I got to experience the joy of being a political insider this week: for the first time I knew what the real story was behind a breaking political story – the great Green Party leadership challenge of 2013.
It kicked off on Wednesday: former Green Party candidate David Hay announced his intention to challenge Russel Norman for the Green co-leadership. It became a news story, presumably because it was all so weird and unexpected. Rachel Smalley declared that Hay ‘had the numbers’. Patrick Gower declared that Hay was trying to raise his profile and boost his list position, and that this was proof that the Greens were ‘greedy’, and also ‘crazy’. Chris Trotter decided that David Hay was a ‘philosopher king’ and that Hay was a stalking horse for a more serious unnamed challenger along with some other conclusions that I struggle to comprehend. Others talked about a grassroots revolution against the Parliamentary wing of the Green Party. Martyn Bradbury announced that change was needed because the Greens performed poorly in Auckland, only beating their nation-wide average in four Auckland electorates (a statistic that actually indicates the Greens performed strongly in Auckland.)
The real story, I learned from an anonymous senior Green Party staffer when she came home from work in a bemused mood, was that Hay had been a problematic candidate in the last election so the Greens were about to block him from standing as a candidate in the next election. Hay was unhappy about this so he announced his leadership bid as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the decision: if they went ahead with blocking his candidacy just after he’d announced his leadership bid wouldn’t it look undemocratic?
(They blocked him yesterday; Hay announced that this was an act of ‘self-mutilation’ and called for both leaders to stand down, behavior which helps explain why he was dumped as a candidate in the first place.)
So that’s pretty straightforward but it wasn’t something you could really guess based on the available facts, so all of the analysis was wrong. Which makes me wonder: is almost everything I’ve written and read about politics a series of sensible guesses that were wrong because they were reasoned out based on incomplete information? Is this what 90% of political stories look like to government insiders?