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On the Road with Todd and Ken

Written By: - Date published: 10:05 am, May 24th, 2020 - 57 comments
Categories: james shaw, politicans, Politics, Social issues, todd muller - Tags: , , ,

Catherine Delahunty recounts her impression of Todd Muller from her days as an MP.

A few years ago I was heading to Waitangi with other MPs but the flights from Auckland to the Bay of Islands were cancelled. I cannot recall if it was fog or storm or “ engineering requirements”, but no one was flying to Waitangi. I grabbed a rental car with Kennedy Graham and Todd Muller.

It was my second random road trip to Waitangi, the first being an entertaining gabblefest with Paddy Gower and a quiet man, whose name I forget, and who barely got a word in between Paddy and Catherine arguing about anything at all. The trip with Todd and Ken was far more sedate. I sat in the backseat and observed these gentlemen and reflected on the concept of political consensus. These men appeared to have far more in common than issues that divided them in terms of style and privilege and a sense of polite good humour, far more in common than I felt with either of them, but all was pleasant and free of acrimony.

Neither of them were regulars at Waitangi, they were doing their MP job of attending the powhiri for political parties and then Todd was heading off on some vintage car rally heritage event. I was heading to Waitangi as I have for most of the last 20 years, to listen to the tanagtaa whenua voices about the state of colonisation and how to challenge it. We did not talk about this. For once I just thought I would save my breath. Todd rang his children to say good night, the American elections, a topic of interest to him were discussed. Diplomacy ruled. Looking back I would say it was a pleasant trip but it stays in my mind as the road to nowhere.

The road to polite and personal good will is worth driving when there is no urgency and no deep changes required. It is good to arrive somewhere without personal damage and with genuine good will but it is not the base for addressing the most critical issues of our time. Powerful well resourced white men can afford to be courteous and apparently benign but it is the political consensus that bothers me.

No doubt Todd and Ken (very much a muse to James Shaw) feel proud of the consensus of the Zero Carbon Bill. Everyone kind of agrees to it because it was a toothless tiger. What kind of victory is this in a crisis? The National Party has promised to weaken it further when they get back to power, which hardly sounds like a lasting consensus. So even if Todd utterly believes in that form of consensus – where is his mandate from the right wing? And what is the point of agreeing to addressing the melt down of life on earth as a inoffensive time rich opportunity to change things very very slowly? It works for the green capitalists, but it fails the test of actually reducing emissions at the speed required to stabilise climate chaos.

Consensus has its place for sure, but I am bloody glad that a Parliamentary consensus wasn’t required over Covid lockdown. I am glad that Todd and friends were not the Government responding to the highly efficient and necessary iwi checkpoints. There are times to make watery agreements to build trust, and times when powerful white men who agree with each other are just not much use.

The road trip with Todd and Ken is not one I want to repeat. Not long after that the consensus seeking diplomat, true to his class roots, threw Metiria and the Greens under the bus just before an election, and the genial team player who is the next National leader making a run for power.

What kind of leader he might be cannot be predicted. I guess I don’t trust niceness from tall rich people. I don’t trust personality defined politics because public personality is not real. Jacinda Ardern was not the kindness guru before she was leader. She was not the orator. She has developed these themes in office. But there is no guarantee what “ personality” untested leaders may develop.

However we can be sure that a white man privileged consensus does not include the marginalised diverse voices of the many currently shut out of power. We can be sure that protecting capitalism will come before saving the climate. The road trip to nowhere is not rude or loud, but leads to more inequality in a rising storm which needs a less polite more courageous expression of collective voices hitherto ignored.

Catherine Delahunty – former Green MP

57 comments on “On the Road with Todd and Ken ”

  1. lprent 1

    This post got jammed up in a configuration issue this morning, which is why it is late. However there were some minor editing issue that were also corrected after I sent a proof to Catherine 🙂

  2. weka 2

    so so good, thanks Catherine.

  3. Bruce 3

    Was interested in the comments about his being a tall rich white man. National have been trying at least to be a more inclusive and multicultural party for some time. He is taking them back 20 years. Team Todd looks to be very much a Pakeha club with Team Simons supporters in caucus those of colour. His focus on the economy alone makes me think he will not connect with hearts as Jacinda has, only wallets. National will have another new leader in October, that much is clear. Tricky Todd outright lied when asked if he wanted to be leader earlier in the week, the man should not be trusted.

