Busted

Written By: - Date published: 10:59 am, June 29th, 2008 - 119 comments
Categories: national, slippery, spin - Tags:

Nicky Hager’s piece in today’s Sunday Star Times has confirmed what we all suspected: Crosby Textor are the creators of Brand Key. For those of you unfamiliar with CT, they’re known as the dirtiest and most driven political PR firm in the game. CT specialises in dog-whistle racism, attack politics and pretty much every aspect of the politics of division. Their name is a shorthand for everything that is dirty and venal in politics and their claims to fame include the handling of the Tampa incident during the Aussie 2001 election, being busted for push-polling and the promotion of personal attacks on just about every politician they have ever campaigned against. They were also the brains behind Boris Johnson’s “small target” strategy during the recent London Mayoralty race.

As Hager points out in his article they are also primarily responsible for the hijacking of Helen Clark’s brand and the smearing of her as “out of touch”:

An April 2005 Crosby/Textor report described how the focus group questions probed for latent negative “hesitations or concerns” about her. “Regardless of your overall view of Helen Clark,” the moderator asked, “what would you acknowledge are her weaknesses at the moment, even if they are slight or begrudging weaknesses?” The report’s “strategic opportunities” section concluded that the research revealed “an emerging perception that Helen Clark is too busy with `minorities’ and `other people’ to worry about the concerns and the pressures on `working families’.” They developed a “mantra” about an arrogant and out-of-touch prime minister. “It must be stressed that this sentiment is embryonic and must be consistently demonstrated and leveraged if it is to be effective,” Textor wrote. “These perceptions will not exist and mature on their own.

A casual perusal of the unsubstantiated repetition of this line by nearly every right-wing commenter in our comments threads shows just how successful this tactic has been.

CT are very very good at what they do but let’s be clear, they are not the kind of people it pays to be associated with. That goes a long way to explaining why National have consistently refused to acknowledge their role in the creation of Brand Key. I’ll be very interested to see how this story is received.

119 comments on “Busted”

  1. ghostwhowalks 1

    Seems to be the weekend for busting some new myth making.
    Yesterday Bassett was exposed as the idealogue behind Roger Douglas and since he was part of the coterie pushing Brash I wonder if he too is one Shar-Keys puppet masters

  2. IrishBill 2

    I doubt it, GWW. Bassett is an amateur and National have clearly learned the value of calling in the pros.

  3. IrishBill 3

    And before we get a series of comments about how this is just “business as usual”, I’ll repeat my comment to Lew:

    “Anyone who thinks it’s substantially different in other major parties might want to think again.’

    I think you would be surprised to find out how amateur most parties are when it comes to their political PR, Lew. Most of them do their spin in-house and develop their messages through groups of politicians and internal advisors with a bit of help from sister parties from other countries (particularly Australia and the UK). The hired gun approach is relatively new in NZ politics and not widely practiced simply because most parties don’t have the funds for this level of advice (a single round of focus groups costs tens of thousands of dollars and to be effective you have to run them continually) and are not willing to cede that much control of their campaigns to “outsiders’. I would hate to see the bill the Nats have run up with CT over the last two and a half years. I suspect is would be heading toward seven figures or more.

  4. Lew 4

    As I said in another thread, I’d have been shocked if National didn’t sign C/T up again; they did a superb job last time, bringing Brash within a hair’s breadth of winning on a very weak platform indeed.

    The major advantage for Labour from this is that National’s campaign, which is (right or wrong) seen by many as being more `pure’ than Labour’s, will be tarnished somewhat by association with this ugly brand of spin-doctoring. However Labour and the rest of the anti-National (including The Standard) should be careful not to overplay this hand – it could well come across as `no fair’ whining and sour grapes, and if sustained attacks are launched against C/T then Labour could lose any advantage it might gain from the perceived difference in campaign styles – especially if C/T and National can (and believe me, they will) spin it as `Labour taking pot-shots at honest battlers in the media’.

    Ultimately the calculation for National is figuring out how many people would be turned away from voting National knowing that C/T are behind them, versus how many people won’t care and will drink deeply of their message anyway. I’m picking the latter would always be more numerous than the former, so it’s a no-brainer. Fair play to them – since all that’s legal is fair in politics.

    L

  5. Lew 5

    IB: Ah, hadn’t gotten to that one yet.

    I did limit my comments to major parties, and yes, I realise this pretty much just means the Blue Tories and Red Tories in most polities. I think it’s clear that Rudd’s campaign had some proper PR grunt behind it, and the US Democrats are clearly leaders in that field. My knowledge of British Labour isn’t strong, so I’ll concede to you there.

    It’s well-known that one of my main criticisms of NZ Labour is that they fail to make the most of these sort of advantages, and yes, I suppose money is the key factor here.

    L

  6. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!! I knew it! Like I said way back –

    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1839#comment-34403

  7. higherstandard 7

    “CT are very very good at what they do but let?s be clear, they are not the kind of people it pays to be associated with.”

    Bill if they are as you suggest the creators of ‘Brand Key’ combined with the polling trend over the last 12 months they clearly are the kind of people it pays to be associated with.

    I also find you suggestion that Labour is amateur in its development of PR odd – I would have thought that the Labour caucus was far more professional than to rely on internal advice and naval gazing rather than consulting experts in the field.

  8. Lew 8

    HS: I think he was meaning publicly associated with. But still, it’s very likely a net gain.

    L

  9. higherstandard 9

    Lew

    The general public won’t give a toss unless National’s PR/campaigning turns overtly nasty.

  10. IrishBill 10

    HS, perhaps I should have said “publicly associated with”. National are clearly aware of this as they have repeatedly refused to confirm CT was working for them. As Nicky says in his column part of Brand Key is the appearance of authenticity. The fact that Brand Key is the product of possibly millions of dollars of spending on a PR firm with a shadowy reputation does not gel very well with this at all.

  11. IrishBill 11

    And I should add to that the fact that, like most political spindoctors, CT rely on the media to carry their message. To the media the fact that CT have produced Brand Key may not be such a small matter.

  12. higherstandard 12

    Bill

    From a political perspective it doesn’t surprise me that you’re going down this track of demonising Key for a perceived lack of substance and perceived links to big business as knocking over Key is the governments only chance of holding onto power.

