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Best yet in National Party splatter series in production

Written By: - Date published: 1:31 pm, July 28th, 2022 - 46 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, Dirty Politics, national, Politics, same old national - Tags: ,

The kicker in Andrea Vance’s Blue Blood, her insider’s view of the splatter-movie serial that has been the National Party since John Key stepped down, is that the best yet is in production.

Vance, a press gallery journo, has catalogued National’s hara-kiri that has been in a loop for six years.

She chronicles treachery that has become the modus operandi of the vacuous vipers inhabiting the caucus, as happened within Labour when its political chips were down until redeemer, Jacinda Ardern, arrived. Despite no new, big reveals, details of the dirty work induce you to turn the page for more, which, apparently, we will get shortly.

National’s ideology of personal responsibility and individualism ensures the cast of bad actors grasp any opportunity to advance their black cause.

The modern National Party picks the super ambitious, or overly ambitious, as one MP says of Simon Bridges, Todd Muller and others, and these snakes, who give vipers a bad rap, strike again and again.

Vance’s conclusion is that the honeymoon with Christopher Luxon may be short-lived and Nicola Willis, the woman who has supplanted Judith Collins as Lady MacBeth, has her knife poised.

Luxon’s pragmatism and desire to win back power has papered over the cracks, “but if Luxon’s momentum falters, an impatient caucus will soon look around for another silver bullet”.

Willis, according to one of Team Luxon’s less-than loyal MP colleagues, “is there thinking about her future. She is deeply tactical”.

A weakness of the book is that many of the insiders, who Vance persuaded to blab, do so anonymously, trash-talking their colleagues and employers like social media trolls. In her Acknowledgements, Vance says, “Good people in politics gave up their time for this book – busy and important people,” but I have more than a few doubts about their goodness. She expresses gratitude to those willing to be named and “privately salute those who couldn’t be”, (or wouldn’t be because they had their own agendas).

A more glaring weakness of the book, subtitled The Inside Story of the National Party in Crisis, is Vance’s failure to fully analyse how the National Party got into this state. As Steve Braunias, in his rollicking Newsroom review says, “where is the scrutiny of why it was that a great many in the National Party acted so ruinously, so grubbily, and, more than anything else, so selfishly”.

She brushes the subject when she discusses the role of soon-to-be ex-party president, Peter Goodfellow, in the disastrous party candidate selections. These resulted in what former Collins press secretary, Janet Wilson, describes as the selection of a Chinese government spy, Jian Yang, political bully boy Jami-Lee Ross, private info leaker Hamish Walker, sexter Andrew Falloon and Walter Mitty fantasist Jake Bezzant. There are no doubt multiple other Hitchcock horror operatives lurking, still to be outed.

As Braunias, says, Vance’s book is a kind of tabloid sequel to Nicky Hager’s 2014 exposé, Dirty Politics, with “some of the same cast of ratfuckers” rolling in the “mucilaginous slime of the National Party”. However, she fails, as Hager succeeded, to dissect the consequences of how the candidate-selection process was captured and corrupted by a cabal of radical-right operatives including Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, Jordan Williams, Carrick Graham, David Farrar and Cathy Odgers, all of whom would feel at home in Donald Trump’s fantasy world.

Most National Party members refused to read Hager’s book, claiming it was simply mudslinging, but that wilful ignorance over selection-gerrymandering and agenda capture has resulted in the clusterfuck that Vance has catalogued.

National Party hack Matthew Hooton in 2021 wrote about the selection process capture for Metro magazine in an article titled The National Party Death Spiral, where he describes how a group of radical Christian evangelicals, dubbed the Taliban, infiltrated the party to replace “mainstream New Zealanders”.

“Without returning to the pre-2003 constitution that allowed for creative destruction by National’s ordinary rank and file, there’s no obvious way out of this vicious cycle that is turning National into a Trump-like cult,” Hooton wrote in September last year.

As well as selecting numerous entitled, bumbling, strivers, National has chosen candidates, who, like Key, think they can run the country like a company.

