Welcome to part two of our series extracts from the scintillating new book Fury and Fury about the 2018 election result viewed through the eyes of esteemed fictional journalist Wolf Michaels who spent several months with National Party. In this extract and fury we join the National Party during their Coalition talks with Winston Peters of New Zealand First.
It’s hot in Wellington. Not temperature wise because it happens to be still be spring and a massive storm has journeyed from the Southern Ocean and without being too scientific, it’s bloody freezing, but it’s also hot. Politically hot.
I’m sitting on a bench outside the National Party caucus room with Gerry Brownlee – a man from Christchurch who has managed, through his handling of the earthquake rebuild, to become an enemy of the city. I think back to last week in the garden city when Brownlee was verbally abused by several passers. When I asked how this torrent of abuse made him feel he said nothing although a long guttural growl rumbled somewhere in the back of his throat. I turn and face the Ilam MP and he has a similar look on his face now as he did that day in Christchurch.
“I’m bloody angry,” he announces. I want to ask why, but I also don’t want to. Asking Brownlee a question is going to lead me down a path I don’t wish to travel. It’s too late. He has decided to answer the question I didn’t want to ask.
“I don’t know why,” he offers, “I’ve been angry ever since I can remember. I’m just bloody angry. Bloody damn angry.”
Little else happens between us apart from Gerry expressing his anger and me not really doing anything else other than writing down the words that he is saying about his anger. In the room next to where we are sitting the National Party leadership team and the New Zealand First leadership team (Winston Peters). These talks are highly confidential incredibly confidential. Nobody knows what’s going on, when it’s going, what’s happening, who’s involved, or what they are doing.
I try to ask Gerry Brownlee about what he thinks is going to happen. He says he doesn’t know and then starts grunting angrily to himself about being angry. We both sit on the bench from 9:30 in the morning until around about 12 o’clock – around the time leadership teams emerge.
It has been a long and fruitless morning and Brownlee suggests we head to Bellamy’s for some lunch. I order a chicken salad sandwich and Brownlee orders the “everything.” When the food arrives I am uncertain whether my lunch buddy will be able to complete eating ahead of the caucus meeting which is due to begin in around 20 minutes. By the time I have finished that thought, however, the interim Foreign Affairs Minister is already asking if I am going to finish my sandwich.
Shortly afterwards we head to the caucus room for an update on the current status of the coalition negotiations. We haven’t been there long when Bill English arrives. He has a few pieces of paper and sits down in a chair at the front. The Prime Minister takes a second to loosen up his tie before realising it is a mistake and tightening it again. English settles in and gives everyone present the low down.
“So far,” he tells everyone, “there have been two days of negotiations with Winston Peters. At present we know nothing. We do not know if he will go with the Labour Party or whether he will he go with the National Party.”
As English clears his throat to begin his next sentence the door opens and in walks Judith Collins. She surveys the gathering before turning to Bill and smiling a smile one would find on a mythical god whose special power is turning people into stone.
“Don’t stop on my account, Bill,” she says in a voice peppered with soothing knives, before she heads down the back of the room to take a seat.
English takes a few minutes to outline Peters’ demands. Cabinet posts for all New Zealand First MPs. He reads out a list. Peters for Foreign Affairs; Ron Mark for Defence; Tracey Martin for Education. The list goes on and on. The longer it goes on the less familiar I am with the names being read out.
I turn to Gerry just in time to witness a pulsating vein on the side of his head explode.
“That’s my job!” he yells, “I’m the Foreign Minister. I’ve got the Koru card. You can’t bloody give that to bloody Peters. It’s mine.”
The former Earthquake Recovery Minister starts shaking and dribbling. English, seemingly aware of this anger management issue, extracts an emergency Toffee Pop from his bag of prime ministerial tricks and flicks it towards Brownlee who hungrily snaps it out of thin air before quickly calming down. This is an obvious National Party tactic as several more of the chocolatey treats end up in or near Brownlee’s mouth.
The meeting quickly draws to a close. There is nothing to vote on and nothing anyone can do but wait for Winston. As the crowd meanders their way out the door, Gerry turns to me to suggest, or rather, demand we head back to Bellamy’s for some afternoon tea.
What a fine idea.
In the lead up to the election late last year, MyThinks was fortunate to be given full, exclusive and unfettered access to the National Party of New Zealand. At the invite of the party we sent in our special correspondent Wolf Michaels to cover the events leading up to, and following on from polling day. After hundreds of hours of interviews with sources deep inside the hierarchy of the party, Michaels’ is about to release a sensational tell-all book titled Fury and Fury. Today we are incredibly privileged to be bringing you an exclusive extract from that book.
