- 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.
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.
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.
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.
… 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.