web analytics

Shadow play: Key’s 2-track politics

Written By: - Date published: 11:31 am, August 16th, 2014 - 40 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, brand key, class war, crosby textor, democracy under attack, election 2014, john key, news, same old national, slippery, spin, Spying - Tags:

The main narrative that structures Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics is as important as the details of specific events covered in the book.  Hager explained this at the book launch as the “two track politics” that is a feature of John Key’s leadership of the National Party.

Dirty Politics book launch

At the launch of Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment, Hager said,

It’s a book about, what in US Republican politics is called a two track strategy of how a government, how a leader is able to present themselves as clean, and above the negative side of politics, while vigorously attacking their opponents.

So what this is a book about – the start of the book is about John Key, our leader, the Prime Minister, and the way he has cultivated a very respectable image of being friendly and relaxed, which is true.  But at the same time, there’s been a whole other part of his politics, which most New Zealanders may have felt, but they certainly not seen evidence of, or properly understood.

And the way that has proceeded, there’s been a second track of politics, the bit which, I think many people in the press gallery probably perceived, but never found much evidence of. And that’s where the Prime Minister’s office was collaborating, year by – week by week and year by year, with a group of National Party allies and proxies, who would do their attacks for them.

DP cvr FIN.indd

John Key became leader of the opposition in November 2006.  This followed the resignation of the National party leader, Don brash, and that was partly the result of the impact of Hager’s book, The Hollow Men.  Dirty Politics has been described as picking up where Hollow Men left off.


In the Hollow Men, various kinds of political strategies, linked with political consultants Crosby-Textor, were described (Chapter 10: Hollow Men).  These involved sophisticated covert means of manipulating people’s opinions, especially those of soft voters.  For instance, it involved taking “non-existent” sentiments and other core messages, and repeating them continually so that they were heard clearly and believed by target, or swing voters.

With respect to his representation in the media, John Key had a dream ride into the leadership position and for many years after. He has frequently been referred to as Teflon John, where no criticisms stick to him.  He has promoted a friendly and smiley persona through numerous soft, celebrity type appearances.  Such appearances have little to do with the substance of politics, such as policies, legislative changes, and performances in the House.  He his carefully presented as a relaxed, down to earth “ordinary” Kiwi bloke.  This is in spite of his millionaire, jet-setting, globe-trotting, life-style, and personal history of being driven by self-centred ambition for status, money and power.

It was clear to many of us that follow political blogs and other media, that during the last years of Helen Clark’s term as PM, she was subjected to a vicious, underhand, smear campaign. Lew Stoddart outlined how it worked in talk radio, as orchestrated by hosts Lindsay Perigo and John Banks.  Stoddart called the smear they perpetuated “the communist lesbian dictator discourse”.  His paper is entitled: Clark Vader and the Helengrad Labour Lesbians: Anatomy of a political symbolic hate campaign (2008).

This campaign to undermine Clark’s popularity and government, was carried out in a range of arenas, partly by Nat supporters elsewhere, picking up on the ideas seeded by those more central to the perpetuation of the discourse.  The Whale Oil and Kiwiblog sites were part of that, as were Ian Wishart’s efforts to smear Clark by weak associative links with the likes of books by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Satre.  Such people also attacked Clark’s childlessness, claiming she was a closeted lesbian, involved in a dishonest marriage of convenience. (Wishart’s Investigate article “The Seige of Helengrad“; his book Absolute Power)

The central National Party “proxies” and dirty tricks brigade in Dirty Politics, are blogger Cameron Slater, and National Party “staffer” Jason Ede, with significant roles played by Jordan Williams and Simon Lusk.

"Smile, Wave, brain-fade, scuttle and run" The stategists in confrence?

“Smile, Wave, brain-fade, scuttle and run” The strategists in conference?

Jason Ede is a shadowy figure, who until now, has left a very small online footprint. He has been known as a PR man and staffer aligned with John Key and his parliamentary office. He also got some mention in alleged dirty tricks aimed to undermine the then leader of Labour, Phil Goff in the run up to the 2011 elections.

Jason Ede

Jason Ede

In December 2010, there were newspaper reports of the alleged involvement of Ede in feeding the media with a story damaging to Goff.  The Otago Daily Times reported on Goff apparently fiddling MP perks by claiming for rental accommodation in Wellington, while owning a property:  something Bill English had previously been strongly criticised for. Goff claimed that Ede had posed as a potential buyer of his property, had formally declined to buy it just before TV3 picked up on the whole story.

A key event outlined in Dirty Politics is also to do with an (alleged) deliberate attempt to undermine Goff in 2011. As reported on Stuff, the book claims that Cameron Slater was given speedy access to SIS documents via an OIA, as the result of directives given by Ede (implicating Key?). Then using the OIA information,

The Whaleoil post attacking Goff appeared on August 4. On the same day The Dominion Post contacted Key’s office to inquire why its request for the documents had been refused within two days.

