Many people in the hard hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch are still without power, water and sewerage. I was without these amenities for seven days and that was barely tolerable. These guys are still doing it tough nearly a fortnight later.

And it was into the badly hit eastern suburbs that the Prime Minister dropped into yesterday courtesy of an army helicopter.

Key paid a visit to the Bexley power sub-station and a fleeting visit to one street and one school.

If this exercise was designed to assure residents - and the country - that the Government was 'on the case', it was a PR disaster.

On the news we saw Key collared by one reasonable - but obviously stressed - woman who pointedly told Key that she and her neighbourhood still had no power and they didn't know what was happening. Key had nothing to offer but bland assurances.

And in a testy exchange with a television journalist Key bristled when it was suggested Civil Defence had ignored the eastern suburbs. 'That's your opinion,' grumped Key, a tactic he often employs when he wants to shut down a line of questioning.

But just a day earlier the Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, had admitted that the eastern suburbs had been 'neglected'.

Many residents were less than impressed by Key's visit. A friend of mine said he should have stayed away.

'I was pissed he was wearing a Canterbury rugby shirt, thinking it would give him kudos with the locals. What would he know about what's going on here?'

The level of tension hasn't been lessened by Gerry Brownlee. He has ridiculously claimed 'some residents don't understand the full extent of the quake damage.'

Given that those same residents are living in damaged houses and are without the basic amenities, one would of thought they are fully aware of the 'full extent of the quake damage' Brownlee's insulting comments will only infuriate people further.

The eastern suburbs contain a lot of poor people who have been the victims of nearly thirty years of the divisive policies of neoliberalism.

While Key might have dropped in promising all the help that his Government can muster, he is also the leader of a Government that is conducting a massive attack on the New Zealand working class.

None of the residents in the areas that Key has visited received generous tax cuts. Many are on the minimum wage that Key only increased by a derisory 25 cents an hour. A great many 'Eastside' residents are on benefits and are now experiencing increased harassment from Work and Income, with the Government intent on slashing welfare services.

All this is occurring while the cost of living continues to soar.

And who knows what nasty surprises John Key has in store for the very people he is presently trying to align himself with. In the background lurks Paula Bennett and her 'welfare reforms'.

My friend is right. John Key turning up in the eastern suburbs in a Canterbury rugby shirt didn't fool anyone.


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