    [Please use a different handle as the one you used is already in use here, thanks. I’ve changed it to the one you have used here before, which is quite different!? – Incognito]

  4. Thanks Catherine, this confirms my mental portrait of him.

    He wants to present "The Mr. Nice Guy" with the connotations of all will be well if it goes to my plan. He even states he "Has a plan", but we are left to fill in the blanks.

    His trip with JLR to the primaries returning with a MAGA hat, and not seeing that item as offensive. Brushing away queries about that as if the queries are to be wondered at.

    Damning the Government with faint praise after coming from over throwing his Leader and hiring Mathew Hooton. A man to be watched, loyal to his world view.

    Modelling on Scott Morrison, even walks like him lol lol

    • Maggie 4.1

      Thank you Catherine, Definitely do not trust this "tall white nice guy" Don't respect anyone that displays the trump cap on his book case. Do not trust people that have a prearranged coup meeting and invite Hooton. Do not trust a person that considers it OK to speak for Women, at the same time bringing his beliefs into play.

  5. McFlock 5

    Really good article. Lots to think about.

  6. ianmac 6

    No doubt Todd and Ken (very much a muse to James Shaw) feel proud of the consensus of the Zero Carbon Bill. Everyone kind of agrees to it because it was a toothless tiger. What kind of victory is this in a crisis? The National Party has promised to weaken it further when they get back to power, which hardly sounds like a lasting consensus.

    I rather wondered about that example of the Muller being so willing to compromise and assist Shaw. The claim seems to be rather hollow when they promise to weaken it when next in power. At a time when climate change threats need more action and not less, does Muller's help really mean a determination to effectively kill it?

    Shaw wants it to go far.

    Muller wants to to go as little as possible to protect farmers.

    • Dennis Frank 6.1

      Everyone deserves a fair go, Ian. It's the kiwi way. I'm as cynical as you (maybe more) and agree he will be likely to try & minimise harm to farmers but suspect he will be resolute in honouring his deal with James.

      I mean, really, how many farmers do you believe ought to commit suicide?? You know that's been happening steadily the past couple of years. Nothing wrong with him trying to reduce that trend.

      • barry 6.1.1

        I suspect the suicides are more to do with debt than any environmental concerns. Young farmers are often in way over their heads.

        What does Muller plan to do about that?

        • KJT

          Actually more suicides and accidents happen to farm workers, not owners.

          Though any one is a tragedy.

          And the debt loadings on many farms are a real concern. For that reason and several others.

          • aj

            how many farmers do you believe ought to commit suicide??

            What a question. Really. How about he tackles the wider issue of suicides.

            How many teenagers do you believe ought to commit suicide??

            How many young working men do you believe ought to commit suicide??

            How many city dwellers do you believe ought to commit suicide??

            How many elderly do you believe ought to commit suicide??

            All human beings are equally important. Not just farming ones.

            • Louis

              +1 aj

            • KJT

              For me. Nobody.

              Typical hypocrisy though, from people who never had the slightest concern about mental health, in fact they starved services of funding, until they found an opportunity to insinuate it is caused by "Greenies” requiring businesses to be responsible for their pollution.

              Your comment would be better directed to those who are trying to use suicide, as a dishonest political point score, even though they really don't give a shit.

            • Stupot

              It became an issue after Rogers “reforms”. When farmers were required to pay market rates. When their privileges (subsidies) were curbed.

      • ianmac 6.1.2

        Beginning to doubt your sincerity/credibility Dennis. I ask myself which camp would try the "suicide of farmers" to justify a new Leaders position. Your line/style reminds me of another writer on another blog who is also able to write excellent prose but with a buried slant.

        • woodart

          agree with you ianmac. that comment about farmer suicides will colour any future comments he makes.

        • Dennis Frank

          Jeez, I don't know any farmers and have never voted National! Just trying to keep things real. You really don't believe he deserves a fair go?? I thought you were better than that. Obviously he will try to minimise pressure on farmers – he will naturally see that as part of his job. Try a bit of empathy, huh?

          Now, if he does do what you and others are accusing him of doing even before he actually does it, I'm likely to join your critique. Prejudging anyone is irrational.

          • greywarshark

            Dennis Frank We are in such a state in the world that we don't have time to be gentlemanly and give people a fair go to see if they do a good job. Muller comes from a party that has pushed NZ and citizens to such a low position that we have to fight for our lives and our livelihoods., and not just out of a paperbag! It's real David and Goliath stuff, not a good-natured game of rugger old boy.

      • Louis 6.1.3

        Dennis Frank "the past couple of years" ?? You need to go back further than that, like under the previous National govt, what did National do exactly to reduce that trend? How is Muller trying to reduce that trend?