At the time of the Whale Oil post, some people reported that there was something fishy going on.  The issue had to do with news reports about an investigation of alleged Israeli spy activities in Christchurch around the time of a major quake there.  Goff first claimed he hadn’t been briefed about it as was the protocol for him as leader of the opposition.  Evidence was sought via the OIAs, with allegations that Slater was given first access to the papers, in order to publish them with an anti-Goff spin.

Paul Buchanan commented on it:

… he said, it was a “terrible look for New Zealand”.

Buchanan said there was some concern that the SIS reported differently to the government of the day, than it does to opposition parties and the public.

An article on Scoop: “Tucker vs Goff and the Politicisation of the SIS”  by C.D Sludge, outlines what happened, and raises several critical questions.  Sludge argues that some of the developments of the story were decidedly weird.  Goff did seem to have mismanaged the whole thing. However, more significantly, there were serious questions for the government and SIS to answer.

As the history of the Key term as National Party leader and PM unfolds, it is becoming clearer just how much of a two track strategy his team and allies have been running.  It has been one of the darkest and nastiest periods of NZ politics: one marked by the front of a nice smiley man, while being supported by ruthless, covert black ops, tactics of character assassination, very dirty tricks, political manipulation, and a win-at-all-cost mentality.

NZ politics is in need of an extensive clean up and clean out.

Vote Left to change the political culture to something far more democratic: a government that serves all the people, not a few highly manipulative and vicious power players.

Keep calm vote left

40 comments on “Shadow play: Key’s 2-track politics ”

  1. adam 1

    Without the cyber punk over tones, it’s looking more and more like the plot from Transmetropolitan.


    Work of fiction folks, not a bloody manual.

  2. ianmac 2

    There must be many sincere and honest National MPs. I wonder what they have really thought about their position over the last 6 years. And now, even with concerns about self preservation, surely there must be some who are revolted about the essence of dirty tricks which must taint them. It always seemed that underneath the smiling exterior Key must have a grip of iron but not every MP will be pleased.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      There must be many sincere and honest National MPs.

      Don’t be silly – they would have been weeded out years ago.

    • lprent 2.2

      There must be many sincere and honest National MPs. I wonder what they have really thought about their position over the last 6 years.

      That is an interesting question. Maybe this explains the massive exodus of National party MPs over the last 9 years and particularly this term?

      Unfortunately I suspect that there a silencing clauses in the contracts attached to any payouts from the National party coffers that they received.

      • disturbed 2.2.1

        Iprent. question, what do you envisage here?
        “There must be many sincere and honest National MPs. I wonder what they have really thought about their position over the last 6 years”.

        With all the moderate Nat’s gone what has Team key got in store with a new bunch of sleuth’s?

        Wholesale slash and sell?

    • TheContrarian 2.3

      “There must be many sincere and honest National MPs. I wonder what they have really thought about their position over the last 6 years. ”

      Quite possibly the leaker could be from inside the party….

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.3.1

        A strong possibility. The question is can the National Party ever get clean, or will the better wingnuts need to find a third way?

  3. ianmac 3

    And now I wonder about the 16 or so National MPs who are retiring this session.
    Why so many?
    How willing to go and are they being given a $300,000 handshake if they go quietly?

    Remember Lusk’s plan was to fill the Government with young ruthless MPs who are backed by big money, power, influence. Lusk and Eade and Slater may be part of that overarching plan. (My conspiracy theory???)

    • Tracey 3.1

      how many are women or Maori?

      • ianmac 3.1.1

        Can’t remember all the outgoing. But Simon Lusks plan on page 55+. Consider the machinations and dirty tricks to get Mark Mitchell elected in the Rodney electorate. And two others they claim back then.
        Now I wonder about the demise of Colin King and installing Stuart Smith in the safe seat Kaikoura electorate recently.

        • Tracey

          if half of what they say abour Rodney election is true… Its bad enough. If mark mitchell is who they say he is, holy crap.

          Sorry to confuse, wondered how many of the replacements were women or Maori

          • ianmac

            An interesting thought Tracey. Some clever person could find the current list of National MPs and compare it with the current National Party List. Show plus minus.

  4. disturbed 4

    How long did Key club think they could go on doing this shit against our democracy???

    Like Nixon they got to cocky and comfortable, until someone decided it was time this had to end.

    Like “Tricky Dicky” Richard Nixon’s words “I have never lied” will now haunt Key club’s “smiling assassin” John Key’s words “National had nothing to do with it” and both will become the most remarkable cases of the “two track strategy of how a government, how a leader is able to present themselves as clean, and above the negative side of politics, while vigorously attacking their opponents.”

    Thanks Karol a good clear concise take.

    • weka 4.1

      “How long did Key club think they could go on doing this shit against our democracy???”

      My guess, they’re still thinking it.

      • Molly 4.1.1


        Unfortunately, US politics was not cleaned out when Nixon resigned.