    The problem being that to knock Key over the government will have get stuck into some very negative PR which I believe will only continue to turn voters off the incumbent government rather than the opposition an

    The election is really only Nationals to lose with the economy heading South and the Public’s concerns with Law and Order – as I commented to SP it’s the government who’ll be blamed by the public for these issues regardless of whether they are to blame or indeed whether the opposition when voted in has the answers.

  13. Draco TB 13

    If Labour handle this right it could hit National hard. They may not be able to make a major song and dance about it but they should be able to question Key’s/National’s authenticity while highlighting CT’s history of underhandedness.

  14. IrishBill 14

    HS, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Where in this post have I demonised Key? I had thought this was a factual analysis of Brand Key and its creation by some pretty high-powered Aussie spindoctors. Do you disagree that this is the case?

  15. higherstandard 15

    IB

    Sorry, I wasn’t referring to you or this post in particular, more so this site.

  16. Anita 16

    The question is whether, now that the game has been named, the media will figure out how to handle the C/T spun Key campaign.

    Recaptcha: lantly Maldn – WTF?! 🙂

  17. Lew 17

    Anita: I agree. For a while now people have been openly wondering when the media are going to start pushing back against Key and the National line. Perhaps this is an opportunity for them to be more critical.

    L

  18. Anita 18

    Given that part of the C/T approach is to avoid difficult interviews it’ll be interesting to see how the media handle it. Do they moan about his unavailability? Refuse to give him soft interviews unless they get hard ones? Talk to English about the hard topics and start speculating about English positioning to take over?

    Similarly the C/T strategy of inserting lies, rumour and innuendo through third parties what can the media do? Start investigating the links between the third parties and the Key campaign? Start commenting on the recurrent themes and talking about their construction and challenging their basis?

  19. I don’t think the media will care. They’ll be like you Lew – it’ll be all “oh yawn this is just how it’s done now – Labour’s no different”. But like Irish says this isn’t “just how it’s done now” this is a party with a hell of a lotta dosh paying the superduper experts nobody else can afford and if it goes on like this we’re just gonna be another disengaged big dollar democracy…

  20. Anita 20

    I would like to think that at least some journos’ professional pride will lead them to trying to stop C/T manipulating them.

    “John Key’s office said he was unavailable to discuss this important issue. We did, however, track him down at a photo op for a magazine at a wealthy Auckland primary school”
    [cut to shot of Key refusing to answer question about issue surrounded while standing next to makeup person with kiddies in distant background]

  21. I’ll believe that when I see it…

  22. “I’ll be very interested to see how this story is received.”

    Interestingly — bizarrely even — the story doesn’t appear on “editor’s picks” on the stuff site.

    I suspect that HS is right about the public’s level of interest. Doesn’t mean that it’s right to sell a false bill of goods to the public though. Does the Sale of Goods Act apply?

    Edit, What Robinsod says. Was going to say that it’s the journos who need to read this, if not the punters. And hang their heads in shame. They just retail the memes that the practitioners of the dark arts dream up.

  23. Anita 23

    Robinson,

    C’mon, in the absence of any policy to discuss or any actual interviews to run they need to talk about something, meta-journalism sounds like a wonderful way to fill in the time until the Nats start releasing policies.

    Anchor: John Key didn’t answer questions about his party’s policy on the issue, but did say that Helen Clark was

    John Key: arrogant and wasteful!

    Anchor: Bob, does this seem to be Key’s tactic at the moment?

    Bob [the political journalist]: Yes indeed Tim, in the last week Key has criticised Clark for being arrogant and wasteful on six separate occasions, each about an issue on which National has not yet released a policy.

    Anchor: And how is the media handling it Bob?

    Bob: Well some are struggling, [hold up front page] a major metropolitan daily has repeated Key’s words in editorial comment twice in the last week as if they were the editor’s own opinion. Other papers [montage of photos of Key with fluffy lambs, clean cheesemakers and smiling children] are settling for the little they can get.

  24. Lew 24

    Robinsod: My point is mostly that there’s no point in whining about it – learn to live with it, because them’s the rules of the game. If you want to win, you use the rules to your advantage, or you invent new rules. The media probably won’t care because their business model is printing/airing what PR companies and communications departments give them to work with in any case. Something that will make them begin to care is public interest: if people demand it, they’ll supply it.

    Those who want this idea that National are cynically using their wealth to buy the best propaganda from the current masters of the art to count against them – rather than just seeming like a smart way to win an election – should focus on stimulating public demand for articles like Hager’s. But as I said above, be careful not to go too far and create a backlash.

    I certainly think it’s positive that this information has come out so long before the election. It gives people opportunities to be informed, if they choose to take them.

    Edit:
    Anita: I reckon so, too. Journalism abhors a vacuum, and if National don’t change their tune, people are going to switch to a different station.

    L

    Captcha: `gourmands plotting’. It’s easy to imagine a table full of Mr Creosote-like folks running this game, isn’t it?

  25. I guess you guys won’t be commenting on Michael Laws’s column in the SST then…

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/06/laws-on-living-dead.html

    I guess the Simon and Garfunkel song The Boxer sums it up, regardless of which side of the political divide we sit:

    “Still a man hears what he wants to hear
    Then disregards the rest”

  26. mike 26

    “Interestingly — bizarrely even — the story doesn’t appear on “editor’s picks’ on the stuff site. ”

    Or on the radio news.
    People are more concerned about shootings, stabbings, petrol prices and redundancies than who nicky hager thinks should or should not advise National.

  27. bill brown 27

    Yeah, I’ll listen to the opinion of someone who plasters details of his daughter’s medical problems all over the pages of a weekly paper to raise his own public profile rather than to the journalism if Hagar any day.

  28. Anita 28

    mike,

    Nothing that grand no: example of rest home abuse, weather, one stabbing, bush’s opinion on zimbabwe, pakistani military action, Ruapehu being warmer than usual.

  29. bill brown 29

    Hey mike, the SST is interested in anyone who’s been to one of C/T’s focus groups. Perhaps you could sell your indoctrination story to them. Did they give you a list of things people are concerned about or did you make that up all by yourself?