        "New Zealand's farmer suicide rate is a "national disgrace" with a toll going largely unnoticed, Federated Farmers says"


    • barry 6.2

      Yes co-operation and consensus is good for when you are in opposition, you can have some influence that way. If (when?) they get back in charge, will he be offering to listen to the greens?

    • If we get a Labour/Green government the Zero Carbon Bill will be strengthened. Any other coalition combination will weaken it.

  7. AB 7

    A useful reminder that surface-level civility, while a good thing, does not undo underlying configurations of power (who has it, who doesn't and why)

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    Interesting that Catherine sat in the back for the whole of the 2.5 to 3 hour journey . No stops for a break and to rotate the seating and the driving then? It' s like one of these unconscious bias things. Those in the back seat are not heard nor privileged enough to be heard.

  9. Dennis Frank 9

    This bit: "it stays in my mind as the road to nowhere. The road to polite and personal good will is worth driving when there is no urgency and no deep changes required. It is good to arrive somewhere without personal damage and with genuine good will but it is not the base for addressing the most critical issues of our time. Powerful well resourced white men can afford to be courteous and apparently benign but it is the political consensus that bothers me."

    A very important point. Hard not to empathise, so I won't try! To what extent is consensus decision-making part of the problem (as well as being a key part of the solution)? Answer: when it fails to shift the status quo sufficiently, to provide an adequate societal response to the urgency of our collective challenge.

    I've made the point that democracy operates as a strait-jacket often enough, preventing essential progress. But what else can we do? Just our collective best, seems to me. Use lateral-thinking as leverage whenever possible.

    The other crucial point is the one Catherine left out. Deliberately? The left wants jobs created. Who does that? Mostly old rich white men…

    • weka 9.1

      only because old rich white men are still the dominant power holders in society. It's not like there aren't plenty of other people offering to create jobs, were power shared with them.

    • KJT 9.2

      The rich are not. "Job creators".

      Only 3% of the wealthy in the USA, gained it through entrepreneurial endeavours, starting something new.

      That is one of the most pernicious memes to self justify excessive wealth.

      In fact most of the wealthiest in New Zealand have been "job destroyers". Asset strippers and buyers of fire sale public infrastructure, which they have then run down. And land speculators. Hardly adding to our collective real wealth.

      Read "The entrepreneurial State" for one. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Entrepreneurial_State

      Or Nick Hanuer puts it rather well.


      In NZ the largest group of employers are small tradesmen and the like.
      And as always, “Job creation” comes from demand. If the rich white guys didn’t fund it, the poor black ones would find a way to supply the demand.

      • SDCLFC 9.2.1

        Thank you for replying to that.

        So many accepted economic "truths" that just don't stack up

        And you've smashed one of them, if only for today, here.

  10. Bazza64 10

    I think to be honest Metiria threw herself & the greens under the bus. Admitting to cheating on your government benefits is not a clever move & at least Kennedy Graham had the balls to stand by his principles & call her actions out for what they were.

    • ianmac 10.1

      What a shame Paula did not display similar honesty.

      • Bazza64 10.1.1

        Did Paula cheat on her benefit ? I don’t recall that ever being an issue apart from speculation that means nothing at all. Let’s throw mud & see if it sticks. Or maybe I’m wrong about it ?

        • lprent

          Well, she has never admitted to it. In fact I’m pretty sure that she never denied it either. I know that she was asked and didn’t answer.

          Only the honest Greens do that – to point out in part of a political debate the inequities and stupidities of the way that the benefit system operates. Essentially, looking at it from the outside, it is hard for me to understand how anyone can be completely honest with the current system of all benefits (apart from superannuation), unless they refuse to be economical with circumstances. It is a brutally punitive system that costs nearly as much in stupid operating costs as it actually hands out.

          Dishonest Nats like Paula Benefit just release the benefit information about opponents by breaking the privacy laws and the contacts between beneficiaries and her ministry. With someone who casually breaks laws for political expediency, then I’d presume that they just don’t mention how they rorted the benefit system – or are willing to just lie about it. Clearly they have no respect for the law.

          But I guess that is what your default behaviour would be as well eh? After all it does appear that you are just a fuckwit shit-thrower yourself eh?

          • Bazza64

            Wow, so sorry to see you so wound up. You being a regular contributor to this site – I'm surprised at your language & resort to name calling. Maybe I should just grow a thicker skin – ha ha

            [lprent: Please read our policy. I usually bait the obvious newer probable trolls to see how they react. You have reaction 2 – an attempt to claim a sense of humour rather than dealing with the substance of the criticism.

