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The stolen emails defence

Written By: - Date published: 10:06 am, August 6th, 2008 - 29 comments
Categories: national, spin - Tags: , , ,

So National has finally reverted to the ‘stolen emails’ defence to combat the damaging recordings from the weekend’s party conference. I’m only surprised it’s taken them this long – the misdirection tactic is classic Crosby Textor and it’s served the Nats well in the past.

My guess is that National was hoping Bill’s humiliating charade in front of the press yesterday would put an end to the scandal. You take the one-off hit of a bad night of news coverage, Key gets to strengthen his brand by showing he’s still the boss, and the story quickly disappears down the memory hole.

What National didn’t count on was another recording from Lockwood Smith coming out and completely undermining the strategy. After last night’s revelations, ‘I mispoke’ really doesn’t cut it, and there’s always the fear that there could be more embarrassing audio to come.

Utterly exposed and embarrassed, National’s only option now is to inoculate any further releases and misdirect the coverage away from the real issue. It’s the exact same strategy they used to great effect in dealing with the revelations in the Hollow Men – attack the source of the leak, accuse Labour of dirty tricks, and for God’s sake get the media talking about anything other than the inconsistency between your public and private statements.

The media fell for it hook, line and sinker on the Hollow Men. The only question is whether they’ll fall for it again this time.

[Of course, National’s carefully manufactured moral outrage over these recordings is the height of hypocrisy. There was no moral outrage from the blue camp when Mike Williams was secretly recorded inside the Labour Party congress just a few months ago. National isn’t outraged over any high political principle, they’re outraged they’ve been caught lying to the public, again.]

Image: 08wire

29 comments on “The stolen emails defence”

  1. Greg 1

    While the secret recordings are rather embarrassing for the National party, they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. Maurice Williamson was quite accurrately describing the problems associated with an MMP electoral system and the policies that result. As was Bill English – they were talking about policies they’d both like to employ but can’t for fear of scaring off the electorate.

    But is Labour any different? Of course not! They took money off their blue collar support base to fund the rich through their student loan bribe last election – a policy that went against the core principles of Lablour but got them a lot of votes – and now it seems there’s another big bribe coming the students way this election!

    Attack National on this sure, but then don’t go defending Labour when they bribe the electorate once again!

  2. Greg have you ever been a student?

  3. Greg. “Maurice Williamson”? Are you even following this story?

  4. Patrick 4

    Greg, one of Labour’s long term goals is to make tertiary education more affordable. Interest free student loans, capping university fees etc are all steps along this path.

    It’s one of Labour’s stated principals and has been for years. Hardly shocking is it.

  5. Lew 5

    As an adjunct to this defence, Key is claiming the recordings may be doctored: http://stuff.co.nz/4645524a6160.html

    “Who knows whether these tapes are actually sort of completely real they could well have been doctored. No one really knows this stuff.

    He was dead right until he got the the bit I’ve put in bold. People do know this stuff. It’s not incredibly hard to verify the integrity of an audio recording. I wonder if someone will do it?

    L

  6. Hazel 6

    Greg – what do you know about Maurice Williamson that we don’t know?

    And isn’t it funny that when Labour announces policy – e.g. tax cuts – (a) it is castigated as far too late and far too little, (b) it is a “big bribe”, and (c) it is trumped by National with an even bigger . . . (couldn’t be a bribe, could it!) . . . inducement!

  7. Hazel – there’s a big difference. National has campaigned consistently on tax cuts. Cullen is philosophically opposed to tax cuts. In 2005 he promised the “chewing gum” cuts in 2007, which he later cancelled. He even had to immediately legislate for the October cuts to lock them in because as he joked at the time, he “couldn’t be trusted” to deliver!

    [Inv2. Cullen is not philosophically opposed to tax cuts, watch he speech at Drinking Liberally. SP]

  8. outofbed 8

    Radio nz apologies to Hager

    The conversation didn’t seem any big deal until shortly afterwards when the state broadcaster, reportedly at Hager’s behest, issued a public grovel: “We accept Nicky Hager’s continued assurances that he did not steal the emails which were published in his book The Hollow Men – Radio New Zealand apologises to Nicky Hager for comments which asserted the position was otherwise.”

    This morning on TV3 Key said near the end or the interview
    Labour was cheering on Nicky Hager for “breaking into our email system”

    Do you think we will get a similar apology from Mr Key?

  9. Patrick 9

    Sorry Inventory2, wrong.

    Cullen is a Keynesian, as he has hinted many times in interviews. This does not mean he is philosophically opposed to tax cuts, it means he advocates countercyclical fiscal policies. I.e., tax cuts when the economy is slowing down.