  30. mike 30

    “Interestingly — bizarrely even — the story doesn’t appear on “editor’s picks’ on the stuff site”

    No But “PM forces disabled man to walk” is in the top five
    These Crosby Textor guys are good eh..

  31. Oh, this is just to good and it’s going to get better.

    While researching our “Smiling Assassin” and recent NZ political history (I like to know who makes the important decisions in the country I live in) I came across a lady called Ruth Richardson.

    While I’m sure you know her and the role she played in the early 90ies as I am sure you know about her role as one of Brash’s advisors I didn’t and after having spoken to a well informed friend of mine (our landlady and seriously well of but who hated Ruth’s politics never the less) I decided to check her out.

    I wondered what she was up to these days because snakes like that don’t slither back under their rocks. They tend to slither to the next place were they can do some more damage. Well, I found her: She is on the board of advisors of a nice little think thank based in Sidney called CIS or the Council for Independent Studies.

    The board reads like the who’s who of the big corporate entities who have their eyes on New Zealand’s resources. Rio Tinto, Exxon, Big Australian mining companies, JP Morgan, Deutche bank (who now own the US department of the Bankers trust, the bank John Key used to work for) you name it it’s there.

    I like websites of all these organisations because quit often you can find out al kinds of connections.

    So when I read Nicky’s article in the ST I just thought I’d mozy on over to Cosby and Textor’s official website and check out who they were. Well, that was interesting.
    The board only consists of three people:

    Lynton Crosby AO
    Managing Director & Co-Founder

    Mark Textor
    Managing Director & Co-Founder

    These two I would have expected to be on the board but
    the third one was to say the least unexpected but than again being of my persuasion it shouldn’t have surprised me in the least.

    The third person was a man by the name of Robert Champion de Crespigny, AC
    As the Chairman no less. Now this is interesting because guess what: Robert Champion de Crespigny, a mining mogul also sits on the board of directors of yep you got it in one; the board of the Council for Independent Studies, very cozy with our own Ruthie Baby.

    I always wondered if Slippery John got his cues from Ruth and the old National guard and this certainly points to that, wouldn’t you say.
    What is even more interesting is the fact that the Crespigny lives in England. What does a man who lives in England have to do with the politics of New Zealand I wonder.

    So I thought why don’t I google Robert Champion de Crespigny and combine the search with the name Merrill Lynch and uh oh, it turns out that the Crespigny sits on several boards with Merrill Lynch big wigs.

    If there were any doubts that John Key was groomed by corporate interests you can abandon them now because as far as busting is concerned it doesn’t get any better than this. LOL

    These are some of the sites:

    Crosby and Textor: http://www.crosbytextor.com/About_Board.htm
    CIS: http://www.cis.org.au/aboutcis/board_dir.html
    The Mineral securities board: http://www.mineralsecurities.com.au/directors.asp
    Business Advisory Forum of the Said business school: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/corporate/baf/

    Oh, did I mention that Ruth Richardson is a member of the mont Pelerin society: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Pelerin_Society

    Read this nice article about The society and CIS. http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/pdf2html.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cecaust.com.au%2Fpubs%2Fpdfs%2FSection3b.pdf&images=yes

    By the way JP Morgan opened a bank in New Zealand on the 1th of Oktober 2007. It would only provide wholesale financing and have no retail outlets. I guess they knew something we didn’t.
    http://aotearoaawiderperspective.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/new-bank-registered-in-new-zealand/

  32. Help, too many links again, I’m in purgatory please some one get me out of there. Please pretty please with a cherry on top.

  33. Lew 33

    Nicky Hager is a hack with some conspiracy theorist tendencies. Michael Laws is a hack with a mayoral seat, who shamelessly self-promotes for three hours a day on his talkback show, with a long history of promoting scandal-ridden, divisive political drama based on reactionary knee-jerk redneck `common sense’ rather than on rational consideration of the issues.

    Both are activists, and the opinions of both should be taken with a great deal of caution. But they’re not the same.

    L

  34. Anita 34

    I2: Michael Laws

    Anchor: So Amanda, it’s time for our weekly round up of political media coverage, has it been an interesting week?

    Amanda: Well Tim, I wouldn’t call it interesting, more of the same really. The National party bloc in the media has been very in synch this week, clearly the analysis of focus groups still has them pushing the “bridge too far” and “arrogant” lines, with hints of “nanny state” still in play.

    Anchor: Yes, we’ve seen those from all the right-wing independent commentators this week, any trends we can see there?

    Amanda: Well Tim, this week we’ve been able to see the leaders and the followers very clearly; one could almost say the insiders and the outsiders. Take Hooten and Laws, both writing for the SST – Hooten is clearly getting his messages from the inside’ he’s absolutely in time with the campaign, sometimes even trying out new phrasing first. Laws, on the other hand – this week’s “walking dead” phrase was a couple of weeks out of date – Laws is clearly on the outside; getting what he can from the media and repackaging it in his own voice

  35. gobsmacked 35

    How the media or Labour or anybody else handle it will no doubt affect the “game”, but there are times when we need to take a break from over-analysing and just tell the truth. There is more to life than spin.

    John Key chose – note, actively chose, he went to them – to employ racist shits, whose methods are well-known and speak for themselves. Previously I thought Key was a lightweight, lacking substance, but with at least the makings of a half-decent human being, even though I’d never vote for his party. I try to look for the good in people, even politicians.

    As leader of the National party, this was one of the first decisions John Key made. He knew what he wanted to do, and he did it. And so all his nice happy talk about soft focus progressive diversity has been exposed as a fraud.

    You do one thing, and one thing only, with racists. You tell them to fuck off. You don’t give them a job.

    Shame on you, John Key.

  36. bill brown 36

    I can’t believe though – still looking for some good – that he decided to go to them on his own. Who said “John, while you’re over there go see C/T, oh, and take your cheque book”?

  37. Lew 37

    Bill Brown: Whyever not? Do you think he didn’t want to win the election?

    L

  38. Redlogix 38

    gs,

    Thank you. You’ve got it right on one conscise post. I know I’m a hopeless old dreamer…. but I still believe that there is no substitute for the truth.

    I can forgive the kind of small lies that spring from human fraility and vanity, but when a man turns to a notorious gang of lying, racist, divisive propagandists and pays them handsomely for it… that I will not accept.