These include the likes of Nikki Kaye, who Nick Smith claims, “doesn’t know anything” and Todd Muller, who proved unfit to run a corner dairy, but remains a senior member of the party, as well as the current leader.

Vance describes Luxon as an “ideological clean slate”. Vacuous might be a better word. Key pulled strings in Luxon’s selection and elevation, and the former Air NZ CEO says he consults Key frequently. But Vance points out there are crucial differences: “Luxon lacks charisma. Instead, he has excelled in projecting a bland, corporate image.”

Like Muller, Luxon, according to one of his colleagues, suffers from a “it’s so bloody easy disease,” with a naivety about the realities of governing compared with the comparatively easy task of being a corporate executive. His fellow MP is quoted as saying: “He’s got this quite superficial view of how the world works and is quite prone to the latest McKinsey idea.”

He is also castigated by former fellow execs for his pattern of short-term intense focus before boredom, frustrations and a lack of task completion sets in.

Vance discusses Luxon’s attempts to distance his religious views from his politics, but she fails to address his glaring lack of judgement in joining the cult-like evangelical Upper Room church. Luxon has never repudiated that church’s then pastor, Craig Heilmann’s, extremist, far, right views. All he has said is that he hasn’t been part of a church for some years.

Despite several early missteps, such as referring to Matariki as “mataangi”, Luxon’s rolling of Collins has seen a revival in National’s polling. However, that revival is faltering as the party’s DNA of ill-discipline, disunity, incompetence and ratfucking bubble like bread starter.

Deposed former leader Bridges, placated by being given the finance portfolio, abandoned ship shortly after disagreeing on Luxon’s first policy announcement, on the pivotal issue of tax. He joins other experienced former ministers including, Steven Joyce, Nikki Kaye, Paula Bennett, Amy Adams and Chris Finlayson who saw their future elsewhere.

Bridge’s brother-in-law, Simon O’Connor, put a decent-sized spanner in Luxon’s engine with his “this is a good day” commentary on the recent Roe vs Wade US Supreme Court decision. He managed to rile the 70-odd percent of Kiwis appalled at the decision, while reigniting the meme on National’s ill-discipline (his statement wasn’t never cleared with the party), as well as lasering media attention on Luxon’s weird view that abortion is “tantamount to murder”.

Polling by Taxpayers’ Union pollster Curia showed Luxon’s personal rating took a 6-point dive and National’s polling also reversed its uptrend.

Luxon himself hasn’t been averse to scoring own goals. While in London, timed nicely to watch the Tories dethrone Boris Johnson and indulge in a all-in gladiatorial contest to tear each other to bits, he stirred up his own constituency by labelling Aotearoan businesses as “soft”.

That prompted David Cormack of DraperCommack Group to write a column for BusinessDesk to detail the former soap salesman’s complete absence of risk-taking in his corporate career.

“At no stage was Christopher Luxon’s salary dependent on Christopher Luxon himself, going out and finding business, just to stay afloat. He’s always had people either above or below him to do that,” Cormack wrote.

Team Luxon scored another own goal this week when staff posted a video of him supposedly visiting businesses in Te Puke when in truth, he was holidaying in Key’s old stamping ground, Hawaii. Sprung, his first instinct was to lie, denying the video was misleading. Hours later he had to call in reporters to admit “We made a mistake.” There were shades of Todd Muller caught in the headlights in Luxon’s body language.

Luxon’s political naivety will likely see more snafus, ebbing confidence and rising mental stress. Vance notes his new broom has failed to sweep away tensions within the party. She quotes one source, presumably a fellow MP, saying that whether National becomes Labour-lite or slashes and burns is unsettled. “What’s the fucking point of being in Government? Is National going to come in again and just manage everything Labour’s done?”

Not only does National still contain Judith Collins, with her suicide bombing tendency, nearly all the factions listed by Vance – the Taliban, the Ratfuckers, the Four Amigos, the class of 17, the Playground Losers Club, the Brat Pack – are still around to divide and mutate like a corona virus.

Luxon may still pilot the party to victory next year, but you wonder whether he will last until then, and if he did happen to last, and even win, what is likely to achieve?

