Apparently John Pagani has stepped down as Labour’s strategist to go and work as a lobbyist for the mining industry.
It’s hard to say from the outside how much influence strategists have on the politicians they advise. One National Party adviser once told me he thought ‘the Hollow Men’, Matthew Hooton, Peter Keenan et al were incompetents until he saw how Don Brash performed without them whispering in his ear, and then concluded they were visionary geniuses doing the best they could with an inferior tool.
So maybe Pagani has been maligned all this time. But he does seem to have been the strategic mastermind behind Phil Goff’s ‘Nationhood’ speech, and David Shearer’s ‘Dole Fiddler on the Roof’ speech – both designed to sell the Labour leaders to ‘middle New Zealand’ by provoking outrage on the left. Neither speech succeeded in that aim, instead they cost both leaders support within their own party and raised questions about Labour’s unity and stability.
Isiah Berlin famously argued that thinkers could be classified as either a fox, who knows many things, or a hedgehog, who knows one big thing. Pagani knew one big thing: post-Helen Clark New Zealand Labour was homologous to UK Labour in the 1990s, captured by far-left extremists, it needed to move to the right to win re-election. Unfortunately the big thing Pagani knew was completely wrong. Labour lost its extremists several decades ago and won three elections campaigning on the values Pagani thought were anathema to the public. National was forced to embrace those policies and values to win government.
I suspect I speak for pretty much everyone on the left when I say that the mining industry is welcome to him.