        Current state of affairs shows how much of a long game these manipulators play…

        • TheContrarian

          “US politics was not cleaned out when Nixon resigned.”

          Shit, far from cleaned out – it’s gotten uglier

        • disturbed

          Yes Molly, you said;
          “Unfortunately, US politics was not cleaned out when Nixon resigned.”

          Then remember what Obama said pre election, “I am going to change the way business is done in Washington”,——( me falls on floor in fits)

          When are we going to see a true leader of justice for all truth and honesty???

          • TheContrarian

            “When are we going to see a true leader of justice for all truth and honesty”

            Not in the States, at least not currently – The Republicans have moved from ghoulishly fiendish to straight up crazy while the democrats have no spine. The US needs more parties

  5. Mike Smith 5

    Great post Karol. The dots do join up.

  6. Tracey 6

    Also, the way they have approached the release of the book precicely mirrors the strategy revealled in the book.

    Key basically kept away from it for 36 hours, joyce and others front and shoot the messenger…

    And most importantly taking bad behaviour and borderline, if not full, corruption and normalising it so people assume everyone does it and thats how it is…

    • karol 6.1

      Ah. interesting. I haven’t been able to get a copy of Dirty Politics so far. That is why I started to focus on the broader context and some of the background to the main players.

      The responses to the latest book do also repeat some of the manipulative strategies outlined in hollow Men.

      • Tracey 6.1.1

        Agreed. They are still using hollow men tactics… They have become better at it since brash fell.

        Their policy around local politics sticks in my mind when i see the fight for palmerston north. The mayor appears to be a graduate of the Lusk school of local body traing… Jamie lee ross… Is cameron brewer one too?

      • Tracey 6.1.2

        i should finish mine this weekend, i can drop it to you early next week?

      • lprent 6.1.3

        I’d run my copy out to you. But Lyn got interested and wants to read it.

      • weka 6.1.4

        The kindle version is handy for its searchability.

        • karol

          Thanks, everybody. I’ll wait. I do like my own copy as I like to underline & write in margins. Also, I won’t have that much time in the next week to actually read it.

          • weka

            I take it back. Don’t use kindle hardly ever and have just discovered it doesn’t use page numbers. Unbelievable.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Apparently it’s up to the author of the books to put in page numbers on the Kindle.

              • weka

                True, but I’m using the application on my mac, it’s an older version that never had page number support apparently. From the quick search I did before, only Kindle 3 supports page numbers. I don’t know if that’s an app number or the hardware.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Your app should automatically update or tell you to update. A few weeks ago mine refused to load until I’d updated.

      • just saying 6.1.5

        When I went to pick up my copy yesterday, it was amongst about 15 books already pre-ordered from the second printing. I asked the shop assistant if it was outselling the hagiography on John Key which was nearby. She beamed at me and said “by miles and miles and miles”.

        Left-wing town.

  7. ianmac 7

    Not sure if this has been previously aired but the SIS details in the Dominion point to the same day that the Dominion OIA was refused, Slater was given the OIA for the same request re Phil Goff:
    Hager suggests Key’s office ensured Slater got the briefing notes, which he used as a basis for an article on his Whaleoil blog, accusing Goff of lying. Key is the minister responsible for the SIS.

    About the same time, The Dominion Post’s request for the documents was declined.

    In Dirty Politics, published this week, Hager says Slater received a response to his Official Information Act request within a week – and quotes Facebook messages which suggest Slater knew what to expect.

    The documents were stamped as being declassified on July 26, the same day Slater lodged his request, Hager notes. …

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Project protects jobs and nature
    A Waitomo-based Jobs for Nature project will keep up to ten people employed in the village as the tourism sector recovers post Covid-19 Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says. “This $500,000 project will save ten local jobs by deploying workers from Discover Waitomo into nature-based jobs. They will be undertaking local ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • Minister Shaw speaks with U.S. Presidential Envoy John Kerry
    Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw spoke yesterday with President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. “I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kerry this morning about the urgency with which our governments must confront the climate emergency. I am grateful to him and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    21 hours ago
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs makes three diplomatic appointments
    Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta today announced three diplomatic appointments: Alana Hudson as Ambassador to Poland John Riley as Consul-General to Hong Kong Stephen Wong as Consul-General to Shanghai   Poland “New Zealand’s relationship with Poland is built on enduring personal, economic and historical connections. Poland is also an important ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    22 hours ago
  • Major redevelopment of Wainuiomata High School underway
    Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. The Minister joined principal Janette Melrose and board chair Lynda Koia to kick off demolition for the project, which is worth close to $40 million, as the site ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • New expert group appointed to advise Government on Oranga Tamariki
    A skilled and experienced group of people have been named as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board by Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis today. The Board will provide independent advice and assurance to the Minister for Children across three key areas of Oranga Tamariki: relationships with families, whānau, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago