One thing I’m not going to do, is read “Dirty Politics”: it’s just muck raking. Peter Dunne at an election candidates meeting in Khandallah
By Roger Childs
It was inevitable that Dirty Politics would rear its head again, once parliament resumed after the election.
Those who bothered to read it right through, knew that the National Party and John Key in particular, were seriously compromised by the contents. Furthermore, the debate over whether writers should disclose their sources and the unwise raiding of Nicky Hager’s house, have kept the mud boiling.
However, as often happens with breaking news, the cartoonists were far more astute than the political commentators. Dirty Politics caused John Key and the party bosses some anxious moments, but did not derail National’s campaign. Judith Collins, the cabinet minister with the closet links to the scurrilous right wing bloggers, was offered up as sacrificial mutton and Jason Ede, the main conduit from the PM’s office, quietly slipped away. National duly romped back into power.
Seeking out the truth
Nicky Hager investigates behind the masks of press releases, official communiqués, confidentiality claims and national security. Plenty of people are prepared to provide him with information, but obviously do not always want their identities revealed.
Hager has built up a world-wide reputation for honesty and integrity, but his approach is controversial in New Zealand and invokes the ire of people with power and influence.
The Hager books have revealed a lot of things that most New Zealanders would not otherwise have known, including
- spying for, and sharing intelligence with other nations
- the surreptitious collusion of our armed services with the Americans over many years
- involvement with the British in post-war Iraq when ostensibly we were working for the UN
- political spins on issues from genetic engineering to the hounding of Ahmed Zaoui
- working with the CIA in Afghanistan and supplying crucial intelligence to the American armed forces
- the nefarious activities of the National Party in the 2005 election campaign involving hiring right-wing overseas PR firms, dubious publicity and questionable fund raising.
In many ways Dirty Politics is a sequel to The Hollow Men. However, it not only catalogues the political shenanigans involving the close links between National Party and right wing bloggers in discrediting opponents, but also looks at the bloggers’ agenda in the Len Brown sex scandal; their campaigns against unions and individuals they didn’t like; opposition to the anti-obesity cause; support for the tobacco and chocolate industries, to name but a few.
To read or not to read
This is a cynically timed attack book from a well-known left-wing conspiracy theorist. It makes all sorts of unfounded allegations and voters will see it for what it is. John Key
The National Party didn’t want their supporters to read Dirty Politics, fearing large scale resignations. Fortunately for the government, right-wing voters were generally happy to accept the prime minister’s assurances.
The cartoonists had a field day with the allegations and revelations, and showed far more perception that many of the political commentators. A lot of the latter showed their ignorance in media columns which revealed their shallow understanding of Dirty Politics. Some even attacked the author, a sure sign that they hadn’t done their reading.
Out of many outstanding cartoons, one of the best was set in a muddy swamp and showed Slater sinking beneath the slime while Judith Collins was also slipping away. Standing on Collins with the bottom of his trousers covered in mud was John Key exclaiming At least my hands are clean!
People of all political stripes, should read Dirty Politics, because it reveals a corrupt and destructive style of politics which should be utterly rejected. The subtitle sums it up: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment.
As with all his books, Hager’s exposé of the negative campaigning in 2014 is meticulously researched, carefully footnoted and fluently written without recourse to polemic or hearsay.
More developments to come
It’s not going away, and John Key has many serious questions to answer. His ludicrous statement in parliament recently, about not communicating with Cameron Slater in his capacity as prime minister, shows his vulnerability.
There are still plenty more throws of the dice in the dirty politics game, with the opposition having plenty of ammunition, and Nicky Hager soon to have his day in court over the police search warrant and the seizure of property.