been especially pretty either.
But the most concerning behaviour has been the racist line that he and Bill English have taken on the issue of water rights.
They've both been presenting a picture of the government acting "in good faith" and of Maori behaving like a greedy rabble.
Unfortunately the Maori Party aren't helping matters. When I asked Tariana Turia if she thought John Key was playing the race card over water her reply was "absolutely not".
It's a picture that too many Pakeha are quick to embrace because they're as ignorant about the Crown's Treaty responsibilities as John Key and his mates are.
The simple truth is that Maori have been saying that if you're planning to sell assets where water is involved you ought to sort out, right at the start, just who has the rights.
It's not a matter of greed. Or of rocket science.
And no amount of sham consultations, smooth PR, trashing Maori or slick work by the Crown's big legal guns will ever change that.
Auckland Now 19th October 2012