Life in the war room

What follows is a transcript from a meeting held earlier this week at the election campaign headquarters of the National Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Present are campaign manager Stephen Joyce, Prime Minister John Key, Education Minister Hekia Parata and chief pollster and tester of the water for disliked policies David Farrar. The meeting began at 8.15am.


Doors opening and slamming shut. Loud, nervous voices chattering.

JOYCE: Right. Labour’s had a good weekend. They’ve released their education policy and it appears that education has now taken over the secret life of Len Brown and David Cunliffe forgetting an 11 year old form letter as one of the key issues of the current campaign. So… here I am at this whiteboard. I’ve rubbed everything out so it’s blank. Throw me your ideas…

(Silence: 15min, 32sec)

JOYCE: Anyone? Johnny? What have you got?

KEY: I’ve got nothing. It’s a great policy. Really comprehensive. I wish we’d thought of it.

JOYCE: What about you Farrar. What are the focus groups saying?



FARRAR: Yes. Everybody is saying yes. Even Winnie’s blue rince lot. Yes. Yes. Yes. They’re all saying yes.

JOYCE: Bugger.

PARATA: If I may… we’ve been consulting with many different stakeholders across the educa…

KEY: (interrupting) Look Hekia, if you can’t talk needing subtitles then don’t bother.

PARATA: But Prime Minister, if you’ll allow me conclude…

KEY: No. I don’t think I will. I’m not Gower.

JOYCE: Stop bickering you two. This is really important. People are talking positively about Labour despite all the muck and lies we’ve been feeding to Slater and the Herald. This isn’t good.

PARATA: No, it isn’t.

KEY: Good sentence.

JOYCE: Farrar… people read your excellent blog that we write. What are they saying in the comments section?

FARRAR: Um… I don’t actually read the comments section. It’s terrible. Really, really terrible.

JOYCE: For goodness sake. Does anybody have anything of note to say?

KEY: Nope.

FARRAR: Not me.

PARATA: I have assessed all possible answers I could give in this circumstance and all I can muster is one of a negative persuasion.

JOYCE: So no then.

PARATA: Yes. No.

JOYCE: Right… so while we sit here with a whiteboard emptier than NIWA’s climate change argument, Labour are going to reap the education policy firestorm. I’m so angry I don’t care that I’m mixing my metaphors.

(Silence: 7min, 8sec)

KEY: I could kiss a baby!

(Silence: 9min, 52sec)

PARATA: Oh, Steve… how’s Novopay going?

(Angry silence: 37min, 23sec)

FARRAR: Hang on… something’s coming to me… What if we told all our wonderful friends in the media that this was all about class sizes. I can rattle off my Hattie list again… that has class sizes waaaaaaaaay down the end near a hundred or something.

JOYCE: Yes. Yes. And then the media will be all over it.

KEY: Yeah. Especially ZB and 3 – They’ll be all like, “Look at stupid Labour and their dumb policy. This guy is a professor so he must know heaps more than someone who went to Harvard” oh.. that doesn’t sound right… um… we better change that to Lincoln. Cunliffe did a DipAg at Lincoln… No… dropped out of a DipAg at Lincoln. Get Slater on to that one.

FARRAR: I can have something cut and pasted in about 10 minutes.

KEY: Good. Joycie… get stuck into the tweeting. Be really negative. Tell Hipkins he’s stupid or something. Don’t back it up with evidence or a link. Just say it. Use the phrase ‘typical Labour’ as well. You’ll get heaps of retweets and it will be truth in no time.

JOYCE: Sweet.

KEY: Hekia. Go back to your office and don’t speak until September the nineteenth.

PARATA: I will retire to my working space confident in the knowledge that my focus will be on…

KEY: Yes.. thank you. I meant you to start after I’d finished the sentence.

(shuffling followed by door opening and shutting)

KEY: Right then. That’s us sorted for the election.

JOYCE: Indeed sire.



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