Blue Blood: The Inside story of the National Party in crisis by Andrea Vance (Harper Collins) is available nationwide in bookstores for $35

(Simon Louisson reported for The Wall Street Journal, AP Dow Jones Newswires, New Zealand Press Association and Reuters and briefly worked as a political and media adviser to the Green Party.)

Edited  1625 2020-07-28

46 comments on “Best yet in National Party splatter series in production ”

  1. lprent 1

    Excellent writing Simon – I was laughing as I was putting the post up and checking for typos.

    There are some phrases in there that I suspect will become memes. Looks like I may have to buy the e-pub.

    • satty 1.1

      Enjoyed it very much, too… Oh, and I did find a typo here:

      National Party hack Matthew Horton in 2021…

    • lprent 1.2

      For those who, like me, don't appreciate the weight of paper books while trying to read them in bed, having to move them, and trying to find space to house them….

      The epub is available on kobo for NZD 15.99.

      I offloaded all of my many many books in 2012 after the third move in 4 years.

      Now I run a Calibre server as a library, mostly use FBReader on my phone (easy adjustment of light levels), and do monthly batches through a de-drm toolkit from all the books that I buy before permanently storing them in the library.

    • Bopster 1.3

      Shame about the appalling grammar from someone who should know better. Why didn’t you pick up all the typos?

      • lprent 1.3.1

        It is called work. It is a shame that you don’t understand that this is a volunteer site, that people fit in what they do around their work and family.

        You should try working sometime – rather than being a useless parasitical critic.

  2. observer 2

    Thanks for that. Comprehensive.

    My fear is that Willis will replace Luxon in election year and the sigh of relief will see her through to victory. Most voters are not politics nerds like us and so it takes time for a leader's flaws to be exposed. Luxon was the saviour for about 6 months, until it became obvious that he isn't.

    He is remarkably bad at politics, that's not lefty bias, it's blindingly obvious. Also obvious: Willis is smarter. She could paper over those cracks (chasms) that Simon and Andrea have outlined. In opposition, at least … in government it would fall apart fast.

    • Robert Guyton 2.1

      Willis is Richardson exhumed, right?

      • observer 2.1.1

        Not really. She's a game player, not an ideologue. Willing to go in any direction the wind blows, as long as it carries her to the top.

        She will be loyal to Luxon until suddenly she's not. Just like she was with Bridges and Muller.

      • Shanreagh 2.1.2

        She's not dead yet.

        Sometimes though, perhaps most times, women in politics get a bad press for seemingly being tough, character traits that would be unremarked on in a male.

        In the 1990s I was a policy adviser to a Minister who worked closely with her (Ruth Richardson) and she was always prepared to listen, even if she not agree always with departmental advice. I got relatively close to her in a minor way, going as an adviser with her to Cabinet Cttee meetings and as an adviser when she met people who were lobbying the portfolio. She had staff who were long termers and this shows to me that she could work with and respected them.

        Women in the NP get a raw deal really having to shine against 'bully boys', 'wide boys' etc and those holding views against women's bodily sovereignty. This can rub off in a sort of stridency that we saw in the time of Hon Jenny Shipley, who was picked as future leader by people on both sides (as it really was) of the House. Thankfully our current PM has come up in a different way and is able to carve out her own way of doing things.

        If Nicola Willis can get to be LOTO then hopefully she need not be a clone of either RR or Jenny Shipley in the stridency stakes.

    • Shanreagh 2.2

      Yes this is a worry. Nicola Willis is much more able and astute than Luxon.

      Luxon does have a genital advantage though that cannot be downplayed.

      The misogyny that is rife and the patriarchal beliefs, the born agains seem to be resurgent in the NP.

      • Robert Guyton 2.2.1

        Able & Astute – Partners in Law.

        Imagine…

        (Inconceivable!!)

        • Barfly 2.2.1.1

          Pah! That lawyers firm would be an easy beat – My brother holidaying in the UK many many years ago walking on the street sees a lawyers office named

          "Hitchcock and Scratchitt" devil

      • Robert Guyton 2.2.2

        But Nicola has great hair! (Actually, hair).