Prologue: Election Night
I walk into the main room of the Sky City convention centre. There is a massive sea of blue and white bunting and an equally massive sea of white faces. Old and older alike are patting each other on the backs, giving their congratulations to everyone around them. Some of the younger white faces are even experimenting with the more American high-5 commemoration of success. Nearby older white faces utilise their enlarged, greying eyebrows to condemn the actions.
There is a definite sense of achievement. Just two months ago the National Party were set to secure an historic fourth term thanks to years of Labour floundering. Unfortunately for the ruling party, Labour leader Andrew Little had fallen on his sword and a young, dynamic and alive new leader Jacinda Ardern had been chosen to replace him. Sources close to the leadership have told me they had considered sending Bill English to a doctor in Thailand to undergo an emergency gender reassignment procedure so they may battle Ardern on a more equal footing. This idea was quickly dispensed with when it was realised English wouldn’t have recovered from the invasive surgery before the end of 2018 and he was a Catholic and probably wouldn’t go for it anyway.
After sitting at nearly 50% support in most polls for the better part of a decade, National have secured 46% on the night. Although not a majority, many in the room are speaking like it is. Comments like, “We’ve won!” and “We are the winners!” and “We totally won this!” and “We won!” belie the fact that a majority of 50% +1 is required to run an effective parliament and until coalition talks have been completed, National has quite a bit less than 50%. I wonder whether I should point this out to the mathematically challenged members around me and I decide against it. Part of me thinks this book would be much easier to write if I didn’t get banished from my fly-on-the-wall position so soon into my research.
Suddenly some conservative applause begins near the doorway. Someone yells, “It’s Bill everybody! He’s here!!” There is a surge towards the doorway as the Prime Minister conveys himself through torrent of blue. Without success he tries to make his way to the stage but his way is blocked by adoring fans and a salivating Mike Hosking. Newshub political editor Patrick Gower seems to be attempting to insert a microphone into English’s nose. Diplomatic Protection step in to clear the way and in no time, and with very little bloodshed, Bill English has made his way to the stage. He is waving to the crowd. They are in raptures.
Bill English steps up to the podium. “Hello everybody!” English yells at the microphone. The room erupts. He thrusts his hands in the air once more. This time he forgets he is holding his wife’s hand and just about dislocates her unsuspecting shoulder. With all the blind praise, he hardly notices. While addressing the crowd the Prime Minister talks about the vote being a vote for the same; a vote for not changing a thing. The country is going in the right direction and most people agree that National are doing a fine job. He welcomes the chance to talk with Winston Peters about forming a government at some point in the coming days.
Bill English concludes his speech with another skywards thrust of his strong hands and accepts more adoration from the blue and white ocean. He leaves the stage triumphant unable to wipe a massive boyish grin from his face.
Little did he know that by Christmas his career would be all but over.
As with most blogs and punditry sites, MyThinks didn’t want to leave the office for Christmas without throwing out one final post in an effort to crack a few final clicks before the year’s end. Who are the winners and losers this year? What will happen next year? Who knows? Well… we do. And here are our (my) reckons.
Predictions for 2017:
MyThinks made no predictions for 2017. So that’s a 100% success rate. In your face every other blog.
Idiot of the Year:
Trump. As the orange racist currently holding the place in the White House for Mike Pence continues with his racist orangey diatribes against all things female, media and African-American, the big question is this: will he last beyond the end of 2018? Who knows? MyThinks believes the Republican Party could grow some kind of non-jelly based spine following the predicted rout in the 2018 mid-terms. If that happens Trump is a goner and Pence is a shoe in.
Winner of the Year:
Jacinda Adern. She showed Bill English, David Farrar and the rest of the “pretending to be centrist” brigade that winning an election in a proportional environment involves getting more votes than the other side. As much as National and people who can’t get their heads around proportional representation continue to believe they have the moral mandate to form a government, if you can’t form a government, then you aren’t going to be the government. It’s quite simple maths really. If they want to flick me an email I can explain it, you know, if they want.
Loser of the Year:
The National Party. See above.
Sports Performance of the Year:
Black Ferns. They burned England with an amazing come-from-behind performance and got Aotearoa so amped that the bastion of New Zealand man-ness, the NSRFU, are now talking about some kind of professional situation for the country’s female rugby players. Would this have happened anyway? Again, who knows, but the Black Ferns performance in that final was as good as anything the All Blacks could dish out at the moment.