    Will this make any difference? It’s hard to be optimistic. CT are successful for the same reason scammers and fraudulent investment schemes are successful… they smoothly appeal to people’s low emotions fear, greed and envy, being careful not to strike any jarring notes… and then depend on the mark to delude themselves into believing it is all true.

    As a wise man once told me, you cannot swindle a truly honest man, because all scams depend on the victim being dishonest with themselves. And once a nation starts lying to itself, it becomes hard to undo. (For much the same reason I’ve never met an American who said he voted for GW Bush.)

  39. bill brown 39

    As I said, I was trying to look for a glimmer of good. I mean, he has such a nice smile.

    Also, rainy Sunday afternoons are breeding grounds for conspiracy theories.

  40. Lew 40

    BB: Ah, hope springs eternal 🙂

    L

  41. Draco TB 41

    Nicky Hager is a hack with some conspiracy theorist tendencies.

    Is a conspiracy theory backed up by hard fact a conspiracy theory?

  42. Redlogix 42

    I notice that Hagar’s article that was on Stuff’s front page at 7:50am this morning has now been bumped off by a couple of rugby stories, while a couple of two day old stories linger.

    Yup, methinks the night-editor has been given a pineappling for straying off message.

  43. Blar 43

    Do you guys read Crikey? Cos I saw something interesting in there last week:

    … we alleged that Crosby Textor engaged in racism and thuggery. We acknowledge that this is not the case. We deeply regret having made this suggestion.

    We sincerely apologise to Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor for the hurt and damage caused to them by our reports. We acknowledge that had we reported fairly, the compensation we have paid to them would not have been necessary

    The question for IrishBill and Nicky Hager is – are you feeling brave, stupid or like you have money to burn?

  44. Lew 44

    DTB: I’m not alleging that anything Hager has written is explicitly conspiracy theory. I’m alleging he has conspiracy theorist tendencies. I think Seeds of Distrust and The Hollow Men are both prone to critique on these grounds, though Hager is better than most in that he is a very careful researcher.

    I’m not saying he’s like Ian Wishart, who is our nation’s premier conspiracy theorist.

    RedLogix: That’s what I’m talking about, right there: conspiracy theories. They’re everywhere.

    Blar: C/T wouldn’t dare try heavy-handed legal tactics in one of their clients’ electorates. It’d be handing the election to Labour on a silver platter and would send them out of business.

    L

  45. Anita 45

    Lew,

    “I didn’t say s/he was x, I said s/he has x tendencies”

    That is a work of art!

    You’d be a perfect fit for the National Party campaign team. You could have drafted the Orewa speech, or the underclass speech, or the DPB bashing, or the Māori bashing, or the PI bashing, or the beneficiary bashing, or the queer bashing, or the childless woman bashing, or the public servant bashing, or the immigration staff bashing, or the corrections staff bashing, or ….

  46. Redlogix 46

    Lew,

    Yeah sorry.. the dropping of the story like a crispy spud off the front page is of course complete coincidence.

    And complete coincidence of course that FOUR other stories dated yesterday (including the little charmer “PM forces disabled man to walk” headline) continue to occupy prime space.

    Maybe the day editor had read the Crikey apology too.

  47. Redlogix 47

    Blar: C/T wouldn’t dare try heavy-handed legal tactics in one of their clients’ electorates. It’d be handing the election to Labour on a silver platter and would send them out of business.

    I dunno. The client has shown no signs of being shy about sending in the heavies to the media when it suits him.

  48. Anita 48

    RL,

    When I go to the stuff page the cheery face of Lynton Crosby greets me as the first one of their rotating photos-with-captions.

  49. gobsmacked 49

    Blar

    The apology relates to reports on a website on April 17 and 18 2008, which refer to a specific incident in 2007.

    Now re-read the opening Standard post and please

    a) point to where this specific incident is referred to

    b) explain away all the other Crosby/Textor camapigns in Britain, Australia and elsewhere, all of which are a matter of historical record, and not disputed.

    Let’s start with the Tampa scandal – care to whitewash that one?

    Nice try, though. Crosby/Textor would be proud of you.

  50. Redlogix 50

    errk ..busted.

  51. gobsmacked 51

    Oh, and Blar, if you’d like to rebut the many cases cited in Nicky Hager’s SST article (which you’ve conveniently ignored) that would be great too.

    Cheers.

  52. Talking about ignoring the SST – the paper doesn’t sell to well these days. Made in NZ wimps like Sticky Nicky spew meaningless – hyperbolic rhetoric.
    Only an idiot would read it let alone buy it!

  53. Tony 53

    As if it isn’t bad enough they are using these nasty, repulsive, divisive people what is most interesting is that the Nats don’t want people to know the are using CT. That indicates their huge sensitivity on the issue.

    Sadly it will only resonate if the story continues and gets picked up and developed by other journalists.

    We can be sure of one thing though, if John Key and the Nats get elected they will be a one term govt. Their real agenda is being exposed and many people (including some of their diehard supporters) are not going to like what is in store. Sadly I think people are going to have to taste the foul medicine before they spit it out in 2011, unless this story can get more air time. No other media have picked it up yet – strange that!!

    Granny Herald will be preparing Key’s defence as we speak.

  54. Lew 54

    Anita: There’s a difference between being a full-blown conspiracy theorist nut, like Wishart, and being someone who implies conspiracy in his work, like Hager. Not that I’m bagging the guy; I think his work’s highly valuable.

    But you’re right, it’s exactly this sort of line which the Nats and C/T have been using since Orewa to turn people against each other – thanks for calling me on it.

    RL: The apparent absence of a rational explanation doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one. In any case your point is moot because it’s on the front page for me, with the line: “NAT’S SECRET ADVISERS ACCUSED OF DIRTY TRICKS IN AUSSIE”

    As far as the heavies go, I’m certainly not saying C/T wouldn’t; I’m saying they wouldn’t where it would harm a client’s profile. Imagine the headine “NAT’S SECRETIVE AUSSIE PR FIRM CENSORS NZ MEDIA”. That’d see them dropped like a stone.