  3. Robert Guyton 3

    "his statement wasn’t never cleared with the party" ?

  4. Muttonbird 4

    Very enjoyable, thanks. This para is particularly important:

    Most National Party members refused to read Hager’s book, claiming it was simply mudslinging, but that wilful ignorance over selection-gerrymandering and agenda capture has resulted in the clusterfuck that Vance has catalogued.

    Hager did them a service and laid it all out on a plate. These clowns had the chance to take it on board, really look at themselves, and become collectively decent.

    But what did they do under the spell of that crappy pied piper, John Key? They doubled down, all spit and venom from the president right through to the ugliest of candidates.

    Look where it got them…

    • tc 4.1

      'doubled down, all spit and venom' so true and pretty much standard MO from the right when caught out and we still see it today along with the carping from msm acolytes.

      Willis is the actual JK V2.0 IMO all smiley waiting poised ready to act if required having learnt from the master himself.

  5. swordfish 5

    .

    his statement wasn’t never cleared with the party

    My understanding is he didn't say nufing !

    I'm guessing you were brought up in Dickensian London, Simon. Don't get me wrong, Guv, you're a right Gent and no mistake but that double negative was a right four & eight … a diabolical liberty. In fact, so much so I'm wondering if you were just a little bit scotch mist when you wrote it, me old whistle & flute ? Still, it gave me a right bubble bath I can tell ya. Me & Effel … oh we did larf !

  6. observer 6

    Today Luxon gave a stand-up in Nelson.

    From about 15 minutes (no, I didn't watch the whole thing!) he promises National will invest. He lists about 9 different areas (infrastructure, health etc).

    There are no specifics at all, and no real follow-up Qs. Invest means spend. He will spend less (than the gov't) and somehow invest more.

    It is absurd that he gets away with bullshitting the public, but he does this every week. If the media won't do their job, Labour must do theirs. Just listen and write down all his promises. Then publish them. With a price tag. Otherwise National will lie their way into power, again.

    https://www.1news.co.nz/2022/07/28/watch-live-as-christopher-luxon-holds-media-conference-from-nelson/

    • Robert Guyton 6.1

      He's in Nelson to bolster Nick Smith's mayoral aspirations.

      I bet Nick was there, in the shaddows…

  7. gsays 7

    While all this is entertaining in a schadenfreude overdose for us political tragics, recent polling has them in a position to govern.

    Apparently we have had a world leading pandemic response.

    Unbelievable first in cross party agreement in CC issues (take a bow James Shaw).

    Inflation, while hurting plenty, is nowhere as bad as lots of other places and yet that rabble that has proven itself unfit to govern is ahead in the polls.

    https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/9014-nz-national-voting-intention-june-2022-202207080051

    Ok, Roy Morgan may favour the tories but this poll is after Luxon ballsed up his response to the Roe v Wade decision in the US.

  8. PsyclingLeft.Always 8

    As Braunias, says, Vance’s book is a kind of tabloid sequel to Nicky Hager’s 2014 exposé, Dirty Politics, with “some of the same cast of ratfuckers” rolling in the “mucilaginous slime of the National Party”

    Fark…so funny..because True. And def great writing Simon Louisson. And ..always Steve Braunias !

  9. Mike the Lefty 9

    As a political observer for over 50 years I have come to the conclusion that most of National's problems are that its lack of policy and planning has finally caught up with it. National has become a party that basically stands for the status quo – which is really another way of doing nothing.

    And doing nothing just doesn't cut it in these modern times.

    What plans do National have to take our country into a future which will be ruled by economic chaos, the effects of climate change and war?

    Tax cuts and building more roads.

    That's their solution for everything.

    National wasn't always like that. They have had some bold policies in the past. Not always good ones, you understand, like National Super but at least they were trying. Rob Muldoon had his "Think Big" scheme which mixed success and failure but once again at least National were prepared to think ahead – then.

