Four hundred thousand people don’t want asset sales. In fact they don’t just not want asset sales they want every voter in New Zealand to have the chance to cast a vote for or against asset sales. And National wants to discredit them. In fact it’s vital that National discredits them because the referendum looms as a huge political threat to them.
How big a threat? Well think about it. The referendum process and the referendum itself will take weeks, perhaps even months and every time it comes up in a story voters will be reminded that the government is flogging their assets and that they are willing to ignore the wishes of the electorate to do so. That’s the core of a narrative of a government that is out of touch. And that is one of the most damaging brands a government can have in a democracy.
So how scared are they? Well National are throwing every narrative they can at it in a desperate attempt to get something to stick. They’ve tried “it’s a waste of time because we’re selling anyway”, but that didn’t work, in fact it just made them look (heh) out of touch, so they tried claiming the signatures were dodgy, but the problem with that is that the petition will be officially endorsed as reaching the limit so that just looks a bit disingenuous. Oh, and they tried claiming the election was a mandate because Labour made it such a big issue, but nobody’s buying that because everyone know labour didn’t lose because of assets they lost because their campaign sucked and they had Phil Goff as a leader.
Which leaves them with nothing but the old national-party-research-unit-via-third-party smear campaign. “Look” they get their proxies to cry, “look at these leaked documents showing public money being spent on this referendum, oh and unions! boo!”.
Of course the problem with this is that the money spent by the Greens and Labour on this petition would have been spent by them on this kind of thing anyway. In fact I’d suggest that spending dollars on helping get Kiwis a say on their assets is more acceptable to the electorate than a party spending that money on, say, regular polling by a guy who also runs a blog that (and now we’re full circle) roll out smear campaigns against democratic processes. As an aside, I note David Farrar has described this as “The taxpayer purchased referendum”. The Greens have been very open about how they are spending parliamentary funds on this. Perhaps David would like to follow their example of transparency and let us know how much parliamentary funding he has been paid over the years. (Perhaps he could title the post “The taxpayer purchased blogger).
But back to the document in question. I have no doubt that someone in Labour’s top team would be stupid enough to leak something like this for some cleverdick tactical reason (just wait for Trevor or Phil to start whispering that it’s Cunliffe – despite the fact this is a document that only the leadership team would have), but it looks like a work of fiction to me. Or perhaps the work of a junior staffer playing out some masters of the universe fantasy. If only because no experienced Labour hack would have made such a ridiculous assertion about pressuring the unions. Simply because the unions would have told them to fuck off. And they know it.
But that’s all by the by because, unfortunately for National, everyone sees through this kind of behaviour to their motivation. And that motivation is their fear of democracy.