There have been a few things floating around in my head over the last week. I’ve started this post several times and deleted it as I tried to gather those thoughts together into some kind of coherent narrative.
Following the release of Dirty Politics, I spent an evening this week doing something I’ve been wanting to do for some time – I watched The Hollow Men – the documentary based on the Nicky Hager book of the same name. You can also spend time watching it free of charge if you wish as it is up in full on the NZ On Screen website.
In the context of the current National Party meltdown, this is an incredibly salient piece of work as it highlights the very beginning of the party’s use of Crosby Textor as a public relations entity. The thesis of The Hollow Men as it is with Dirty Politics, is that the National Party presents a positive face to the public of New Zealand yet delves in to all sorts of other negative strategies behind the scenes.
There were two major points of The Hollow Men that ring within my ears – ears that have been deafened in recent hours by the shrill cries from Judith Collins that it is SHE who is the victim in all of this.
- During Don Brash’s bid for the leadership of the National Party, John Key told Bill English that he would be voting for him. However, on the day of the vote he went for Brash.
- Following the defeat of Brash by Helen Clark’s government at the election in 2008, John Key took over as leader of the National Party and retained the public relations services of Crosby Textor as he began his
reign of terrorleadership.
There are so very many questions that my mind has been grappling with as the political events of this week have unfolded while the words and images of National’s duplicitous 2008 election campaign rattled around in there with it. I’m just going to list them as a series of questions. National supporters will read these and allege a massive left-wing conspiracy but it’s very hard to maintain that when the “conspiracy” being alleged has been developed with the help of your own emails.
- If John Key misled Bill English over having his vote, what was his end-game? Did he know at the time that Brash, being a relic of the 1980s and loathed by many people, was unlikely to win therefore opening the way for his tilt at the job he had coveted most.
- If Key misled English over the leadership vote and was fully aware of the implications of changing his vote (if, that is, he ever intended to vote for English in the first place), he has that capacity in him to mislead and communicate in public relations speak without guilt. If he did it then, who’s to say he’s not doing it now? Or that he has been doing that constantly since 2008?
- Crosby Textor have worked with John Howard in the UK, the Tories in the UK and National in New Zealand. Their style, as highlighted in The Hollow Men, is very negative playing on fears about immigration, beneficiaries and so on. John Key maintained their services after he took over the leadership of the National Party. Did he want them to continue their negative style under his leadership? Would Crosby Textor change their style because a more relaxed Key was head of the party? Was their first advice to Key the same as the advice they gave Brash – play on the fears of people?
- With all the fantastic strategising that would have gone on behind the scenes to create these parallel universes, did the National Party not think to have a plan of attack if they were uncovered? If not, why not? Are they so arrogant to believe in a small country like New Zealand that this kind of nonsense wouldn’t find the light of day?
- At what point does John Key take responsibility for all this? He is the leader of the party. To say that everyone does this sort of thing OR that it was someone in his office doing things without his knowledge OR that it is some kind of insane left-wing conspiracy is not good enough. He is leader. He is responsible. Grow some and admit it (the irony that he is blaming a massive left-wing conspiracy for outing a massive right-wing conspiracy is not lost on this blogger. Did Crosby Textor come up with that gem?).
- Bill English has come out this week and said this isn’t his style. That is a very interesting comment.
- What would John Key’s mother think of all this?
Ultimately we live in a democracy. The reason the National Party feel they need to hide the way some of them like to do business behind a smiling and waving everyman who gets selfies with the trannies at the Big Gay Out is that they know in their hearts that the New Zealand public would never vote for their real agenda.
Otherwise the would put it out there in full, leave the PR at home, and let the public decide.
National: working for themselves since 1936.
What follows is a transcript of a meeting between some senior National Party figures held early Saturday morning New Zealand time.
Footsteps and doors opening and closing. Chairs shifting. Various mutterings about a left-wing conspiracy.
JOHN KEY: Good morning team. Thanks for coming.
ALL: Thanks for inviting us. Most welcome. Cheers. etc.
JOHN KEY: Ok, so the reason we’re all here today is two-fold. Firstly, I want to get rid of this left-wing conspiracy that’s shining a light on our right-wing conspiracy. Secondly, I want to talk about the issues that matter to New Zealan…
BILL ENGLISH: (interrupting) You don’t need that bullshit with me John. You’ve got my vote… (stands on chair) captain, my captain.
STEVEN JOYCE: (stands on chair) Captain, my captain.
GERRY BROWNLEE: (stands on chair) Captain, my captain.
PAULA BENNETT: (stands on chair) Captain, my captain.
Sound of door opening. Out-of-breath staffer enters.
JASON EDE: Mr Key! Mr Key! I can’t stay silent any longer. I can’t stay in the corridor any more! I love you too much. Take me back. I promise I’ll be good.
Kissing and hugging sounds followed quickly by sound of adoration being slapped firmly away.