    It seems sensible, and consistent with his economic philosophy.

  10. Daveski 10

    Patrick – You are right, there are a lot of principals and unionists in Labour and no so many workers.

    The point that Greg makes is entirely valid and undermines the whole show us your policy charade. It is entirely reasonable to see the student loan changes as a bribe given their timing and targetting of a particular voting bloc. Smart politics too.

    The additional point that Greg makes is that any universal changes to university fees & allowances always favours the higher socio-economic groups. I would add to this means testing for super but that too would be political suicide. It would still be principled tho.

    I agree that ALL sides have displayed breathtaking hypocrisy re the secret taping. It is undoubtedly embarassing and amateurish of National to get caught out in this way. But I still haven’t seen anything stated that you couldn’t have reasonably assumed.

    My concern is that it sets a very low threshold for how the election will be run. By all means the Standardistas are welcome to gloat at National’s stumbles (it’s not fatal) but given the rigthousness displayed here by all and sundry about principles and policies, this is something that should be a concern not a celebration. Sorry, in a hurry and sounding too much like Pollyanna but you get my drift.

  11. lprent 11

    Lew: You mean voiceprint biometrics. I’m sure that it could be done. But it is pretty moot in Bill English’s case since he has said that it was him.

    What has Lockjaw Smith said?

    Damn that is not nice Lynn, but my parents always used to call him that when he was their local electorate MP. Can’t actually remember his actual first name. They should be on kiwiblog for repetitive renaming.

  12. Lew 12

    Lynn: Voiceprint biometrics is pretty redundant, since nobody is denying it’s their voice. What I’m talking about it verifying whether the recording has been `doctored’ as Key says it might be – there’s a public interest in that, I think.

    L

  13. Felix 13

    “But I still haven’t seen anything stated that you couldn’t have reasonably assumed.”

    Agreed, however the tapes have brought the discussion into the mainstream media and perhaps to a wider audience than those who follow this stuff closely anyway.

    It’s a bit sad IMO that the media seem to have picked this up because it has the whiff of scandal about it. If they’d been doing proper analysis all along they would have raised these policy contradictions themselves in interviews and commentary long ago as part of the normal functioning of the fourth estate. Unfortunately it seems it’s only newsworthy when there’s some shock-horror or cloak & dagger value to it.

  14. Daveski 14

    Felix – couldn’t agree more.

  15. pinetree 15

    …voiceprint this, or that….netiher here nor there as this whole thing is shaping up as a “perception vs reality” thing…

    It’s embarassing, and the focus is all wrong, and the “PR” bit went south, and all round a bit of a balls up really…

    ….but in terms of the substance of what was said by English/Locky, I’m not suprised, and I don’t know that anyone should be – we got caught pantsdown and exposed the public to the whole realpolitik thing, media love it…plenty of column inches for that one….unfortunately for us Nats, swingers might just take that for “hidden agenda”….

    …..maybe a matter of degrees, as I’d like to think even the hardiest supporter on this site wouldn’t suggest that sort of thing atypical….

    I doubt I’ll get much support for that view here though !

    You know what I think was worst, the English subtext re Key….that all looks a bit “papering over cracks” to me….

    …..”hidden agenda”, great phrase by the way, so perfectly stacked, and we’ll see how the Lab party strategy on this one plays out…privatisation, hidden agendas, cuts in education etc etc……almost C/T-ish (!), if it wasn’t such a simple part n parcel of today’s politics…

    I think Nats hand on widening the debate will be forced shortly, perhaps as early as the next round of public/internal polling, which will indicate how certain things have played…

  16. Lew 16

    Felix: The thing which strikes me about this episode is that it’s made the assumed duplicity of politicians plain to the electorate at large, who seem to have thought that Key and National aren’t actually politicians, but ordinary geezers who want to do right by the battlers of NZ.

    If it doesn’t win Labour and allies the 2008 election, it might help them win the 2011. It’s confirmed suspicions that National have been running a bait-and-switch, and to combat this National will probably need to reassure the electorate – and the media – that they’re not really big bad market fundamentalists as their enemies claim. This will involve more promises like Key’s `no privatisation in the first term’ and so on – which circumscribes National’s ability to differentiate themselves from Labour, and restricts their options as far as dealing with the economic downturn we’re currently facing. Alternatively, they can just break these promises out of economic necessity – but that leaves them wide open to the same criticisms which sank the Lange government and sent Labour into exile for a decade.

    Interesting times.

    L

  17. burt 17

    I’m looking for Labour policy heading into this election, I have this link: http://www.labour.org.nz/policy.html but there seems to be nothing there.