    L

  55. Redlogix 55

    Still given that CT’s Lesson #1 to Key would have been to impress on him the importance of framing and controlling the media; and given that Key has already sent in the heavies to slap the media into shape on three separate occasions; and given that it’s a wet Sunday; and given that I’ve overreached once already today…. oh never mind.

  56. D4J, “Only an idiot would read it let alone buy it!”

    So, D4J, you hurried down to the corner dairy this morning through the driving rain and threw the owner your $2.50 as you leapt for the door, holding tight your copy of the SST…

    Captcha: tight Lewis

  57. Dan 57

    The sad reality is that journalists world-wide have lost the concept of the Fourth Estate.
    Carllyle wrote:
    “The affairs of the nation were there deliberated and decided; what we were to do as a nation. But does not, though the name Parliament subsists, the parliamentary debate go on now, everywhere and at all times, in a far more comprehensive way, out of Parliament altogether? Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
    There is no Fourth Estate in NZ when Granny Herald writes regular coverups and rationalisations for the excesses of the right; when columnists regularly rewrite press releases from politicians and pretend it is their own; when journalists regularly repeat the “innoculations” and the negative putdowns created by overseas experts as if they were a given; when cartoonists who in the past have been apolitical now follow the requirements of their bosses.
    Hager is the closest we have to a Mark Twain who did his best to get rid of the bullshit and tell things as they are.
    I have long regarded Key as the Emperor who has no clothes except a smile. Michael Laws was a similar character whose ego was far bigger than his ability, and so I do not rate his SST analysis today.
    In listening to a wide variety of friends who are tempted to vote for the nats, I simply ask “Why?”. And 100% of the time, the reply is “Time for a change?”
    The obvious riposte is “Change to what: that lot who have no policy!!” Small memories and the lack of journalists with the fourth estate motivation will be disatrous for NZ.

  58. Are these the same whackjobs who were push polling in Australia suggesting a candidate supported late-term abortions?

  59. Yep. Amongst other push polling they have done over the years. Just what we need for a healthy democracy, eh?

    Blar, your comment of 2.08 bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hive’s post earlier today. Striking.

  60. Gooner 60

    Thank goodness the Electoral Finance Act has prohibited National from spending its own money on ‘hired guns’. I mean without that they would have carte blanche authority to spend, as Irish Bill says, “seven figure “sums on such.

    Oh hang on, the EFA hasn’t prevented this. National can ‘buy’ an election. What was the point of the EFA again?

  61. KK 61

    “time for change” “arrogant” “corrupt” “nanny-state”

    It’s successful marketing playing on people’s emotions, rather than any stimuilating policy advocation.

    buzz word after buzz word, the msm media loves them. Lets not hope that NZ society is becoming as apathetic as the US.

    Kerry vs Bush anyone? – how did that idiot get in?

  62. KK 62

    actually I meant Gore

  63. Felix 63

    D4J says “spew meaningless – hyperbolic rhetoric”

    One day you will implode.

  64. National should just hire D4J instead. He’s good at spewing toxic, meaningless bullshit and would probably be much cheaper too!

  65. Has anyone else noticed this tiger cowardly creep has a rather odd fixation with me. What a sick, depraved wimp !!!

    Get help Heather !!

  66. cool it you two. Flamewars are for Kiwiblog, not here.

  67. Rex Widerstrom 67

    Actually Crosby Textor aren’t seen as all that great in Australia. A bipartisan firm called Government Relations Australia have a client list the rest of us (CT included) would kill for. And CT’s efforts have led to a situation where the Liberal Party aren’t in power at any level, anywhere in Australia.

    Let’s not forget that, despite the fanfare, they couldn’t get Michael Howard across the line. Probably because they were so bereft of campaign ideas they simply recycled the 2001 Liberal campaign. If it had been any more obvious it was a warmed-over strategy you’d have seen the edges of the sticker fraying where they’d stuck “Michael” over “John”.

    As for Boris Johnson’s victory, Ken Livingstone faced the same problem faced by Helen Clark – people were just sick to death of him. And Johnson was a colourful and well-known chracater whose views were well known well before Lynton Crosby arrived – you could hardly say the same of Key.

    Crosby Textor seem to play just one note – divisive “wedge” politics. When the electorate is looking for vision rather than division, Key’s choice of advisors could turn out to be a fatal mistake.

  68. Pascal's bookie 68

    Yep Rex. I don’t follow this sort of stuff too closely, but it seems to me that CT pretty much use the GOP playbook developed by Lee Atwater and turned into an all consuming philosophy of governing monster by karl Rove.

    As I see it the idea is to run a permanent campiagn, the point of winning elections is to get the levers to allow you to win more elections, especially by painting your opponents as weak idiot pointy headed losers that want to interfere in your life. Works OK for taking power if you are in opposition, but sucks if you actually have to govern.

    The problem is that:
    ‘explaining is losing’,

    ‘hey look over there, my oponent appears to be an elitist, excuse me while I bank this cheque’,

    ‘manly manly manly god guns scary muslim faggot atheist abortion’

    will only work for so long. If you don’t actually have a governing philosophy beyond ‘cut taxes, starve the beast’ and use pretty much everything else the govt does to attack your domestic political opponents, things will start to break down and the electorate starts to notice.

    In the States IMO the first melt down was the Terry Schiavo business when the bulk of the population was shown in a way that meant something to them just how deluded the Christian right actually is. The federal govt passed laws intruding right into a families most personal situation. Next up they had Katrina, and the govt of the most powerful nation on earth looked like chumps for days of non reaction. FUBAR. Simmering in the background was Iraq, and then the inevitable economic troubles, both of which can be put down as lack of planning. Iraq has to be the first ever lassaiz faire war. If we break it democracy will come. Not a problem, feck the Dept of State we’ll hand over the job to a bunch of interns from the thinktanks.

    All of theses things make it obvious that Govt actually matters. Deciding who to vote for based on who you’d like to have a beer with is pretty stupid.

    Especially when that metric is just a code for ‘I dont like the geeky smarty pants that talks about policy all the time’

  69. It is interesting how many on the right appeal to less educated voters on the anti-intellectual front.

    On the left, generally we believe government can, and should be, a force for good. On the left, those of us who aspire to leadership and representation within the government structure have the tenacity to defend the system, and its checks and balances, against those who seek (and would implement) mob rule.

