New Zealand PM hits back at swipe by 'Luminaries'

New Zealand PM hits back at swipe by 'Luminaries'
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key during a press conference on Nov 20, 2014

WELLINGTON - New Zealand Prime Minister John Key hit back Monday at criticism of his government by the country's Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, saying she had no more political insight than All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

"The Luminaries" author sparked uproar last week at a literary festival in India when she said she was angry with New Zealand's treatment of the arts.

Her claim that New Zealand was dominated by "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture" provoked debate across the country.

On Monday, Key said the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner's political views carried no more credence than those of McCaw or prominent businessman Peter Leitch, who started a chain of butcheries and trades under the name of "The Mad Butcher".

"She has no particular great insights into politics, she is a fictional writer," Key told Television New Zealand, adding he had read some but not all of "The Luminaries".

"Obviously it's done phenomenally well and I'm really proud of her, but it would be no different from Richie McCaw or the Mad Butcher or anybody else having a view on politics.

"They're absolutely entitled to do that, but her views on politics are no more authoritative than anybody else's." Criticism of Catton's views included a talkshow host calling her a "traitor" and the The Taxpayers' Union claimed she had received upwards of NZ$50,000 (S$49,100) in public funding.

Catton responded by writing a blog about the "inflammatory, vicious, and patronising things that have been broadcast and published in New Zealand" about her remarks.

She said she would tell foreign journalists of the "frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit and silence those who question them, and the culture of fear and hysteria that prevails" in New Zealand.

Key said Catton has long been associated with the Green Party and while she may not respect the centre-right government of his ruling National Party he did respect her as a writer.

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