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.
Well… that was a bit shit.
The empty feeling that appeared deep in my gut last evening around about 8:30pm remains. New Zealand has decided the born-to-rule Tories of the National Party will lead the next government. Yes, we can get in to the semantics of, “But Boon, Labour plus Greens plus Winston First equals 61. That’s a government. We can be the government!”
Yes. A progressive-led government is a technical possibility, but think about this: in 1996 and again in 2005 Winston Peters went with the incumbent government and ended up destroying first National and then Auntie Helen’s government with his nonsense. Everybody knows what he’s like. Like everyone’s drunk uncle, he’s unpredictable and cantankerous. Good if you are in opposition; not so good if you are in government. So, my progressive chums, you have a choice. You can be like National and demand power at any cost (that cost being Winston), or you can just let him go with National and destroy them.
I am urging Jacinda to think very carefully about how much she wants it. You have only been in power for half an hour. Auntie Helen lost the 1996 election and ended up leading our country for nine glorious years. Everyone pines for her. Her legacy is formidable and remains in tact. Does Jacinda really want to risk her legacy before it’s even started. I hope her advisers are pointing this out.
However, as someone pointed out to me on twitter last evening, some New Zealanders need rescuing now. That is the tragedy of this election result. Do progressives push for change now? It’s a hard choice, but then again, I’m not living in a car, or not receiving the mental health care I need, or not able to get “elective” surgery for knee or hip pain, or labeled a “failure” by the education system from the moment I start school, or have gotten e-coli from swimming in the poisoned river running through my town, so it’s very easy for me to say this.
Boomers vs Juniors
How have we got to the point where 46% of New Zealanders are regularly willing to vote Tory? Everybody knows older people are a lot more conservative and a lot easier to turn out. During my twitter feed last night there was a lot of abuse being hurled towards these home-owning boomers. That doesn’t really solve anything. Home owners are just protecting their assets. National, the good Tories they are, played on the fears of those home owners. You’ll be paying more tax! Interest rates will rise! That’s scary stuff if you live inside the better part of $1 million that the bank owns. If you want to attack someone, attack National for their shameless scare tactics.
There is now that divide. Those who own and those who rent. I voted for change because I know there are thousands and thousands of people out there who are worse off than me and need the hand of the state to help them. I know we are all in this together and if we don’t care for the most vulnerable New Zealanders we might as well live under Trump. I’m a teacher so I may see this vulnerable side, but if you don’t see that part of New Zealand regularly it is very easy to ignore it. Also, if you are saying things like, “I’ve worked bloody hard to get where I am,” then that conveniently removes you from the collective responsibility we have to look after the less fortunate.
We live in a society. Tories do not want you to believe in that society. For years they have been looking to divide and conquer. It is in their best interests to have home owners fighting to protect their asset base against the rest of us. It is in their interest to reduce voter engagement – that’s why Hooton was so vocal about early voting being “undemocratic.” It’s not that he’s being foolish, he just doesn’t want you to be exercising your right to vote. The people who fall off the vote boat are left-leaning and Hoots doesn’t want any more of those people voting.
A lot of the boomers I know, my parent’s generation, grew up in or around the 1960s. That was a period of great change and upheaval. When did this generation, who fought against the Vietnam War and for universal human rights, give up fighting for what is right? Or does society become more conservative as they age? I don’t have the answers to these questions because I’m not a boomer or a home owner (Yes, I am aware that not all older people vote for National or are the only home owners in society – these are just thinks).
Bill English is the definite winner in this election. He’s been anointed to carried on the strong and steady plodding of John Key’s government. Home owners are feeling wealthy and they have rewarded him for it. Jacinda Ardern as taken Labour from a third party to a genuine change contender. One wonders what may have happened if she had more than two months and National hadn’t forced the change discussion to be replaced by a tax discussion. Winston Peters again holds the balance of power. We may not know until well into October what may happen. I’m sure he will do what is in the best interests of Winston. Thank you to James Shaw who brought the Greens back after polls threatened their very existence.
