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National’s culture problem

Written By: - Date published: 9:07 am, June 4th, 2021 - 29 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, national, richard worth, same old national, uncategorized - Tags:

This week has been pretty shit for National.

On Monday Nick Smith announced his retirement from Parliament.  A leak of a Parliamentary Service investigation around “a verbal altercation in [his] Wellington office last July” was getting close to the reporting back stage.  And the report was not good.  And the Press knew something about it.  As Smith said:

I was advised on Friday [the week before] that the inquiry and its details have been leaked to the media for release tomorrow. It is inappropriate for employment disputes to be litigated in public.

I will put on the record that I regret the incident, I apologised at the time and I apologise again today.”

Smith was replaced by Harete Hipango, who, shock horror, had her own employment relation problems last term.

When asked about employment issues involving her office she managed to achieve something with a significant degree of difficulty.  She managed to deny knowledge of any employment issue and at the same time admit knowledge of an employment issue but then deny it was an employment issue because it had not made its way to Court yet.  Read this slowly and be amazed at the digital dexterity that some National Party aligned lawyers can display.

Here is Newshub’s reporting of the issue.

[S]ources close to the party have told Newshub that Dr Smith’s replacement is problematic too – that Harete Hipango had cycled through staff in the last term.

Newshub asked Hipango if it was correct that the irreconcilable differences clause was triggered by two of her staffers in the last term.

“That’s news to me and those are employment related issues from the past, so it’s not to be re-litigated now, and in fact it didn’t go as far as litigation as such,” she said.

The sources told Newshub “they are replacing one bully with another bully”.

Hipango’s response: “Oh really? That’s interesting, that’s news to me. My response is that I’m surprised by that and I’m not a bully.”

National should be thankful the Jake Bezzant issue hit the media.  They could engage in a ritual beheading and pretend they have the situation under control.

Although questions are being asked.

It is clear from this article (paywalled) that Richard Harman at Politik had received information in June and July last year suggesting that Jake Bezzant was not necessarily the shiny new thing that the National Party was looking for.

The allegations are mounting up.  CV and corporate fantasist, someone who pretended on line to be his former partner apparently for personal jollies.

He is holding out and has not admitted any wrongdoing.  But he has resigned from the National Party and announced that he will not again be a candidate.

You have to wonder how it was possible for him to get so far.  If it was not for the sabotage job conducted by elements within the National Party as well as an outstanding campaign by Vanushi Walters this guy could have been an MP.

The common feature of this week is that all of the damage has been inflicted by leaks from within the National Party.

National operatives spiked Bessant’s campaign, they ankle tapped Smith and caused his retirement, and Hipango already has a negative vibe about her caused by some pretty unflattering comments making their way to into the public realm.

And Labour has sat back and not said a thing.  The one response is to note that Louisa Wall’s private member’s bill will address the issues that Bessant’s behaviour is highlighting.

His disappearance adds to a growing list of National MPs and candidates who disappeared under a cloud because of what appears to be inappropriate behaviour.  Remember the following?

  • Richard Worth and what was it that he did which so incensed the Malaysian Government;
  • Pansy Wong who resigned after her husband was caught conducting business when accompanying her on a Ministerial trip to China;
  • Mike Sabin whose activities Cameron Slater said were almost too horrible for words;
  • Don’t you know who I am Aaron Gilmour who also had CV accuracy problems;
  • Claudette Hauiti who used her parliamentary charge card for a Christmas trip to Australia and spent approximately $23,000 on MP’s expenses after she had announced she was standing down;
  • John Key’s ponytail pulling fetish;
  • The police investigation into Todd Barclay and his use of personal recording devices;
  • Bill English’s mischaracterisation of the truth relating to his police statement;
  • The complaints by four women about Jami-Lee Ross’s behaviour;
  • Andrew Falloon’s resignation for depression caused by the drunken sending of inappropriate graphic material to a woman who was not his wife and was a teenager;
  • Michelle Boag who stood down from all party positions because of the leaking to National MPs of confidential personal health information;
  • Sarah Dowie who in her valedictory speech said that she would claw at the windows or walk across hot coals to get out of the National Caucus;
  • Hamish Walker who was willing to trash the Country’s covid response for political advantage and who racistly claimed that Indians, Pakistanis and Koreans some infected with Covid were on their way to Queenstown while at the same time sending confidential medical information to the media;
  • National’s Palmerston North candidate William Wood who had photos of himself on Social Media impersonating Hitler.

I can’t be sure that I have captured everyone.  But to that impressive list we can add Smith and Bezzant and I suspect Hipango’s employment relations practices will come back to haunt her.

Occasional Standard reader Matthew Hooton also thinks there is a problem.  From this morning’s Herald:

… the common theme through National’s troubles is poor candidate vetting and selection, and a lack of seriousness when allegations emerge, whether of spying, sexual harassment, bullying, fake CVs, poor business practice or just plain old not being up for the job. That speaks to governance, identified as a serious problem in National’s still secret post-election review.