            If you don’t like name calling and opinions on your behaviour than it is clear that you don’t like robust debate. If you’re not up to that, then I suggest you tug your tiny pleasure pinkie elsewhere with the other children. Kiwiblog or twitter seem more to be your level of debate so far. ]

          • Bazza64

            Wow your flowchart lead you to "Reaction 2", feels like primary school (or animal farm)

            • lprent

              There is a reason for that – simple net experience.

              On this site running since August 2007…25,130 Posts and 1,607,585 Comments published.
              I’ve read probably 75% of those.
              Before that I spent about 20 years on BBS’es and Usenet.
              I started writing and reading comments on computer networks in 1979.

              Categorisation of how dimwitted fools act on networks comes with dealing with the territory.

              And yes – you are being treated like a child because that is how you’re behaving. Rather than dealing with the substance of what is put in front of you, you’re acting like every other idiot who thinks that they’ve discovered sarcasm on the net – mostly consisting of parroting the words of other. Which is roughly the net equivalent of being a 12yo discovering how to masturbate.

              Grow up and deal with the debate without the simpleton bravado by stating what you actually think and explain why. Leave the denigration behind unless you need to make a relevant point – something that you haven’t managed yet because you’ve been parroting.

              You’ll find that people will respect that and the moderators will ignore you – they will merely disagree with you. The ego damages of robust debate are minor and usually educational. Be a dickhead and you’ll find that you get pulled up hard. A lot better by the moderators than by the experienced commentators.

              • Bazza64

                LP your comments are petulant & pathetic. You swore & name called & then say I'm behaving like a child ? Can't you handle a sarcastic response to your swearing ? And now your drivelling on about young kids first experiences with themselves. Weird & creepy. Robust debate, yeah right get out the Tui Billboard.

                • Obtrectator

                  "Too much ticklee, him bust." (Kipling)

                • lprent

                  Clearly you’re thick about as thick and as shallow as a bit of 4×2″.

                  Getting more concerned about politeness rather than the ideas and opinions you could expound really is the mark of someone who doesn’t have values apart from their self-promoted place of self-perceived and most likely unearned privilege in society. Certainly it is hard to see anything about you apart from a soft-cored parasite from here.

                  In the community on TS, we value well stated opinion and substantiated fact. The robust debate stems from that. So far all you have demonstrated is that you like to denigrate the opinions of others and that you whine like a child when pulled up on it.

                  As I said earlier, I like to test newbies demonstrating silly childish behaviours to see if they are just a troll. I’ll let you guess that fastest and most efficient way to expose that.

                  You’ll note that no-one else is exhibiting any surprise? What they are seeing is you whimpering that it is unfair to you and never saying anything of any interest to anyone apart from yourself. In short, a useless blowhard who simply can’t contribute to others.

                  I guess you avoid mirrors eh? On the net, I do like to be one because there are a lot of fools around who follow your pattern and they tend to destroy rather than build communities.

                  BTW: Have you read the policy yet.

                • Spiderman3

                  Totally agree with you regarding Meteria. The Greens lost a lot of support due to her. A very touchy subject for some of the moderators it seems.

          • SDCLFC

            Mmmm…no sympathy for MT. Played a game and lost and it was a game of political self-interest more than noble intent.

            Real shame is the lack of discussion about the value of a proper welfare system so as to push wage growth, get some inflation into the economy (to eat up some debt), and give employees more opportunities to change jobs/careers instead of being trapped in low-wage jobs with crap conditions.

            It really needs to be brought to the table.

    • lprent 10.2

      To be honest, I suspect that Kennedy Graham probably knew nothing about the benefit system in NZ, and has never had to use it. After all Catherine did point out that he was a rich white guy.

      As far as I could see Kennedy Graham was talking about something he didn’t know. That was quite apparent from his statements at the time, and substantially lowered my opinion of him. Rather than deal with the substance of what Metiria was pointing out in a political context, he simply ignored that and climbed on to a populist band wagon.

      Seems like he was about as superficial, shallow, and personally as dishonest as you are eh?

    • KJT 10.3

      Kennedy Graham was a facile hypocrite. Along with all the people who use Government services, then dodge paying their taxes, who were having a go at Metiria.

      I know that I couldn’t live on our inadequate welfare. Only managed it for a short period, because I already had a house to sell.

      Ignorant hypocrites include the ones who were fine with English's accommodation expenses. It's OK when wealthy Pakeha rort the system.

      When poor brown people are rendered desparate by a system designed to be inadequate. And comfortable people get all holier than thou.