Who knows what government we will end up with when the dust settles at the end of October? I’m picking Winston will go with National because National will, unashamedly, offer him everything he wants to remain in power.
Final Final Thinks
This election must be remembered for the saddest of all terrible ironies: Bill English and National lied and lied and lied and got the largest vote; Metiria Turei told the truth and got hounded out of politics.
PADRE: Hello my child.
BILL: Forgive me father for I have sinned. It’s been one week since my last confession.
PADRE: Go on my son.
BILL: I must ask for forgiveness for I have committed sins against others.
PADRE: How have you sinned against others?
BILL: Well, father… when I was asked about Labour’s tax policy… I said they were going to increase income tax.
PADRE: And were they going to increase income tax?
BILL: No… it’s just that they weren’t going to decrease income tax.
PADRE: But you have apologised for the lie my son?
BILL: Oh no… I doubled down father.
PADRE: Doubled down my child?
BILL: Yes father. I lied about lying.
PADRE: Lied about lying?
BILL: Yes. When they asked me whether I was lying about the tax I said I wasn’t lying about the tax.
PADRE: I see… well that’s only two small lies my son.
BILL: Oh no…. there’s more father. I’ve also lied about Labour’s budget having an $11 billion hole.
PADRE: And does it?
PADRE: Are there any amounts of missing spending? Are there any holes in their budget?
BILL: Just the ones on the side so you can pop it into a ring binder.
PADRE: Well. That kind of lying is not desirable. A good Catholic must always endeavour tell the tru….
BILL: …I haven’t finished yet…
PADRE: Oh for Christ’s sake…
BILL: …I’ve also lied about my involvement with the Todd Barclay thing. First I said I didn’t know anything about it, then it turned out I did know loads about it because I’d texted my friend 450 times. Then I lost those texts after I accidentally deleted them after someone told me to. And I’m still telling people it’s an employment dispute I never really had anything to do with – even when they ask me what I did with all the texts.
PADRE: I’m not sure you should say anymore. Congregational privilege only extends so far my son.
BILL: But I’ve got so much more to say. You should have seen the stuff we got up to when John Key was around.
PADRE: I don’t want to know!
BILL: But father…. I must confess. This is my chance to atone. What must I do to atone for my sins?
PADRE: You could start by pulling the lid down on all these lies. The lies must stop. Now.
BILL: But… I’m the leader of the National Party… I can’t lead that party without being able to lie constantly about all of our policies, plans and all the stuff we’ve done or haven’t done.
PADRE: Well… Okay then. After all… this is the Catholic Church. We didn’t get where we are today without being allowed to wash away our responsibilities with 4 hail Mary’s and a small donation to the church.
BILL: How much do you need father?
PADRE: Well… the church roof legal fund….
BILL: How much?
PADRE: Forty-eight thousand, six hundred and forty-seven dollars and sixty-eight cents. Roughly.
BILL: Done and done.
PADRE: Very well then my child. Remember to say your penance and thank God for the Sacrament of Penance. And do you promise not to lie again?
PADRE: Was that a lie.
PADRE: Oh God….
This week Patrick Gower called it. The National Party was guilty of the biggest lie of the campaign. It’s not the only lie, but it’s certainly the biggest.
Labour, apparently, is going to lift income tax. National are arguing, like they think we’re all complete idiots, that black is white. Bill English outlined their argument thusly: because National has legislated for tax CUTS on April 1 next year AND Labour has promised not to bring in those tax cuts if they lead the next government, THEN that is a tax rise BECAUSE on April 1 next year taxes will be above said legislated level.
Obviously Labour are not going to raise income taxes. They have said it. Everybody else has said it. They are not going to cut taxes as National plan to. Keeping something at the same level they currently are is not the same as raising them. But then any normal and sane person can see that.
National have a long history of dishonesty. Even with Nicky Hagar proving through leaked emails that John Key was running a stung operation from his office, Key continued to fudge and obfuscate rather than answer in the affirmative. It was all Nicky’s fault – the well-known communist that he is.
In his piece last night Gower mentioned several recent examples – Brexit, the UK and Aust elections and Trump – where outright lies have won elections. What galls me the most, however, is the fact that Boris Johnson, Trump and, this week, Steven Joyce and “Honest” Bill have all doubled down on their lies. Mike Hosking and Jacinda both told English that nobody agreed there was an $11 billion hole in Labour’s budget. Good old Bill said, “No, that’s not true,” and said loads of people said there was a hole. Over the weekend on Q & A, Corin Dann told English to name someone who agreed.
“I can name loads of people,” he said, repeating Joyce’s lie from earlier in the week without ever actually naming anybody. I’m sure all the National caucus agree with the lie.
It is appalling that there is a constituent of the political class across the world who are so willing to lie to win. The Tories in the UK, Trump and the Republicans in the US, Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition in Australia. All these parties are from the right of centre. When did they all decide they were just going to lie and fabricate noise about their opponents? When did this happen?
American satirist and stand up comedian Bill Maher laments the Democratic Party. On his show he often calls out the Republicans and their ruthlessness and ability to lie and fabricate their way through election campaigns with various attack adverts paid for by various secret billionaires. He urges the Democrats to play the GOP at their own game and rip them to shreds.
The problem with us social liberal types is that we are too inclusive. We believe in giving everybody a fair chance. Tories, on the other hand, don’t give two flying shits about anyone other than themselves and staying in power. That’s why they peddle their fictions as they lie about beneficiaries and students and teachers and how much pollution farmers are responsible for and so on and so on and so on.
Jacinda has been trying to run a positive campaign talking about the issues. Unfortunately for her, National have taken her and Labour out with some well-timed lies targeted at her tax policy and various other mini-lies targeted at Labour’s general economic polices. Maybe she should have been clearer on what the party’s tax plans would mean; what sort of levels the might consider. She wasn’t clear enough and now we have the prospect of another 3 years being run by a bunch of lying liars. Whether or not National have a coalition partner after Saturday is another question.
Thankfully for us all the main political journalists are calling National on their lies. Even if they win on Saturday and form the next government I don’t believe the media will let them National as lightly as they did in 2014. After all, there is a definite mood for change in New Zealand. It’s whether it happens now or in 2020.
Either way, “Honest” Bill’s reputation as a straight shooter is now in tatters. Then again, he’s Catholic so he can always seek absolution for his bullshit.
MyThinks have been leaked a copy of a letter recently written by current Prime Minister Bill English. It’s a very important letter.
Dear Mr/Mrs Voter,
I am Bill English from the The National Party. I am the Prime Minister. That makes me very important. Important enough for you to be listening to the things I am saying.
At the moment I am saying lots of important things. For example, on the weekend, while the Labour Party were faffing about in front of thousands of people in the Auckland Town Hall, I was with three other old men in suits announcing a $10 billion spending plan for our Roads of National Significance. It was a very important announcement which I announced in an important voice. Even the phrase Roads of National Significance sounds incredibly important.
This election you have an important choice. You can choose between a small child who has been the leader of her party for a ten minutes OR you could vote for a middle-aged white man who has been in parliament since the 1980s. Yes, that makes me sound old. But with oldness comes wiseness. It’s so important to be wise. When I dress in a suit and stand next to other middle-aged white friends, I look smart and important. It’s important to look important.
Who do you trust? The important looking guy with his important looking friends or the young, charismatic girl with her hipster bodyguards?
I know who I would vote for.
The answer is me. Me every time.
Your vote is important. I am important. That is why it is so important that you vote for me.
And Peter Dunne. Make sure you vote for him to. He’s important to keeping me important.
Bill, your humble and important PM.