John Key did a media stand-up yesterday about Dirty Politics in which he mentioned the words ‘left-wing conspiracy theorist’ about twenty times, and insisted that everything in the book is a lie, and that the real dirty politics comes from the left.
From a communications point-of-view that’s a sensible approach. His audience is not the journalists at the stand-up, but rather the television viewers who haven’t read the book and who will see excerpts of the statement and be reassured by the PMs words.
But some of the reporters listening to the PM have read the book. And when Key insists that the real dirty politics comes from the left, I think, or hope, that they’ll reflect that no one on the left is publishing the addresses of journalists online in the hope that someone assaults or murders them in revenge for writing about tax-havens, which is what Cathy Odgers, Cameron Slater David Farrar and Matthew Hooton discuss on page 91. Also, no one on the left is going around brothels trying to find out whether journalists have visited them, so they can be blackmailed, which is what Cameron Slater, the Justice Minister’s close friend, and long-term collaborator with the Prime Minister’s office is up to. No one on the left runs smear campaigns against attempted rape victims, or publishes graphic affidavits describing their political enemies having sex. There’s no one comparable to Slater on the left of politics, or blogging. He is a phenomenon unique to the National Party. Key can insist that this is all just a lie, just a conspiracy story, but people who read the book know that this is simply documentation from Slater’s emails and that the Prime Minister is lying to their faces.
So I don’t think Key’s line will work, or that this story is going away. I haven’t talked to any gallery journalists since it was released but I suspect that – if nothing else – the confirmation of the long-nurtured bitter suspicion that Key’s office has been screwing them on OIA requests by forwarding them to Slater for early publication will ensure that this story runs and runs throughout the rest of the campaign.
Will it hurt National? I don’t know. I really thought the Oravida scandal at the beginning of the year would damage them, and it didn’t. Maybe nothing will. But if this is different I think it’s because it cuts against Key’s brand: the good guy who floats above it all, so much so that the media go to him, weirdly, as an impartial commentator on political events. If this pulls away the mask and reveals him as just another venal politician with an office filled with staffers digging dirt, then that will hurt the National Party.
Whatever the wider implications, the book has had a profound effect on me, personally. Something that doesn’t come across in the news coverage about Dirty Politics, and Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Jordan Williams, Simon Lusk et al is just how fucking awful these people are. They spend their lives trying to poison and contaminate our politics. They enjoy seeing people suffer. They get excited by the idea of breaking up the marriages of their political enemies and ruining their lives. And John Key stands up and bleats about how everything they do is fine, and the people on the left are the nasty ones. Fuck him.
I’ve been on the left for a while. I voted Labour then Green, and I’ll be voting Green again this year. But I’ve always tried to be detached and as non-partisan as possible. I didn’t always succeed, but the intention was there. I’ve never joined a political party, and I’ve been a constant critic of Labour. I spend half my time online arguing with other left-wing commentators.
But these people in National and its proxies are the fucking enemy. They literally hate most of the people in the country: Cameron Slater was delighted when the earthquake hit Christchurch, killed 185 people and destroyed thousands of houses, because those people were ‘scum’ who voted Labour. That’s the guy who is close friends with the Justice Minister and a core component of National’s media strategy.
These people shouldn’t be at the heart of our government. They’re a cancer. I’m not naive, I know that politics involves leaks; that there are dirty tricks in every government. But I like to think that if a left-wing government gets this bad, I’ll do something about it.
Because I’m going to do something about this. I’m not sure what, exactly. Join the Green Party, donate money to them and volunteer, to start with. Stop bickering with others on the left and focus on the real threat. Hopefully a lot more. Because these people are evil and they Do Not Get to Win.