    While the right point out how the left is trying to run [the public’s] lives, usually the right is busy, whilst wearing another hat, screwing up their lives with negative externalities related to their personal/business activities.
    In fact, if these externalities did not exist in the first place, it may mitigate many of the causes which the left generally promotes as their raison’d’etre.

  70. I guess the question now is whether or knowing and understanding the negative, poisonous strategy being used by National is essentially the same as that used by the GOP in the US will make any difference to the outcome of this election and what comes after.

    Looks like connecting this strategy to the antipathy to Bush and all he stands for might be the only way to make the ordinary voter that this really maters and they need to pay attention

    They know they don’t like Bush. They know they don’t like the way he goes about things. That National is using his playbook should be cause for concern by any person.

    Understanding that at least part of the media must be a “Fox News” counterpart in the process of deceiving the public, it will be interesting to see what other media pick up this story….and what angle they take.

    I’ve googled it via Google News and so far, no one other than the SST has carried it.

  71. RedLogix 71

    Yahoo’s front page is already carrying Key’s denials.

    http://nz.news.yahoo.com/080629/3/6fkv.html

    Interesting that he is falling back on the “stolen email” defense. Classic misdirection.

  72. Gooner 72

    “I guess the question now is whether or knowing and understanding the negative, poisonous strategy being used by National is essentially the same as that used by the GOP in the US will make any difference to the outcome of this election and what comes after.”

    What negative, poisonous strategy?

    You guys have been complaining for weeks (months?) that Key and National say nothing and have no policy. How on earth can you now complain Key/National have now been negative and poisonous?

    Clutching. At. Straws.

  73. Stephen 73

    There’s a difference between PR strategy and hard policy Gooner!

  74. RedLogix 74

    You guys have been complaining for weeks (months?) that Key and National say nothing and have no policy.

    Oh he says plenty when it suits him. Just nothing substantive, or revealing of any actual policy. (Well other than to create an impression that he’ll not change anything Labour has done…)

  75. RedLogix 75

    But what happens between now and the election globally is going to have an effect:

    Barclays Capital has advised clients to batten down the hatches for a worldwide financial storm, warning that the US Federal Reserve has allowed the inflation genie out of the bottle and let its credibility fall “below zero”.

    “We’re in a nasty environment,” said Tim Bond, the bank’s chief equity strategist. “There is an inflation shock underway. This is going to be very negative for financial assets. We are going into tortoise mood and are retreating into our shell. Investors will do well if they can preserve their wealth.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/06/27/cnbarclays127.xml

    This warning is coming from several European sources, including the Dutch Fortis bank.

    BRUSSELS / AMSTERDAM (DFT) – Fortis expects within the next few days to weeks to complete the collapse of the U.S. financial markets. That explains the bank insurers interventions of the series Thursday at dealing with € 8 billion. “We are ready at the last minute. It goes in the United States much worse than thought, “said Fortis chairman Maurice Lippens, who maintains that CEO Votron to live. Fortis expects bankruptcies of 6000 U.S. banks that now lack coverage. “But Citigroup, General Motors, there begins a complete meltdown in the U.S..”
    Fortis took yesterday € 1.5 billion with a share issue. At the end of last year was the Belgian-Dutch group € 13 billion of new shares for the takeover of ABN Amro, for which it paid € 24 billion. Lippens bases its concern on interviews with bankers. “Two months ago we knew not so bad that it is in America. And it will be much worse. We have a thick mattress needed for the next eighteen months to come when we can bring to ABN Amro. “

    Or if what about Scott Ritter’s highly credible warnings of a US led military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities?

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0806/S00383.htm

    I try not to fall for the dark side, but when the voices are as credible as this it’s not easy. A massive fiscal collapse AND a highly dangerous military adventure could bring into play a whole new range of factors for the likes of CT to exploit. (Not neglecting of course the damage such a crisis would impose in the normal course of events.)

  76. Felix 76

    Gooner,

    If you were really as slow as your remark suggests, I genuinely doubt that you would have been able to type it.

    On that basis, I can only assume you’re being duplicitous.

  77. expat 77

    The fact is Bill, Labour are out of touch. You don’t need expensive PR and Market Research to figure that out.

    Who were the advisors Labour used in the past two elections?

  78. Redlogic,
    Any chance for a link to the fortis group article.
    The translation leaves something to be desired
    Thanx

  79. Lew 80

    Rex, PB and Steve Withers, thanks for your insightful comments.

    RL, I was thinking about the state of the economy (global and national) yesterday, and it’s really the one factor which I think will prevent the government from retaining office, not that it’s strictly their fault, or that they can do anything about it now.

    (I’m skeptical about Ritter’s predictions, even though I have a great deal of time for the guy. He has a barrow to push and books to promote; not that that should disqualify anyone from credibility.)

    And one more thing:

    In any espionage-prone industry except politics, leak-and-point-finger is seen as a double-fail: if you can’t protect your data, for the gods’ sakes don’t complain about it! Yes, security is hard, but you either value your data and privacy or you don’t. Surely the Parliamentary Service can stump for a decent security consultant?

    L

  80. andy 81

    Lew

    Parliamentary services did stump for a decent security consultant, they called in NZ police who found no one had ‘hacked’ the Nats computers. National will continue with the (CT?) line that they were stolen, with no proof to back up the assertions. The media will keep printing that line. Rinse repeat…

    The elephant in the room that none can prove is the insider leak, hence the fuzzyness from Hager (about protecting sources, sounds like they are still in play), and the media not challenging Nationals line that they were stolen. Can’t be proved or disproved. If was an insider leak then technically they were stolen.

    ‘Nothing to see here, move along’ from the Nats as it is a lose/lose for them.

    Gooner,

    What negative, poisonous strategy?

    You guys have been complaining for weeks (months?) that Key and National say nothing and have no policy. How on earth can you now complain Key/National have now been negative and poisonous?

    Was that your line or the CT talking points to rebut the article?

  81. Skeptic 82

    The only people who seem to care about this are hard left wing bloggers who are never going to vote for national anyway.