Goodfellow has been party president since 2009. He has taken a close interest in all key candidate selections and all long-term strategic decisions, and would be responsible for them even had he not. After 12 years, whatever shape the party is in now is his legacy.

In my opinion it is time for him to take responsibility and go, and for the party membership to elect a new board of competent people willing to deal with the current crisis — if they can find any.

National will achieve no long-term operational success until its members demand accountability from those they elect to run the party’s affairs.

These latest incidents indicates how bad National’s culture problem is.  Who would have thought that gathering so many people who think they are born to rule into one group would cause so many difficulties?

29 comments on “National’s culture problem ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    Have you forgiven Todd Barclay, Micky?


  2. Patricia Bremner 2

    I agree Micky. Goodfellow has overseen a mess, and supporters like "Merv" don't help, and they end up with JC as Leader of the opposition.

    May it take many years for their star to rise.

  3. Pete 3

    The Boag incident had her stand down from all party positions with her leaking of confidential personal health information to National MPs. The part of other MPs in that was not teased out.

    Nikki Kaye resigned with no tie to it, Michael Woodhouse went to ground. Did they deserve or earn the right to close scrutiny?

  4. Anne 4

    The interesting thing is: no media story has appeared yet which makes me wonder whether there was a story in the first place. In that case, it is likely a Nat insider learned a few journos were aware of the parliamentary investigation and assumed it was about to hit the media so they jumped in first and Smith resigned.

    If that proves to be right, I bet there will be plenty of journos and reporters out there having a good laugh.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1

      It was going to hit the media, but now is no longer a 'scoop' and has become old news unless they have a new angle.

      Most parties have sources inside the media who let them know about whats coming up for the next week. Theres is no connection that I know of here but one Mps wife is an executive for one of the news media…..

      • Anne 4.1.1

        It was going to hit the media, but now is no longer a 'scoop'….


        I suspect there is another story though which involves the complainant.

        It looks like someone in the vicinity was a witness to the abuse and was appalled enough to record it. He or she did the right thing by passing it on to Parliamentary Services. At some point later that person left their position. Was it made untenable for them?

        I went down that road a long time ago. A former Public Service boss was terrorising me [no exaggeration] and his superiors did nothing until I approached a senior Labour politician. The response was to turn the blame back on to me and I was forced to leave after a reasonably long and successful career.

        I bet it still happens.

        • Anthony

          Anne: it does, sadly.

          • Anne

            Sounds like you may have had a similar experience Anthony. It can take the victim a long time to fully recover from such behaviour.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    I think it goes deeper even than Goodfellow & Boag, to a fundamental lack of principle.

    A rightwing party is supposed to be concerned with the virtues the Greeks called the aristos, not petty bullying or dodgy sexual crap. It is not supposed to operate on lies and opportunism, that is mere corruption, and corruption is lousy governance no matter where one lies on the political spectrum.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.1

      Good Points. The Nationals , who copy the US republicans in many ways now are going down the same pathway as the demographics of the party activists change . The social conservatives here , like in US, are getting stronger and the false facade of family values/religion will be erected by more candidates and MPs to appeal to them…

      Expect more of this

      • Anthony 5.1.1

        The symbolism of the empty room around her (deserted by everyone, including 'friends and allies') was striking and – given the setting – appropriately prophetic.

        [typo fixed in user name]

  6. greywarshark 6

    Their approach to the 'racism' question needs to change dramaticallly as we don't want the sort of drama that occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 repeated even in a minor form in NZ in the future. The future is now, really, as time flashes by and governments of both colours seem to be retreating in a world modelled by planners on wishes and beliefs.


    This piece by Chris Trotter about Tulsa where an orgy of white people under the influence of all the 'seven deadly sins' destroyed and damaged a mostly black area. Racism has to be talked about in real terms, so we know it when we see it.

    Even if there is a tendency to want to be seen as good citizens upholding fairness for others, (and some Nationals and right-wing lefties – an oxymoron – don't have this gene), nothing is kind or fair if merely perceived that way: Fairness, Respect, Generosity to acknowledge others good attributes and to decry negativity to others and make change to positivity –

    Show it, See it, Know it.

  7. EE 7

    Hooten advocating for change in the leadership of the National Party…
    That went well the last time round.

  8. ghostwhowalksnz 8

    If we consider there is a culture problem in Nationals Mps, of course Australias conservatives are years ahead with the same issues and definitely the way The Nats and ACT are going over the next 5 years

    Expect to hear a lot more about QAnons 'burnedspy34' who has been identified as Tim Stewart

    'David Hardaker at Crikey.com recently described Tim Stewart as ‘a 51-year-old family man, Cronulla Sharks supporter, one-time operator of an online health food venture called Fruit Loop…’


    A significant Australian proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory is a family friend of Scott Morrison, and his wife is on the prime minister’s staff.

    Lynelle Stewart works in the PMs Sydney office at Kirribilli House

    This more detailed story shows how QAnon memes about 'ritual child abuse' became part of Morrisons speech about Royal Commission findings even though the commision never found such 'ritual abuse'

    The ABC Four Corners has just this week suppressed its story on Scott Morrison and QAnon

  9. gsays 9

    The most impressive aspect is:"And Labour has sat back and not said a thing." The Greens can be added to that as well.

    We are getting back to the heady days pre-election when each day (and sometimes twice a day) there would be another revelation, leader change, retirement or embarrassment from the nats.

    I don't think Collins is as innocent as she would have you believe. In an interview on RNZ, the day after Smith announced his retirement, the subject of the enquiry leak came up. At the 3 minute mark, Collins is very clear and precise then goes all vague and elusive when asked specifics.

    There didn't appear to be anything new or substantial in the media she was quick to point out one item, 5 min 20 sec.

    Then, when the bizzare sadly typical behaviour of Bezzant dominates the news cycle, Collins chucks Goodfellow under a bus.

    I am getting low on popcorn…

    • Anne 9.1

      Then, when the bizzare sadly typical behaviour of Bezzant dominates the news cycle, Collins chucks Goodfellow under a bus.

      And the day before when Smith announced his resignation after a staffer complaint of office bullying, she tried to chuck Mallard under a bus.

      There's form there.

      Edit: why am I in moderation!

      [We have had “Bezzant” as a trigger word for moderation for a while just to be careful. There have been legal threats flying around – MS]

      • Muttonbird 9.1.1

        I've had it a lot recently too, Anne. Not just you.

        • Anne

          Ahhh… Thanks MS.

          I knew a sociopath who regularly threatened others for doing what she was the one doing herself.

  10. Tiger Mountain 10

    You missed “Merv” Micky, and the COVID road trip duo of Bridges and Bishop, but hey, the steaming pile just keeps getting higher really.

    There is a major culture problem with NZ National, and also a class problem. They are a reactionary party of capital and petite bourgeoisie. I recall in Northland when Mr Sabin was selected ahead of a slightly modern, Christian farmer Mr Tan–the committee chose the bent copper.

  11. Drowsy M. Kram 11

    …the common theme through National’s troubles is poor candidate vetting and selection… – Matthew Hooton

    Should National revert to its (more rigorous?) pre-Goodfellow candidate vetting/selection procedures that threw up senior 'strong team' players such as Collins, Bridges, Brownlee and Woodhouse, not forgetting Dr Custard who leaves parliament June 10th – worth a try?

  12. Ad 12

    Like they've got political ebola. Liquefying from the inside.

    Even 2014 wasn't this bad for Labour.

    2026 elwction:

    Act at 17%, National 23%, Labour 47%, Greens 13%.

  13. Cliff Allen 13

    The link to the Cameron Slater piece about Mike Sabin isn’t working

  14. All politicians need to be supremely confident (egotistic?) to even consider running for parliament.

    The natz pollies appear to have a "born to rule" gene in them. This combined with (very secretive donations from business and farm interests has allowed them to create havoc and misery since the douglas, prebble, richardson years.

    The misery of ill health poverty homelessness promoted by bill english and john key and wealthy business is threatening that "greed is good" (gordon gecko) has impacted a a generation of voters with very different views.

    The demographic , and media have shifted dramatically. tThe internet rules (not completely). MMP has drained the natz. I am not crying.

  15. KJT 15

    A party whose very existence,, like the Scottish Lairds and English gentry in the countries so many of us escaped from to avoid just that, is predicated on "stealing from the commons" find it hard to find honest principled candidates.

    Why is anyone surprised?

  16. mac1 16

    Without counting Woodhouse, there have been 15 candidates for National out of 150 since the 2011 MMP List who have been in some sort of strife, as in the original post.

    Barclay, Gilmore, Hauiti, Walker, Sabin, Key, Hipango, Falloon, Todd McClay, Nick Smith, English, Bezzard, Dowie, Ross, Wood.

    That's one in ten! 10%.

    Add in Worth and Wood from 2008 List and 17 out of 175 candidates make the poor performance list.

    17/175! Still basically one in ten. 10%.

    • Now come on, be fair. Natz mp hopefuls are born with a self entitled born to rule knowledge.
    • They have to be voted in simply because who they are. A majority of them were, very probably loud mouthed arrogant play ground bullies. It shows.

    Natz love them.

    Some are better at masking it (english,key).

    The natz are a hangover of british imperialism. Bully boys (and girls).
    The richardson, bolger, shipley key, english natzis have ruined our social, health and education systems.
    A younger generation is waking up to the oreviou les and bullshit also known a s spin.

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