JOHN KEY: No Jason. No! You stay in the corridor on that cushion. You can’t keep doing this. We must keep our distance. I know that it’s hard, darling, but we must.
JASON EDE: But…
JOHN KEY: No… People will be sniffing around now. Things are being released. The situation is too hot. Let it cool down for a while. Here (sound of keys jangling) these are the keys to Hawaii bach. Go and stay there for a few months.
JASON EDE: But I….
JOHN KEY: I’ll come for you. Just go!
Sound of door closing and footsteps running down the corridor. Slight pause as arms fold and hard stare commences.
MURRAY MCCULLY: (involuntary moan of protest, stands on chair) Captain, my captain.
JOHN KEY: Thank you. Thank you all for that show of support. At the end of the day if I can’t be worshiped as a god then there’s really not much point in going on. As our internal polling shows, more and more people are believing me to be less than believable. This is unbelievable. We’ve got to do something. But what?
STEVEN JOYCE: Can we get down off our chairs now?
JOHN KEY: No.
PAULA BENNETT: But I’m scared of heights.
JOHN KEY: I said “no.” What kind of leader would I be if I just allowed you all to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. People would think of me as weak. That’s not going to happen. Now… can anyone give me anything, anything at all on Judith? It’s like she’s a car accident in slow motion and I’m the St John’s guy with my feet stuck in treacle and I’m wearing a backpack full of bricks. It’s that dream all over again.
STEVEN JOYCE: What about something from the Hager book. It’s pretty damning. It makes her look like a nasty, terribly corrupt bottom-feeder.
JOHN KEY: That won’t work. Have you read it? I’m all through that book. All through it. Anything we pin on Judith will be pinned on me.
GERRY BROWNLEE: Why don’t we stonewall. Blame teachers. Blame the poor. Get stuck into some Christchurch people who’ve been living in broken homes for four years. Those are always very popular strategies with the focus groups.
JOHN KEY: No. We need something more than that. Something better. Something bigger.
MURRAY MCCULLY: I’m feeling a bit woozy. Can I please get down.
JOHN KEY: Absolutely not.
PAULA BENNETT: What about this email from old Blubber Oil? It talks about Jude trying to get rid of the SFO head.
Crashing sound as McCully falls off chair.
JOHN KEY: Where did you get that?
PAULA BENNETT: Oh.. I just downloaded it from Cam’s email account. I thought everyone had the password? He’s pretty liberal with it.
Sound of John Key reading.
JOHN KEY: Oh… this is good. Very good. It’s exactly the same as all the emails in Hager’s book but it’s not in Hager’s book.
Sound of Murray McCully nursing a sprained elbow.
ALL: Great. Excellent. Good work etc.
JOHN KEY: Ok… so here’s what’s going down. I’ll hold a news conference in which I’ll tell New Zealand I’ve been a strong leader and I’ve accepted Judith Collins’ resignation for doing something utterly unbecoming of a minister in my government. That will be that. Gone. Goodbye. No more Judy.
GERRY BROWNLEE: When are you going to call Judy.. ah… Judith?
JOHN KEY: I’ll have the press conference at 12:30 and I’ll call her at 12:23. I want to see her squirm. Right, get down off your chairs and get out there and start defacing our billboards so we can blame the massive left-wing conspiracy.
Sound of people getting down off chairs and walking out of office. Sound of Murray McCully getting up off the floor and limping out of office. Sound of phone being dialled.
JOHN KEY: Hello… SIS? A secure line to Cameron Slater please…. Hi Cam? Bad news…
This election campaign is turning into a joke. National, through John Key and to a lesser extent Steven Joyce, appear to be telling us either not to believe emails people from their side wrote or that somehow a smear campaign involves the release of actual emails actually written by actual National Party people. Smears usually involve lies, not truths. That’s called accountability. Their deny-everything-at-all-costs-in-the-hope-it-goes-away strategy has lasted a week and a half. How long can it go on? I’m sure @whaledump will tell us.
When I’m teaching I’m always asking my kids to take responsibility for their actions. You made that choice, you have to live with the consequences. Blaming this mystical “Left” for everything is a total cop-out. You wrote the emails. Man up.
Now that that’s out of the way I wanted to let you all know of the single most disturbing thing that has happened during this election campaign. I know you’re all probably thinking what is there something MORE disturbing a secret agenda to use right-wing blogs to discredit political opponents while outwardly exhibiting an “I’m-above-all-that-nonsense” facade?
Last week NZEI voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s Investing in Educational Sycophants policy. As a large group made up of thousands of teaching professionals we have decided that this policy stinks. We know in our hearts that $350 million would be much better spend at the bottom end of education – the coal face – where it is needed most for special needs, reading recovery, quality PD for teachers, etc, etc, etc. The list is actually endless and would require billions if it were to be done properly.
