Soper: Conspiracy around PM's Japan visit

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New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English meets Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo / AP

By Barry Soper

Now here's the conspiracy.

Our Foreign Affairs Ministry has had a frosty relationship with this Government ever since Murray McCully tried to drag it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century and for the first time appointed an outsider, a non- diplomat, to run it.

John Allen was never going to last the distance and with the diplomats' resistance becoming all too much for him, he went off to run something much more to his liking, the racing industry.

Once again the diplomats have their hands firmly on the tiller. The attempted shakeup left them shell shocked though, with little affection for their political masters.

Facing his first election as Prime Minister Bill English decides to make his first trip the economically powerful Japan just to show he can cut it with the big boys.

A fair sized media contingent decided to tag along with him to see if he can actually cut the mustard.

A day in Tokyo went to plan, well it was better than he expected with his counterpart bubbling with enthusiasm about getting the Trans Pacific Partnership, not only back on track without The Don, but sticking to its original timetable of coming into force early next year.

That's the background, this is the conspiracy.

Four months out from an election, publicity is the oxygen of politics but for a while it looked as though Bill English's last day in Japan could have seen him on life support.

Continued below.

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Foreign Affairs had insisted on organising flights from Tokyo for the traveling media contingent, at their expense of course, to spend less than a day on the northern island of Hokkaido.

A 5am checkout from their hotel and they arrived at the airport to catch their flights only to find they hadn't been booked, not one of them!

A red faced embassy official was nonplussed, no one had told her. English's lifeblood looked to be draining away.

Fortunately for him though, Japanese domestic airlines aren't doing all that well and there were enough seats for a last minute group booking.

Probably more cockup than conspiracy but it does give you something to think about which is more than you can say for his trip north.

Why spend so much time and effort visiting a sheep farm, admittedly the biggest in Japan, in the back of nowhere?

Well to counter Japanese farmer resistance, and there was plenty of it, to TPP, to convince them that there is nothing to worry about, that a flood of New Zealand sheep meat into their market is no cause for concern.

Now that's a real conspiracy... or is it?

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