    Is this because National have not yet told Labour what they need to campaign on?

  18. lprent 18

    Lew: The question then would be in what way he thinks that it has been “doctored”. Ummm I’ll have a look at your link.

    Ok – he is non-specific. It all seems to be a bit redundant to me since the voices are admitted to be the people in question. I think he is flying a dead herring to the masthead hoping that the smell will spread.

    The only way I could envisage would be to splice statements together. Now in the fragments that I’ve just listened to on the TV3 website, I’d note 3 things.

    1. There is a hell of a lot of background conversation. Slicing would probably cut those conversations. I can’t hear any. The segments are long enough that if the phrases had been ‘compiled’ up, then it should have shown some kind of breaks.

    2. Bill English is obviously raising his voice to get over the background in at least a couple of bursts of background babble. That tends to say that at least some of the background is legit.

    3. It was a hellishly short time to get something made up. Release time was just after the conference? I think it’d be quite hard to do it. Depends on how long the tape is – I guess.

    Actually the crappy quality of the tape would make it hard to say that it is doctored. It isn’t like the background is low. It reminded me why I avoid talk-talk parties.

    I think that John Key is knowingly bullshitting to suggest that the tape is doctored. In fact I’d go so far as to say he is deliberately lying if he says that is what he thinks.

    captcha: Pow rockets

  19. r0b 19

    Is this because National have not yet told Labour what they need to campaign on?

    I guess so Burt, yeah that must be it.

  20. Matthew Pilott 20

    burt, have a look at the budget for a few ideas. Write to your local MP. read a few press releases, if you’re so inclined. But it’s all about personal responsibility, Burt, get out there and see wwhat you can achieve – don’t depend on The Standard to always bail you out…

    And what does Labour’s policy have to do with “what National need to campaign on”? I suppose the admission that they are a bunch of idea-bereft conservative old reactionaries is nice, but I had hoped they could think for themselves. Anyway, they don’t need to campaign on anything remember – just keep “the Punters” happy, “don’t scare the horses” and “that nice Mr Key” will sort everything out.

    And devil take the hindmost.

  21. Felix 21

    I does seem more and more that if the nats are elected they’ll be so tied up in knots they won’t be able to do anything without breaking promises and becoming a one-term govt.

    Add to that the apparent conflict at the top end of the party and it’s hard to see them even getting through one term.

    My view is still that the NZ electorate – given a few more slip-ups like the weekend’s – will never fall for it anyway.

  22. Lew 22

    Lynn: More or less what I’m driving at, though unless it comes from a respected audio engineer with a background in forensics, I don’t figure it’ll count.

    L

  23. chris 23

    Looks like the nats need one of these

  24. of they could just say the same thing to their mates as they do to the public.

  25. pinetree 25

    “…of they could just say the same thing to their mates as they do to the public….”

    Is that the benchmark Steve ?

  26. lprent 26

    Lew: Yeah that is what I figure as well. But from current indications I’d say that John Key is just doing a standard Crosby/Textor line of trying to get the opposition to have to defend themselves.

    All I’m saying is that after pasting my skeptics hat on, I can’t see how it could be “doctored”. I’d say the burden of ‘proof’ would be on the Nats to point to something wrong. At present I haven’t heard them denying ANYTHING in the reported segments.

    When they do that (which they won’t want to do if they know it is genuine) then would be the time to get it tested. It is really up to the Nat’s to say if they think it is a fake.

    John Key, Bill, or Lockjaw should put their nuts on the line if they think it is doctored and say specifically where they think it is incorrect. I’m afraid that without that, then I’d have to assume it is genuine and they are just doing the C/T big lie technique.

  27. Greg 27

    In referemce to my earlier comment – I meant Lockwood Smith – I must have had Maurice Williamson on the tip of my tongue for some reason! Yes I have been a university student, in fact I am one, thats why I used the example.

    My point was Labour professes to be a party of the working class and critisises those ‘rich pricks’ and is opposed to a flat tax rate on these principles (no matter how much sense it makes) etc etc, which is all well and good. But then they spend large amounts of money on tertiary students, a segment of the population that is destined to become significantly more well off then the rest of the country and generally quite capable of paying back even a substantial student loan over time. They are effectively subsidising the rich, which I think is contradictory to the key principles behind the labour party.

  28. r0b 28

    My point was Labour professes to be a party of the working class and critisises those ‘rich pricks’

    Does it? When?

    and is opposed to a flat tax rate on these principles (no matter how much sense it makes)

    It makes not much sense at all.

  29. Fascinating.

    Yet another damning indictment of right wing politics . . .

    . . . successfully diverted off track by dubiously ambivalent or curiously conservative commentators.

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