Of course, the Prime Minister in his infinite wisdom, has declared the NZEI rogue. We are, it turns out, playing politics during an election. This statement requires some unpicking. The man who has, for the last six years, allegedly run a sophisticated behind-the-scenes “black ops” campaign allegedly using the SIS allegedly for political gain, is telling teachers they’re playing politics? The man and party who have made a career out of secretly playing politics are levelling similar accusations toward teachers. All we are guilty of (and we’re not, that’s just a turn of phrase) is telling the National Party we don’t believe a management system enforced by a right-wing government keen to impose education policies that have failed in Sweden, the USA and the UK, is in the best interest of our students. Apart from all this, isn’t an election EXACTLY THE RIGHT TIME TO BE PLAYING POLITICS? What we should shut up until the election is finished? What an utterly preposterous thought.
National are now using the George W Bush catch-cry made so popular after Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Centre in 2001 – you’re either with us or against us. You either believe in our policy or you are educational terrorists.
Thanks for the vote of confidence and high trust model.
If you want proof of what John Key really thinks of teachers, watch this item from OneNews last night. Fifty seconds in to the item he is reading off a prepared statement. This obviously means he wants to get the words exactly right, otherwise he would be doing the usual making it up as he goes along routine to appear relaxed in a say what I like kind of way. Here’s what he says:
A branch of the Labour Party – the NZEI – were against this initiative from the start, despite working with Labour on a very similar policy.
He then goes on to say he doesn’t want to enforce the policy on the sector, but he may have to.
Consider just last week Hekia Parata was saying on the Nation that the policy was optional and schools would not have to be involved if they didn’t want to (4:30 in to the debate).
What has changed?
I’ll tell you what’s changed. National have been the bad guys for a week and a half and now they want someone else to have a turn. Enter teachers.
And so it continues.
The most important point in all this? According to the Nation survey results highlighted before the Parata / Hipkins debate, over half of New Zealanders (52%) support Labour’s policy of improving teacher ratios. 40% of people are going for National’s policy.
I trust parents to understand who is actually playing politics with education.
I just wanted to spend some time to respond to some of the baseless accusations that have been flying around this week.
First of all, Labour need to be ashamed about the way they have behaved. They have turned this campaign dirty by hiring Nicky Hager to write a fake book full of outright lies. At the end of the day it’s clear to me, and to all New Zealanders who care about the issues, that the left are running a smear campaign against National. The left are publishing lies day after day after day. Lies they have stolen from hacked emails. Hacked emails that we wrote.
Second, New Zealanders don’t care about this. New Zealanders care about the important issues to New Zealanders. New Zealanders don’t want to hear negative smears from a negative party. They care more that the Greens, for example, have absolutely no idea about running the country and wear tin-foil hats and just want to tax the shirts of your back. They care that Labour are going to reach into your property portfolio or secret trust and take money to pay for the healthcare and education that you use. They care that Internet Mana are nothing more than an electoral plaything for a nasty German pirate and his evil henchmen who want to steal democracy from New Zealanders. At the end of the day, those are the issues that matter to New Zealanders, not negative politics.
Thirdly, the polls say people think I’m awesome. If you look at the polls we are the kings of the world – particularly me. Labour are not focused on the issues that matter. Apart from education, housing, tax, health, the economy, power, the cost of living, the Christchurch rebuild, Auckland transport, regional development, the environment, Best Start for children, and many, many others, Labour are yet to release any policy at all. All they want to do is play the man, not the ball. It’s clear to me that New Zealanders care about the issues that matter to New Zealanders, not some random beltway issue based on
If Labour and the left want to play that kind of game I say bring it on. Hit me with your best shot. At the end of the day, I’m prepared to testilie under oath to clear my name. It’s that simple.
I just wanted to set the record straight on some of the dross that’s been swirling around in Wellington for the past couple of days. It’s clear to me, and the rest of New Zealand, that we are sick of left-wing nutters jumping on the Kim Dotcom twitter train to Watergateville. I will not be taking that train.
This is a slanted, one-sided smear and I’m not going to tell you our side.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to New Zealanders is me saying, “at the end of the day” before many of my sentences. Farrar has run it past our focus groups and it’s received a 32% approval rating. This is in marked contrast to Labour’s constant “thanks for attending our latest policy launch” which barely scrapes a 61.76% rating.
For too much of this campaign, Labour have been playing dirty politics by releasing a raft of sound policy. At the end of the day, this is ridiculous. The Labour we all knew and loved under Phil Goff couldn’t handle a one-liner in a leader’s debate. This Labour is full of ideas. At the end of the day, I hate it.
At the end of the day New Zealanders will decide. Do they want a government who has a vision that creates a vibrant and competitive New Zealand full of jobs and hopes and dreams or do they want THREE MORE YEARS!
Because at the end of the day it’s all about THREE MORE YEARS!!!