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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. …

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Funding for Kaipara district community waste programmes
    Waste reduction and recycling programmes in Kaipara are set to get a boost with Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage today announcing a $361,447 grant from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF) Sustainable Kaipara. “The new funding will allow Sustainable Kaipara to partner with local schools, kura, community ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government will support the people and economy of Southland
    The Government will support the Southland economy in the wake of multinational mining company Rio Tinto’s decision to follow through with its long signalled closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter. “This day has unfortunately been on the cards for some time now, but nevertheless the final decision is a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New transformational tools for the Predator Free 2050 effort
    New tools being developed to help boost Aotearoa’s Predator Free 2050 effort were unveiled today by Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau. A new rat poison, a camera with predator recognition software to detect and report predators, a new predator lure and a ...
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    2 days ago
  • New Armoured vehicles for New Zealand Army
    The Coalition Government has approved the purchase of a fleet of Bushmaster vehicles to replace the New Zealand Army’s armoured Pinzgauers, Defence Minister Ron Mark has announced today. The new fleet of 43 Australian-designed and built Bushmaster NZ5.5 will provide better protection for personnel and improved carrying capacity. “The age ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Community-led solutions to prevent family violence
    The Government’s three prevention frameworks to reduce family violence in Aotearoa were launched this week by Associate Minister for Social Development Poto Williams.   The frameworks were developed in partnership with communities around New Zealand, and build on the work the Government has already begun with its new family violence prevention ...
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    3 days ago
  • Govt confirms investment in better radiology and surgical services for Hawke’s Bay
    The Government is pleased to confirm funding for improvements to radiology and surgical services at Hawke's Bay DHB, Health Minister Chris Hipkins says.     "The Minister of Finance the Hon Grant Robertson and former Health Minister Dr David Clark approved funding for Hawke's Bay DHB’s redevelopment of their radiology facilities ...
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    3 days ago
  • Specialist alcohol and drug addiction services strengthened across New Zealand
    •    New funding for four beds at Napier’s Springhill Residential Addiction Centre •    A new managed withdrawal home and community service, and peer support before and after residential care at Tairāwhiti DHB  •    A co-ordinated network of withdrawal management services throughout the South Island •    Peer support in Rotorua and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Coastal Shipping Webinar
    Introduction, seafarers and POAL Good morning everyone, I am delighted to be online with you all today. Before I begin, I have to acknowledge that COVID-19 has disrupted the maritime sector on an unprecedented scale. The work of seafarers and the maritime industry is keeping many economies around the world ...
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    3 days ago
  • Support for resilient rail connection to the West Coast
    A $13 million investment from Government will create jobs and improve the resilience of the rail connection between Christchurch and the West Coast, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones and Regional Economic Development Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau say. The funding comes from the tagged contingency set aside in Budget 2020 for infrastructure projects ...
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    3 days ago
  • Major investment in safe drinking water
    The Government is investing $761 million to assist local government upgrade under-pressure water services across the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today.  The announcement was made at the site of the water bore that was found to be the source of the fatal ...
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    3 days ago
  • Supporting stranded seasonal workers to keep working with more flexible options
    Recognised Seasonal Employers and migrant seasonal workers stranded in New Zealand will be able to continue working and supporting themselves with more flexible hours and roles, says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. The time-limited visa changes are: Stranded RSE workers will be able to work part-time (a minimum of 15 hours ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Relief for temporary migrants, employers and New Zealanders who need work
    The Government is making immediate short-term changes to visa settings to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers, while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says. We are: Extending temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Freshwater commissioners and fast-track consenting convenor appointed
    Professor Peter Skelton CNZM has been appointed as Chief Freshwater Commissioner and Alternate Environment Court Judge Craig James Thompson as Deputy Chief Freshwater Commissioner for the newly established Freshwater Planning Process (FPP). Environment Minister David Parker today also announced the appointment of Chief Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook as the ...