      • Bazza64 10.3.1

        Why would anyone be fine with what Bill English & many other politicians have done double dipping on the accommodation expenses ? It was clearly a rort, though legal, the rules thankfully have now been changed

        There were massive amounts of people who were unhappy with Metiria & they don't dodge paying their taxes – why do you assume that anyone who criticises someone who has cheated on their benefit to be a tax dodger ?

        Deal with the tax dodging as a separate & very valid issue, but don't throw it up as a smoke screen to hide behind another issue.

  11. xanthe 11

    It is ironic that the actions of the identity politicians in the green party can best be described as colonialism. This road dooms the party to irrelevancy and so undermines the green movement to the destruction of us all.

  12. Maurice 12

    One wonders if Muller and his cabal are positioning the National Party to be able to offer coalition deals to NZ First AND The Green Party ( … we will give you a better deal then Labour …..) in an attempt to grab the levers of power?

    • weka 12.1

      It's neither philosophically nor pragmatically possible for National to offer the Greens a better deal than Labour, because the Nats are opposed to so much of what the Greens stand for, including climate action. The Greens will work with any party on shared policy, but they won't support a party into government that would require them to give up their core principles.

      NZF are definitely capable of working with either Nat or Labour.

      • Dennis Frank 12.1.1

        Well, I do wonder if the new Nat leader actually does have a different plan. It's a stretch, sure, but could happen. The reframe he would need to impose on them would seem huge – but only because they been performing dinosaur impressions for so long!

        You know how an earthquake often signals a shift of bedrock along a fault-line? The effect of the pandemic on the economy could be similar in effect, releasing stored tension suddenly, and a shift number of Nats may re-align. More likely after the election, of course.

        I agree they have yet to get real & provide any genuine incentive for the Greens to work with them – and I further deem it inappropriate to respond negatively to Jacinda's goodwill. The working relationship with Labour is paramount for the forseeable future. Any rehabilitation of National cannot depend for facilitation on any public signal from the Greens. But if they do achieve that essential transformation all by themselves, it does open up a new path to the future for Aotearoa eventually…

  13. new view 13

    In reality Cathrine D has no idea how National or Tod M may have handled this crisis and therefore should refrain from commenting at all. Just as judging someone’s abilities after a ride in the back of a car is both mischievous amusing and bullshit. How people can judge what TM has to offer without waiting to see him in action has got me baffled. I guess we all like to see our opinions as fact don’t we.

    [lprent: You really shouldn’t criticise the National party caucus like that. After all that is exactly what they did with a one term MP who has never held a ministerial post.

    FFS: get a grip of yourself. People do this all of the time. They make judgements on people based on insufficient information. This is called ‘an opinion’.

    And if you’d prefer not to comment on this site at all, I’d be perfectly happy to follow your ‘opinion’ as applied to yourself. Read our policy about telling us what we should do on our site. I’m perfectly happy to apply your ‘rule’ to you. ]

    • new view 13.1

      lprent, you’re right of course. I should have included “in my opinion “ in my criticism of CD. And of course she has every right to write her article anyway she likes. However I stand by my opinions after re reading my post. If that’s allowed on this site.

      • aom 13.1.1

        Geeze mate, whose opinion has greater validity, yours based on bugger all or that of someone who demonstrably has good judgement who spent three hours actively listening to two people in conversation?

      • lprent 13.1.2

        Just be careful about proclaiming demands on this site or asserting facts when they are actually opinions.

        As you say “in my opinion”, or “I think” or “why doesn’t” keep you out of trouble with the moderators. Unless of course if you don’t engage with any of the objections and disagreements from other commentators and astroturf or do fire-and-forget comments. There is a reason there is a replies section on the right of the site.

        The place is here for robust debate, the policy on the site tends to enforce that. But arguing about and for your opinions is of course exactly what the site is for.

  14. That_guy 14

    From a strategic point of view, I really wish that people associating with the Greens would stop going on about the "old, stale, male" thing and talk about the fact that Simon or no Simon, National has no ideas.

    There are lots of serious discussions about the next economic model, because the current one doesn't comply with the laws of physics. Infinite growth in resource use in a finite system, and all that. National is absent from these discussions. Missing in action. That's the story.

    No need to go on about pale, stale, male. People will figure that out by themselves.

  15. roblogic 15

    “On the Road with Ken and Toad” would have been a more poetic headline 😛

    • Chris 15.1

      I don't think it's roblogical to say that. A bit too early to tell. Bland, unoriginal and more of the same, yes, but I wouldn't call him a toad. Not yet, anyway.

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