    Now National can't think ahead more than a few months – or at the most until the next electoral cycle.

    They never offer any alternative plans for anything – just oppose.

    For instance they are presently holding "community meetings" over the country about the cost of living and Three Waters. What is their policy on Three Waters? – they will abolish and reverse it. In other words they will do nothing to address the countrywide problem of the degradation of freshwater, stormwater and wastewater services. Ratepayers over the country will have to either cough up extra billions or watch their services and facilities further degrade over the years. Leaky pipes, water wastage, sewage spills into rivers and harbours – that will happen more and more and National has no plans to address it.

    National's leadership problems are really just the public face of the rot that has settled into their organisation. Who wants to lead a party that doesn't stand for anything? Their rural roots are not even as secure as they used to be. The Groundswell movement has largely bypassed National because the organisers have little confidence in the party that once stood for farmers and the rural sector.

  10. Anne 10

    As Steve Braunais says in the linked newsroom review:

    … where is the wider scrutiny of why it was that a great many people in the National Party acted so ruinously, so grubbily, and, more than anything else, so selfishly? Was it the culture, was it the ideology? …

    In a nutshell and as someone who was politically active in the 70s and early 80s:

    I think it had its genesis in the Muldoon era – 1975 to 1984. Muldoon introduced a culture of bullying, intimidation and played grubby political games which didn't previously exist inside National. For example, he was known to have used both the Police and the SIS to further his personal political agendas. He also destroyed (or tried to destroy) anybody who dared to stand up to him. Some notable examples: Colin Moyle, Marilyn Waring, Derek Quigley and journalist/cartoonist, Tom Scott. There were also many others who felt the sharp end of his political sword.

    The advent of neoliberalism in the mid 1980s created a climate for such a culture to flourish, and when you add the elitist driven devil-takes-all attitude which grew up around market-place ideology then bingo… you have a party of selfish, self-centred and very dirty operators.

    • Heather Grimwood 10.1

      To Anne at 10 : Don't forget the many listed as 'terrorists and 'traitors' , about which most people will know nothing.

      • Anne 10.1.1

        Since you mention it Heather, back in the 70s and 80s, I and other family members came under suspicion based on the flimsiest of evidence. In the 1980s a former Public Service boss accused me of traitorous acts. Yep, he actually used the word "traitor" to define me.

        As you say, people know nothing about what used to go on and its time it came out into the open. A huge amount of damage was done to many innocent people because of the stupidity, paranoia and venomous nature of some of those people in positions of power or who had access to people with power.

        • Heather Grimwood 10.1.1.1

          To Anne at 10; Join the club….I still wonder whether that stuff's been discarded and yes , my boss was rung that should I be absent particular day's anti-tour event, that my pay would be docked. Rest of staff shocked and had worked out how to cover me, and so the Muldoon's ploy actually had opposite effect from what he intended.

          • Anne 10.1.1.1.1

            You were lucky Heather. My lot ran for cover and did not support me. Scared they might get caught in the cross-fire I suppose. It was during the mass reconstruction of the Public Service in the 80s and early 90s when everyone was petrified if they stepped out of line they would lose their jobs. Most did in the end anyway.

        • PsyclingLeft.Always 10.1.1.2

          Called "traitor" ….Far out that is disturbing! I already respect your Science/Political views…but you have gone up a level in my estimation : )

          • Anne 10.1.1.2.1

            laugh Yep. it was quite a big leap up the ladder. Not everyone gets accused of committing treasonable acts.

            • Heather Grimwood 10.1.1.2.1.1

              To Anne and PLA : Maybe the reason these things not known now is precisely that it certainly was a frightening time for many both in public service and others, fear of losing job, need to use passwords in certain situations, and knowing one's name listed, being photographed by diplomatic squad ( that hilarious in reality but obviously serious when front and side shots taken and told purportedly for local paper) all facts obviously not noised abroad.

              • PsyclingLeft.Always

                My Respect to you too ! I definitely recognise bravery and all that would entail….