Album of the Year:
Lorde. She also gets Song of the Year for Green Light. She is astounding. MyThinks tried to watch Lorde’s Coachella performance with his 7-year-old son and there were too many adult-themed words so he had to turn the sound down between songs and during some songs. But I suppose when I was twenty I was letting rip with the odd expletive from time to time, so who can blame her. Lorde rocks.
Loser of the Year:
The National Party. See above.
Predictions for 2018:
- National will continue to freak out about the election result, blame Labour for the spending deficits they themselves created and continue to allege they are the most capable at running a tight ship – despite all financial evidence showing Labour running a tighter ship than they ever did.
- National will fall in the polls. When they are about 5 points behind Labour the knives will sharpen and BLinglish will head off for his obligatory overseas post and subsequent knighthood before Judith Collins, Simon Bridges or any of the other shining lights of the far right try to take charge. The implosion will be spectacular (may actually take place in 2019 as freaking out takes hold).
- The Trump Administration will also implode. See prediction above.
- Someone from New Zealand will do something awesome somewhere in the world which will make us all go, “Yeaaaaah!!” and celebrate their awesomeness for weeks.
- None of MyThinks predictions will come true. Except for number 4 – it’s loose enough to apply to any event involving a New Zealander anywhere in the world at any time.
Loser of the Year:
The National Party. See above.
We here at MyThinks (well… it’s just me really) wish you all a very happy non-denominational holiday period and all the best for 2018.
Not long ago and quite close to home
An election was held to decide a new throne.
With many votes cast and results nearly in
National began with their post-ballot din.
“We are the winners!” they announced with much glee.
“We have the most votes! The most votes are with we!”
They began to speak through their surrogate friends
Who dutifully worked to their masters ends.
“The winner is the one who has the most votes.”
“A coalition of losers can’t even row boats!”
(But this time Joyce made subtle corrections
and had the rowers all jogging in different directions)
But as the dust settled and people were thinking
Some of them said, “Hang on. What have you been thinking?”
The rules of democracy quite clearly state
That the winner must have 50% plus one on their plate.
That explanation did not go down well.
No. That explanation was sent back to hell.
All the surrogates continued to painfully whine
As jelly seemed to replace all their spines.
“The winner is the one who has the most votes”
“A coalition of losers can’t even row boats!”
“We are the winners!” went up the plea.
“We have the most votes! The most votes are with we!!”
Then Winston popped up I’m quite happy to say
To tell all the people which way he would sway.
“The people have spoken,” he said with good cheer,
“And I’m now with Jacinda. It is she, do you hear!”
You should have heard the right wing explode.
They now went in to their full attack mode.
“But we are the winners!” they cried out in pain.
“We have the most votes. It’s our turn again!”
But National were done. It just wasn’t their day
They had no more friends who could come out to play.
Labour and Winston with their friends in the Greens
Were now in control – what a sight to be seen.
Of course, you couldn’t shut up the feverish few
Who kept going on because they were blue.
“But we were the winners!” they continued to plea
“We had the most votes. The most votes were with we!”
But all had stopped listening and turned off their screens
And slid them back into their handbags and jeans.
Despite the Blue brains that had all prolapsed
Things were ok and they hadn’t collapsed.
Everyone decided National had been
The losing-est losers they’d ever seen.
The Government is irresponsibly and recklessly scrapping National Standards without having a detailed nationwide system of progression to replace it with, leaving parents in the dark about their children’s achievement, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye desperately says.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to no longer compel schools to report annually on a randomly arbitrary figure set by the National Party and given to the Ministry of Education to enforce is bad news for parents and could have negative and far-reaching consequences across the education sector,” Ms Kaye says.
“While Mr Hipkins is saying parents will still get reports, there is no clarity about what exactly will be required of teachers to report on. He’s even said that parents will be able to celebrate the progress of their children. This is an outrage.
“If teachers don’t report against National’s Standards, what are they going to report on? How their students get on with other children? How they manage themselves? How well they collaborate with others? How awesome they are at Art or P.E. or Science or Technology?
“Without this information there will also be huge difficulty targeting funding to schools that the minister likes.
“Mr Hipkins did not need to do this – he should have waited until he had figured out a replacement system. Instead, just as schools are breaking up for the year he has given them every reason to celebrate.
“National has previously supported a shift to progression but only when coupled with the use of data to play school off against school and teacher off against teacher. It’s important for our friends in the media to get every possible chance they can to rank schools using National’s Standards because that’s obviously the best way to improve learning outcomes for children.
“This Minister is consistently displaying a rash and ideological approach to our education system, which is something we never ever did never ever ever.”