    Funny how those with key derangement syndrome are making a big fuss about National’s PR machine, while refusing to acknowledge the massive PR machine from the Left. The communications and PR units of the prime minister’s office, ministerial offices, and Labour’s friends–such as the EPMU–are all working hard-out to keep National and John Key out of office.

    If that isn’t a professional communications unit then I don’t know what is. It’d be nice to see the Standard investigate just how close the PM’s office, ministerial offices, and the EPMU is to implementing Labour’s communications strategy.

    Ministerial communications units have ballooned under Labour. So too has spending of government departments on advertising material promoting government policies. Coincidentally, those advertising spends always seem to rapidly crank up around election year. Remember the $15m working for families ads in 2005, anyone, followed by the taxpayer-funded “you’re better off with Labour” ads which mirrored the WFF material?

    And before the Left get all uppity about National using private PR advice, do you really expect us to believe that the massive transformation that Helen Clark went through in the late 1990s with Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham was all for free? Give us a break.

  82. Lew 83

    andy: I mean a consultant who will prevent this sort of `theft’ or leakage, to obviate the whole affair in future. And if it is an inside leak, at least they’ll then be able to figure out who to fire 🙂

    Skeptic: I agree that there’s nothing at all wrong with using PR firms for political purposes. However that’s not to pretend there aren’t qualitative differences between different PR firms. The point people on this thread are making is not that the Nats hired a professional PR firm, it’s that they hired this particular PR firm, with its history of attack campaigns and a mongrel reputation. There’s a qualitative difference between C/T and most other political strategy agencies – that’s their point of difference and their competitive advantage in the market. Say what you like about Brian Edwards – you can’t argue credibly that he’s the same as these guys, even if he is in the same game.

    And as far as the government’s and EPMU’s and others communications spending goes – it’s legitimate government or union business, and the extent to which there are similarities is a reflection of how similar their agendas are. As yet the EPMU hasn’t yet been found to be a part of the Labour party, and you and I both await that determination with anticipation. If you want to go down that route before the judgement, then I suppose we can go to the links between the Business Roundtable, EMA, Federated Farmers and other such groups and National. In any case, I recommend you make your case to the Electoral Commission or the Police, though of course you have a right to simply make groundless complaints about uit in the blogosphere as well, for whatever that’s worth.

    L

  83. Question;Why do politicians need spin doctors?
    Answer; They are all that false!

  84. Lew 85

    D4J: I guess you won’t be voting for anyone, then, since all politicians are liars, and you wouldn’t want to support liars, right?

    Good. In cases where one is uninformed about one’s political options, the correct course of action is to abstain.

    L

  85. Show me a politician with principles and I will vote for them?

  86. andy 87

    Lew

    D4J is a candidate in the General Election!

    He won’t even be able to vote for himself.

    LMAO..

  87. Lew 88

    D4j: Do you judge on quality of principles, or on quantity?

    Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rodney Hide and Michael Cullen have quality.

    John Key and Winston Peters have quantity.

    Your call.

    L

  88. lprent 89

    skeptic: All political parties use political consultants to some degree or another. They are usually used to get the best out of candidates and to get messages out.

    The C/T is more interesting because it defines a set of tactics that are likely to be used. This particular crowd use what can only be described as anti-democratic tactics, including trying to project a totally false image of their party and their leader. It says a lot about the Nat’s and Key that they are willing to use them – that they’re tainted and willing to do almost anything for power. It really isn’t a good look, and fully justifies that tag Hager (who I’m no great fan of) gave them of being hollow men.

    What I was mainly interested in was the push-polling that these guys have gotten up to in the past. That is a disgusting technique that was used here by the exclusive brethren here during the last election. They probably got the advice from C/T that allowed them to run that campaign. It was an extraordinarily sophisticated campaign to come from a reclusive sect and I wondered about it at the time when it was reported.

    Perhaps the Nat’s aren’t having to pay for C/T after all? It’d be an interesting way to launder money into the campaign. But that is just my speculation.

  89. lprent 90

    Jafapete has an interesting post about C/T – What’s wrong with duping the voters with a totally false image?

    So does Russell Brown “Evil called: Can you make a meeting at 11?”

    We’re likely to see some more. Apart from anything else, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. We now have a clearer idea of what kind of campaign the Nat’s are likely to run. Sleazy and with about as much backbone as a tapeworm.

  90. Skeptic 91

    So your argument, lprent is:

    National’s privately-funded spin machine bad, Labour’s taxpayer-funded spin machine good.

    Nice to get that straight.

  91. Lew 92

    Skeptic: False equivocation. The two aren’t qualitatively the same. If you want to argue they are, have at it. If you accept they’re different, then you must logically accept that one can be bad while the other is good.

    You could also argue C/T is good while Labour’s PR consultancies are bad. Have at that, too.

    L

  92. lprent 93

    skeptic: I simply ignored your other statements as being too untrue to be bothered with.

    The tax-payer funded parts have external auditing in the form of the Attorney General and State Services Commission. Complain about your speculations there. The mere fact you don’t have any evidence shouldn’t stop you.

    The coincidences of timing that you are referring to are a consequence of the electoral cycle. Most new programmes are put in in the second year of the cycle after they get through the legislative process. The publicity for them happens when they are implemented, typically in the year after the legislation is put in, to give time to set up the systems. There just isn’t a lot of leeway.

    Besides, are you suggesting that the process of government should shut down for 1 year in 3 on the basis that publicity of entitlements and new programmes may influence people? I have a suggestion – lets increase the length of the electoral cycle.

    The EPMU and other unions are accountable to their members for spending. They pursue their own interests which in this case probably include not having a national government. They aren’t all that happy with a Labour lead government either, but they remember that Nat’s vividly – ask any organizer.

    The NZLP – don’t make me laugh. It is a very small organization in terms of the full time paid people.

    Frankly it just sounds ludicrous to me.

  93. Lew 94

    Lynn: “We’re likely to see some more.”

    Kathryn Ryan has Hager and Therese Arseneau on Nine to Noon at present.

    L

  94. higherstandard 95

    Lynn

    “We now have a clearer idea of what kind of campaign the Nat?s are likely to run. Sleazy and with about as much backbone as a tapeworm.”

    Bit like this then ?

    http://righttosmack.co.nz/father.html

  95. RedLogix 96

    hs,

    Ummm… I think that “Right to Smack” site is called satire.