                • Heather Grimwood

                  and to cheer you on this rather cold day:

                  Think most hilarious memory not in disdain this time, but in admiration of them and their mentors, was the group from an Auckland girls' school marching up Queen St to rallying area carrying large banner ' DONT RUCK WITH FASCISTS' before sitting on wall in front of speakers with it well displayed. Brave indeed in 1981.

                  • PsyclingLeft.Always

                    I reckon ! Ive seen video of the protests…and some of those rugby (and police) thugs…cowards. Thanks for mention. Ive been on some Climate marches….And I reckon, The Kids… are Alright. : )

              • Anne

                …knowing one's name listed, being photographed by diplomatic squad…

                Yes. You know what went on Heather. What did you do? Go on a few protest marches – eg. anti tour and/or anti-nuclear marches?

                I was put through the surveillance clap-trap too and it was witnessed by others. Phone tapping was on the agenda as well. It doesn't help when someone is also making malicious claims behind one’s back which is what happened to me. That was how the accusation of "committing treason" came about. There has never been an apology – just a black-out curtain drawn over the whole sordid affair.

                • Heather Grimwood

                  My reference to 'terrorists and traitors' was in connection with that being Muldoon's constant cry about activists on any/all of the urgent problems of those years. I do know I was on the list, but won't divulge more because was leaked by person who knew me.

                  That photographing instant was purile paranioa……a few older women from think Catholic women's organisation, and others who could spare hour or so picketed / stood and talked outside the American Embassy as office staff ran to waiting vans with bundles of ledgers ( must have been in anti-nuclear times).

                  Was ludicrous to imagine we were any threat, and really funny watching. The diplomatic boss stood across the street watching….that's why I realised import of photos .

                  In generosity of spirit, I guess maybe there had been a threatening message sent to the Embassy.

                  • Anne

                    That photographing instant was purile paranioa…

                    My case was crack-pot stuff too. In one instance a 'human' all dressed in black leapt out from behind a bush, took a photo, and ducked back from whence he came. On another occasion a 'human' decked out in tartan trousers and a matching jumper started filming me with a video camera as I walked up a pathway. Before I could get to him and ask him "what the hell do you think you are doing" he had darted down the road, hopped into a car and was off. They were reminiscent of a Benny Hill comedy sketch. Nobody was ever around to witness the events.

                    Any way enough of this for the time being. 🙂

            • DB Brown 10.1.1.2.1.2

              They branded a friend of mine, and associates (gulp) as traitors for writing a punk fanzine in the 80's. He took off to OZ, no time for that nonsense the local cops started treating him like public enemy #1.

              • Anne

                No sense of humour. I made the mistake of telling someone in jest many years ago that I was going to hire a terrorist to bump somebody off. It was at a time when the chance of there being any terrorists in NZ was zero. I could write a small book about what happened. Having forgotten the quip, I concluded that a bunch of lunatics had invaded my part of town.

  11. roy cartland 11

    Just ordered my dead-tree copy today. Can't wait – I haven't felt this much anticipation since DP. Oh, the indignance and self-righteous horreur to wallow in!

  12. Dean Reynolds 12

    I've read the book & its portrayal of the Nats is every bit as bad as the reviewers claim – what a godawful bunch of lying incompetents.

    Regarding Luxon, his commercial skills are mediocre. His biggest balls up at Air NZ involved landing rights at Heathrow airport. For years, prior to Luxon's appointment, Air NZ had lobbied the UK authoriries for landing rights at Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports. We finally got them & Air NZ made a big deal in promoting 'Fly direct from Auckland to London.' Luxon comes along & is hoodwinked by United Airlines who want our Heathrow spot. They offer Air NZ some money & landing rights at Newark airport, New Jersey – not New York, that's still a bus ride away from Newark. Luxon agrees, we lose our landing rights at Heathrow & we'll never get them back.

    I guess that running an international airline requires more skill than flogging off toothpaste & deodorant.

    • Anne 12.1

      Didn't know Luxon started out in life as a travelling salesman. At least he wasn't selling encyclopedias. Explains quite a lot. wink

      Edit: mind you he might have learnt a few things from them.

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