They played politics! The shame of it all.

Colin Espiner reports in the Press that the 4th Labour Government conspired to “render a Peters-Richardson combination impossible” and to “destroy Peters”. Shock, horror!

But wait a minute, this is almost twenty years old, this story. People born in 1989 are graduating university now. So, there’s got to be something to this, you’d think. Well, you’d be wrong. But this breathlessly retailed piece of fluff does tell us some interesting things about the world, nonetheless.

[Hat-tip to Inventory2@

It turns out that the “secret papers”, headed Interim Report to Cabinet on anti-National Strategy, contained advice on targeting opposition politicians and how to portray them in an unfavourable light.

“The paper went through the opposition front bench, targeting MPs and assigning “targets” to Cabinet ministers”, reports Espiner fearlessly. “It suggested creating a series of “incidents” in government to exacerbate National’s problems, focusing on Mr Peters, Ms Richardson and Opposition leader Jim Bolger.”

Such perfidy! Espiner then tries to draw a parallel with today’s politics: “Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men last year revealed similar strategies were employed by National during the 2005 campaign.” In fact, THM revealed an awful lot more about National’s campaign than that. All Espiner is trying to do here is kick-start National’s failed meme that THM revealed nothing out of the usual.

(Also, THM was the year before. You’d think that someone who features in the book for his sick-making adulation of Brash would get that right!)

So, how out of the usual is that behaviour. Neil Stockley latest post gives us the answer to that.

Neil, dates such tactics in NZ from Muldoon’s era:

“This technique is as old as politics itself. In my experience though, the right do it better. I used to belong to the New Zealand Labour Party. Many years ago, it was led by a decent man but he had a high voice and minimal charisma. He was mocked by his main opponent as “Wallace Rowling”. In one general election campaign, a band of tories paid for newspaper adverts with cartoons showing a mouse-like caricature of Rowling caught in a trap.”

But perhaps the the writer of the “secret papers” in 1989 was inspired by the US Republicans. Neil again:

The past masters at this type of politics must be the US Republicans. In the late 1980s, Newt Gingrich (later Speaker of the House) ran a political action committee that mailed a pamphlet called Language, A Key Mechanism of Control to Republicans all over the country. The booklet offered rhetorical advice to Republican candidates who wanted to “speak like Newt.””

David Bromwich of The Huffington Post has blogged about the use of “language of generalized insult and contempt” to delegitimise President Bill Clinton. The Gingrich wing of the GOP “coolly decided to use the word “sick” to characterize the Clintons and their policies. Instructions regarding which words of contempt to use and when to use them, went out in memorandums and were put into practice on pundit shows and talk radio. This story is told by David Brock, an insider who came to regret the part he played, in his memoir Blinded by the Right.”

Sound familiar? This year expect to hear a great deal more about Key’s “slipperyness” and “shallowness” (a fair call) and Labour’s “corruption” (not).

The last word has to go to Winston Peters, described in the original paper as “arrogant, flashy, superficial, lacking in substance”. He wasn’t surprised by the paper, reports Espiner. When asked about the irony of his having helping Labour to stay in power, he said: “I have to say it’s a funny world, politics.”


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2 Responses to “They played politics! The shame of it all.”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    JP – is that a typo in Stockley’s quote, or is his memory slipping. Rowling was of course leader of the New Zealand LABOUR Party as you are doubtless aware, having been a member in 1975. The New Zealand Party was not a phenomonem until 1984 where it was led by Sir Robert Jones, definitely not mouse-like!!

    BTW – we seem to be of similar vintage – my first vote was cast in 1975.

  2. jafapete Says:

    Inventory, Well spotted. Hadn’t noticed that either. Corrected.

    Yes, same vintage.

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