    And as one of the few openly church attending people around here, allow me to say that I think it’s well done and very funny.

  96. lprent 97

    Lew: damn – on the way out of the door for work (this way I miss the traffic). I’ll listen on the road. If you can, put a link up when radionz puts it on the their site.

    higherstandard: Satire sites are common during elections. I liked the notional site (left under political parties) which was in the same style. Maybe I should put in a separate section on the blogroll?

  97. Lew 98

    HS: Sorry if I’m ignorant … but what does this site (or its registrant, or whoever) have to do with C/T, Labour or the Standard?

    The site looks like traditional old satire to me, standover.co.nz. However, your linking it to others without any basis to do so is precisely the sort of thing Lynn is talking about.

    If you do have evidence, of course, I’m happy to make a retraction.

    L

  98. Iprent,

    Just out of curiosity why are you no great fan of Nicky Hager?
    I think he is one of the few journalists who actually does what journalists are supposed to do. If only there were more of them.
    I read his work and it looks sound to me.

    Added to that if people like John Pilger (one of my journalistic heroes)calls you one of the worlds best investigative journalists that is an awesome compliment.

  99. Skeptic 100

    lynne I’d say the twenty spin-doctors in the prime minister’s office, who aren’t accountable to the state services commission or the auditor general in what they do every day, since they are political appointments, cost the taxpayer far more than what National is paying to Crosby Textor.

    Funny you should say that the EPMU is only accountable to its members on what it spends its money on, even when it is actively involved in election campaigns. You don’t seem to hold the view that National is only accountable to its membership on what it spends on political advice.

    Nobody actually cares whether National spends money on PR, just as nobody really cared that Helen Clark paid big sums of money to Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham for her makeover. Labour then proceeded to hand out gongs for both of them, and appointed Callingham to a number of government boards.

    Don’t see Crosby or Textor getting those favours when John Key is prime minister.

  100. MikeE 101

    Here – have some straws…

    Enjoy clutching them….

  101. Vanilla Eis 102

    What amuses (amazes?) me is not that Key/National are using C/T, or that it’s not widely reported (yet?) but that National supporters, or even just those that aren’t fond of Labour, are so quick to write this off as National-bashing without actually looking at why C/T might be a controversial choice of PR machine.

    Wow, that was a convoluted sentence. But still:

    1) Do they not care?
    2) Do they just share the same values as C/T so this is acually a non issue? (Or worse, is another reason to vote National)
    3) Do they just think ‘We’re going to win, ha ha’ and get no further?

    This is poltics. Sure, the race is a big part of it but here’s the big question: what the hell are they going to do if they get in? So far, National are avoiding that question and their supporters are trumpeting it as a selling point.

    It’s not that they’re using a PR firm, it’s just that they’re using that PR firm.

  102. lynne I’d say the twenty spin-doctors in the prime minister’s office

    I admire the way you start as you mean to go on Skeptic – with a lie.

  103. gobsmacked 104

    If National hiring Crosby/Textor is no big deal, then why are National refusing all media enquiries today?

    If it is no big deal, why can’t we – the voters – hear the following exchange?

    Reporter: “Have you hired Crosby/Textor?”

    JK: “Yes”

    Because there’s nothing to hide, right?

  104. Billy 105

    When asked by Ryan what evidence there was that C/T was engaging in dirty dealing, Hager offerred that he’d noticed alot of people talking about the Prime Minister’s private life. I think we should get Travellerev onto it.

  105. Tane 106

    Skeptic, you seem to have a deluded view of the left ‘spin machine’. Labour’s press secs are largely non-political and come from public service comms or the like. As such they’re largely useless politically.

    While I’ve come across some very talented people working for Labour, they don’t seem to have had much success in getting their ideas through. As a result Labour’s spin is laughable compared to National’s.

    The lack of untold millions to hire outside advisors probably has something to do with it too.

    And if you think the unions are involved in Labour’s strategy or have buckets of money to spend you’re dreaming. The private sector unions are financially very stretched (many of them are nearly broke) while the public sector unions tend to remain pretty non-partisan.

    Basically you strike me as utterly out of your depth on this issue, which might explain why you’re resorting to conspiracy theories rather than real evidence or demonstrable insider knowledge.

  106. vto 107

    kettles and pots,
    leopards and spots,
    you must think the public still sleep in their cots.

  107. Lew 108

    gobsmacked: “If National hiring Crosby/Textor is no big deal, then why are National refusing all media enquiries today?”

    The first rule of Crosby/Textor Club is you don’t talk about Crosby/Textor Club.

    The second rule of Crosby/Textor Club is you don’t talk about Crosby/Textor Club.

    This is covered in the Hager article.

    L

  108. Billy 109

    Oi, ‘sod, why don’t you post these gems on your blog?

  109. gobsmacked 110

    Yes, Lew, I’m perfectly aware of that. It’s a rhetorical question.

    “It’s no big deal” is a sham defence.

  110. Lew 111

    GS: Ah, silly me, always taking what people say seriously 🙂

    L

  111. Billy – I’ve got a blog?

  112. Billy 113

    Maybe National justifies using dirty tricks (if the only eidecne adduced is that people are saying mean things about Helen Clark’s private life) by use of the “Trotter protocol”. You know how it goes: Labour are so bad that corruption is justified to get rid of them.

  113. Lew 114

    Billy: Not doing your chosen party any favours, are you?

    L

  114. Lew – National are not Billy’s chosen party. Give the man some credit…

    Cap – “humanity gunboat” BOOYAH!

  115. Lew 116

    Billy: If that’s true, my apologies.

    Lynn, the interview is up now: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/ntn/do_we_know_who_were_voting_for

    L

    [lprent: thanks I’ll have a listen sometime amongst this device rebooting I’m doing]

  116. What do you mean “if that’s true”??? Are you questioning the veracity of my information? If so based on what? Jeez Lew it’s like you’re trying to undermine my reputation…

  117. Lew 118

    Robinsod: I’m just trying to muscle in on your share of The Standard’s mindshare by discrediting and ridiculing you. Not very subtly, apparently 😉

    L

  118. Dude – if you’re gonna muscle me out you need to make jokes about my mum an stuff…

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