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    4 days ago
  • Appointment of Judge of the High Court
    Auckland Queen’s Counsel Neil Campbell has been appointed a Judge of the High Court, Attorney‑General David Parker announced today. Justice Campbell graduated with a BCom and LLB (Hons) from the University of Auckland in 1992. He spent two years with Bell Gully Buddle Weir in Auckland before travelling to the United ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Feedback sought – Commercial Film and Video Production Facilities
    The Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Poto Williams, is seeking feedback on a proposal to better enable the development and operation of commercial film and video facilities in Christchurch. The Proposal, developed by Regenerate Christchurch in response to a request from Christchurch City Council, asks that powers under section ...
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    4 days ago
  • Govt launches bold primary sector plan to boost economic recovery
    The Government has launched a bold plan to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade, while protecting the environment and growing jobs. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today released Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential, a 10-year roadmap to unlock greater value ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Wellbeing of whanau at heart of new hub
    A new approach to prevent family harm that encourages greater collaboration across government and community groups is being celebrated at the opening of a new facility in Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today opened the Multi-Disciplinary Family Harm Prevention Hub Te Taanga Manawa in Lambie Road in Manukau. The facility ...
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    4 days ago
  • New Report on Auckland Port Relocation
    The Government has released a major new report on the options for relocating the Port of Auckland’s freight operations while deferring any decision on the issue. “That decision needs to be informed by policy analysis that is still to be completed. As a result it will be up to a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Dual place names for Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū / Banks Peninsula features
    The history of Rāpaki is being restored through the inclusion of te reo in thirteen official place names on Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū / Banks Peninsula and around Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraupō, the Minister for Land Information, Eugenie Sage, announced today.   “I am pleased to approve the proposals from Te Hapū o Ngāti ...
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    4 days ago
  • Government and Air New Zealand agree to manage incoming bookings
    Bookings for seats on Air New Zealand flights into New Zealand will be managed in the short term to ensure the Government is able to safely place New Zealanders arriving home into a managed isolation or quarantine facility, says Housing Minister Megan Woods.  “Last week Air Commodore Darryn Webb and I ...
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    4 days ago
  • $80 million for sport recovery at all levels
    Grant Robertson has today announced the first major release of funding from the $265 million Sport Recovery Package announced at Budget 2020.  “Today we’re setting out how $80 million will be invested, with $54 million of that over the 2020/2021 financial year for organisations from community level through to elite ...
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    4 days ago
  • Keeping ACC levies steady until 2022
    The Government is maintaining current levy rates for the next 2 years, as part of a set of changes to help ease the financial pressures of COVID-19 providing certainty for businesses and New Zealanders, ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says. “New Zealanders and businesses are facing unprecedented financial pressures as a ...
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    5 days ago
  • Extended loan scheme keeps business afloat
    Small businesses are getting greater certainty about access to finance with an extension to the interest-free cashflow loan scheme to the end of the year. The Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme has already been extended once, to 24 July. Revenue and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash says it will be ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New investment creates over 2000 jobs to clean up waterways
    A package of 23 projects across the country will clean up waterways and deliver over 2000 jobs Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker announced today. The $162 million dollar package will see 22 water clean-up projects put forward by local councils receiving $62 million and the Kaipara ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Speech to Labour Party Congress 2020
    Tena koutou katoa  Nga tangata whenua o tenei rohe o Pōneke, tena koutou Nau mai, haere mai ki te hui a tau mo te roopu reipa Ko tatou!  Ko to tatou mana!  Ko to tatou kaupapa kei te kokiri whakamua  Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa   Welcome. I ...
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    6 days ago
  • PGF top-up for QE Health in Rotorua
    The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is investing $1.5 million to ensure QE Health in Rotorua can proceed with its world class health service and save 75 existing jobs, Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. The PGF funding announced today is in addition to the $8 million ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Building a more sustainable construction sector
    A new programme, which sets a firm course for the Building and Construction sector to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has been announced by the Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa. “A significant amount of New Zealand’s carbon emissions come from the building and construction sector.  If we’re serious ...
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    1 week ago