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.
It is with some concern and, indeed, much trepidatory nervousness that I express my complete worry at the amount of Mayoree language being spoken in New Zealand. I hear it all over the radio and television day after day after day.
I’m no racist, but when Guyon or whoever starts their morning hello with six or seven words from a language I don’t understand, I’m going to say something. If you are going to welcome me to your radio show and try to get me to listen then you should say stuff in a language I understand. If I don’t understand, then I can’t engage. If I can’t engage, then I need to get my press people to issue blatantly racist press releases in the hopes people will talk to me and listen to my old white man ideas.
Sure Mayoree have been in New Zealand for hundreds of years and their language was pretty much the national language until James Cook turned up with all his amazing technology, disease and colonial suppression. They’ve done so well since then.
Look. I am old and I am white. I’m threatened by anything that’s not old and white. All this use of Te Reyo is new and fresh sounding. All the kids are using it. It threatens my white man-ness. I mean… I can’t really speak Te Reyo but I sometimes like to use it. I use the word farnow all the time. It works just so much better than family. It means so much more. So I use farnow all the time. But I don’t want other people using any of the other words. It’s too confusing to both my manhood and my whitehood.
Right… if you’ll excuse me I’m off to my house in Orakei to enjoy a Wairarapa chardonnay with some roasted kumara while we look out on the beautiful Rangitoto in the Hauraki Gulf.
Donald Brash (doctor)
MyThinks has been delving deep into many, many election issues. From Steven Joyce’s lying to the lying of Steven Joyce, we’ve really worked hard to cover everything. Today in our Auckland studio we are hosting a debate between Finance Minister Joyce and his Labour Party counterpart Grant Robertson.
Host: Good morning gentlemen.
Joyce: Good morning.
Robertson: Good morning Mr Host.
Host: This is shaping up to be a tight election race. National and Labour are neck and neck at the moment. I’ll start with you first Mr Joyce. What is your party offering that is going to make a difference to New Zealanders?
Joyce: That’s a great question. National has a strong record of helping ourselves during the global financial crisis. We have worked hard to ensure that everyone has a fair go…
Robertson: (coughing) Bhu-ll-sht!
Joyce: …that everyone has a fair go and are able to get the jobs and the opportunities they want.
Host: You don’t agree Grant Robertson?
Robertson: No I don’t. National has had nine years, nine long years to improve things, and what have we got? People living in cars, polluted rivers, homeless people dying on church steps, massive waiting lists… I could go on.
Joyce: Please don’t.
Robertson: You’ve had every opportunity and you’ve failed. Your government is not delivering for New Zealanders. It’s just delivering for…
Joyce: That’s a load of rubbish and you know it. National have a proven track record…
Robertson: Prove it.
Joyce: …I just did by saying it. National has a proven track record of delivering jobs and growth. And I wouldn’t be too quick to cast aspersions Grant. Your party is up to some pretty dodgy stuff.
Host: What do you mean?
Joyce: Well… there’s the tax thing. They are going to raise all sorts of taxes and hard-working New Zealanders are going to end up paying a lot more.
Robertson: No we are not. That’s a lie. We are holding a working group to look at whether our tax system is fair.
Joyce: And you’re going to raise income tax on our most vulnerable people.
Robertson: No we are not. We haven’t said we will.
Joyce: It’s clear from your denials that you are totally going to do that. National deny all sorts of stuff we end up doing or are found guilt of. You are totally going to raise taxes and force the poor to sell their babies.
Joyce: It’s obvious. You have totally denied you are going to lift income tax but you have never said that you are not going to force the poor to sell their children. How do we know that’s not your policy?
Robertson: Because we aren’t ACT.
Joyce: Don’t dodge the question. How can New Zealanders be sure that the Labour Party aren’t going to force the hard-working poor of New Zealand to sell their children in order to pay for food and housing?
Robertson: You’re adding stuff to that!
Joyce: Damn right. You’ve never said you aren’t just going to ship all the old people living in rest homes off to the Auckland Islands because it’s just too expensive to pay for their care.
Robertson: I don’t believe what I’m hearing.
Joyce: I don’t either. I don’t think any New Zealander will stand by and let you harvest their organs to sell on the dark web. I certainly won’t.
Host: Where are you getting this information?
Joyce: From a hole. It’s a very big hole. But it’s there. All this information waiting to come out. I’ve run many, many campaigns for the National Party over the years and never, never have I been in charge of one which is up against a party that hasn’t denied they are going to remove all non-New Zealanders from the country via a lunar rocket.
Robertson: We will not do any of those things.
Joyce: But how do we know that if you aren’t denying them?
Host: I think he just did.
Joyce: No he didn’t Mr Host. He said he was, “totally not going to do any of those things.” But what things? What specific things is he not going to do. I haven’t heard him name one since we’ve been sitting here.
Robertson: What are you not going to do?
Robertson: Well… what are you and the National Party not going to do?
Joyce: Oh… I see what you are trying to do there… You’re trying to catch me out. Well I’ll tell you this right here and now. Everything. We are planning not to do everything.
Robertson: So… you’re going to do nothing?
Host: I think he asked if you were going to do nothing. That is, are you planning not to do anything?
Joyce: Um… sorry… what do you mean?
Host: You’re accusing Labour of doing everything so is the National Party planning on doing nothing to deal with all of our problems?
Joyce: Wha.. um… but… the… I’m… Roads! Roads and irrigation!! And tax cuts!!!!!!! Shut up.
Robertson: Hahaahaa! Classic.
Joyce: Shut up. I’m not playing anymore.
Host: Thanks for joining us today gentlemen. I’ve been talking to Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Labour Party finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.