We liked being a nation of small businesses and big farms, trusted that our banks would always be New Zealand owned, that the St John’s ambulance would come immediately to an emergency 111 call, the police would treat our complaints of a house burglary or of sexual abuse respectfully every time and that politics was an honourable profession.
Most people didn’t know – and probably didn’t care that much – how government and politicians worked, which no doubt correlates to our trusting natures, sense of fair play, decency, honesty, tolerance and celebration of being ordinary.
And once upon a time our Prime Minister, John Key, personified those values. He was one of us, liked and respected because he was so ordinary, so inoffensive, so lacking in vision, philosophy, policy and diction, but admirably rich with overseas business experience ergo really smart and took the tongs at a kiwi barbecue for royals or the wretched press. He was a safe pair of hands and he’d do right by us.
Those were the days my friend. Our world has changed. Now there’s something nasty in the woodpile and our national apathy and she’ll be right attitude is but cold comfort.
While you may, as ordinary New Zealanders and, if Epsom voters, obey the exhortation by Honest John, not to read Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics, the book has blasted open the door on a vicious, vile, devious and duplicitous world of Machiavellian immorality run by the Nats and seemingly condoned despite the firm protestation by Bill English that these shenanigans were not his “style”.
Mr Hager is in good company for lifting the lid on this political underbelly.
His book does not have the same global impact or shock, horror revelations as the whistleblowing of Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, nor the Winebox and Watergate.
But we’ve learned and confirmed what we should have known but didn’t want to see: that there’s an official version and there’s the true version, that’s the one not for public consumption, and it beggars belief.
While John Key, in his guise as Mr Nice Guy, has been doing what he does best, spreading the positive stories, kissing babies, charming conservative Remuera matrons who buy his biography, anointing cronies and talking up New Zealand on international golf courses, he’s let himself become surrounded by an orchestra of advisors skilled in the ‘dark arts’, ‘attack’ troupes, his panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, and a congress of miscreants spreading dirt.
Cameron Slater, the author of the Whaleoil blog, recipient of National Party and Beehive inside information, publisher of paid content from lobbyists and guest of an Israeli government-sponsored PR educational, is a titan of venality. He’s a foul-mouthed, giant feral, posturing as a fee fi fo fum power ranger, out for blood and it doesn’t seem to matter whose blood. “Time to let those pricks know they can be got. I want to take out some pollies,” one of his hacked and published emails says.
Mr Key and Team Key are pretty sure that the ordinary New Zealander won’t read the e-mail laden content of the Hager book – only 4000 were published but it’s available on kindle – because he’s not one for reading anything much and he’s pretty sure they’ll be bored.
But it is not the content alone that is the smear the National Party should fear nor should it curse the timing of the publication for derailing its election campaign and leaving policies to rain on deaf ears. It is the undressing of the Prime Minister’s carefully framed public persona. Mr Nice Guy and his party has been found to be bereft of any moral compass.
Even he, a man with only a money-making philosophy, must now know the answer to the age old question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Yes Mr Key it does. We ordinary New Zealanders are receiving the message loud and clear and seeing it everywhere, not just whirling like a dervish in the blogosphere.
The first rule of politics is never believe anything until it’s been officially denied. Bismarck said that and look where it got him and Sir Humphrey’ knew how to wrangle his Prime Minister into line and call off the wolf pack when he had a slip up.
Obfuscation, Mr Key, is not going to make the outing of this disgusting and damaging behaviour go away nor is trying to shrug it off as perfectly normal for friends and foes alike to swim in the same political scum.
You can try and dismiss the emails as unreliable because they are hacked and the stories they tell as slanted but this defies comprehension when there really is only one possible slant, particularly when the actions of the panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, are concerned.
Allegations that this is a left wing conspiracy is really boring and offends the intelligence of ordinary New Zealanders who still think for themselves and won’t be bullied into following National Party advice on tactical voting in blue seat electorates.
Distancing yourself from the obscenity that is Cameron Slater doesn’t cut it either.
Look, we fully empathise with you when you say “at the end of the day, he’s not my guy” (and we know you probably rue the day you met him and correctly judged him as a law unto himself but tolerated him as the son of a blue blood Nat, sponsor and former party president,
It’s not okay to infer it is okay for your loose-cannoned panzer division, formerly known as Judith Collins, to be the “unwise” pimp who provided her mate, Mr Slater with the name and private details of a civil servant he wanted to name and shame as punishment for the leaking of information showing Deputy Prime Minister Bill English had been claiming $700 a week in allowances for living in his own home. The publication on the Whale Oil blog of the man’s contact details resulted in death threats against him and his family. Would it still be okay if the threat had been carried out, Mr Key?
Is it okay in your books for a government servant, even if he is an insider on the ninth floor of the Beehive, working alongside other National Party insiders, to “borrow” information belonging to the Labour Party because they could. Does that mean it is okay to steel the family silver because someone left the back door open and you stepped in? Or do you practice situational ethics?
And why was it okay for you to be so morally outraged that a police complaint was necessary when the media wanted to publish what you and Mr Banks actually said over your cup of tea, which proved it was nothing more than a clumsy, publicity stunt. We right thinking, ordinary New Zealanders call that a double standard.
In fact, National has become a moral hazard – a popular one at that for the time being – but don’t let your smugness make you complacent and platitudinous.
How are we to vote, positive or not, unless not voting means a vote for National by default – we need team Key to provide credible evidence that it is capable of delivering positive change with inspirational policies and a plan that benefits more than the favoured few.
At the end of the day, Mr Key, you need to earn back our trust with more than hollow words and don’t knows. You are the leader of a party that has acted high handedly and badly and exhibited publicly that the only ship to leak from the top is the ship of state.
We ordinary New Zealanders are disappointed. Your MPs and the legions of advisors, officials, bully boys and girls in the ranks, cronies and muckrakers need more than a pulse to enter the House and the ninth floor. They need to be held to account with a code of conduct that has consequences and public outing if they break it.
It will need to go well beyond swearing self-serving allegiance to their own re-election and re-appointment to positions of power and influence. The parliamentary oath obviously doesn’t hold sway anymore so will the court of public opinion have to sit in judgement more frequently, alertly and noisily to protect transparency and preserve the values we hold so dear and make us New Zealanders?
We’ll be watching you.