Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Helen Clark'

On the uncanny resemblance between John Key and Sergeant Schultz

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In the 30-odd years that Judy and I have been providing media advice and training to prime ministers, prostitutes and pretty well every profession in-between, our teaching mantra has remained the same: “Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes”. It’s a practical rather than a necessarily moral slogan. Being straightforward with the media, telling the truth and admitting your mistakes is quite simply the only strategy that works. Everything else will get you into trouble or more trouble than you’re already in.

Our experience of our elected representatives – left, right and centre – has led us to the conclusion that most are reasonably honest and that the lying politician is a much rarer creature than the general population appears to think. Persuading MPs, Cabinet Ministers and the men and women who held the top job to be straightforward and tell the truth has not been a difficult or even a necessary task.

But will the buggers admit their mistakes? No way. To avoid the usual accusations of left-wing bias on my part, I’ll cite two examples from my side of the house. Helen Clark and the painting which she signed but didn’t paint; Helen Clark and the police car speeding her to Eden Park to watch the rugby.

Neither of these were hanging offences and reasonable explanations (or excuses if you prefer) could have been offered for both: PMs put their moniker on all sorts of things with charitable intent; the New Zealand Prime Minister arriving late for an international footie match isn’t a good look. And anyway, these cops are brilliant and safe drivers.

But Helen, who had been brought up in a family where lying was just about a capital offence, was unwilling to own responsibility for either of these relatively minor transgressions. She was reluctant to admit that she’d made a mistake or even that she’d failed to prevent others making mistakes on her behalf.

The outcome in terms of public and press reaction was extremely negative in both cases. Simple concessions, perhaps with a touch of humour, could have avoided all the fuss: “Well, I sign a lot of things for charity; but maybe I didn’t make it clear that I hadn’t actually painted the picture. I couldn’t paint like that to save my life; Yes, not a good look, I’ll admit, and not a good example to other drivers. Guilty as charged, I’m afraid.”

The problem with denial when you’ve done something wrong is that far from making the issue go away, it amplifies and protracts it. Admitting your mistakes tends to have the opposite effect. Your opponents may have a field day of self congratulation, but it will at least be brief.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons in “Followship” from the Labour Party

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In the past I’ve written several posts and articles about voluntary euthanasia. The ‘voluntary’ bit is crucial, since no-one who wants to go on living, however great their pain or however inconvenient their continuing existence to others, should be cajoled or browbeaten into changing their mind.

But it is hard to come to terms with the overweening arrogance of someone who believes they have the right to deny another human being, whose ongoing suffering has deprived them of all joy in living and who wishes to end that suffering, the right to do so.

The laws that govern these decisions and procedures will of necessity be complex and they must be watertight. But they are not beyond our ability to design and implement. Other countries have done so.

I don’t want to restart this debate. That is not the purpose of this post. This post is about the significance of comments on euthanasia cited in this morning’s Herald by the four contenders for the Labour Party leadership.

Iain Lees-Galloway has taken over responsibility for the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’  after its sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to get elected in September. Lees-Galloway is apparently gauging support before deciding whether to put the Bill back on the private members’ bill ballot. It was removed last year under pressure from the Labour leadership who, according to the Herald, “were concerned it could be an election-year distraction or that it could deter conservative voters”. The new Labour leader, whoever that is, could apparently have the deciding voice on the voluntary euthanasia question.

So what did the contenders for that position have to say?

Well, Nanaia Manuta was in favour of reintroducing the bill  because it would show “that Labour would stand up for those difficult conversations that need to be had”.

I thought that was a pretty principled position to take.

David Parker, who voted against legalising voluntary euthanasia in 2003, didn’t want to comment till he’d talked to Lees-Galloway.

Non-committal and therefore less satisfactory perhaps.

Grant Robertson and Andrew Little both support voluntary euthanasia, but neither considered it a priority at the moment. The fairly clear subtext of their replies was that it was a vote-loser and that a party that had polled 25% in September couldn’t afford to be seen supporting unpopular policies.

I’d call that unprincipled.     Read the rest of this entry »

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Whaleoil dishonestly accuses Helen Clark of dishonesty

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I suppose dishonestly reporting that someone else has behaved dishonestly could be regarded as a wonderful example of irony. But if the dishonesty of the reporter is transparent then it’s also a wonderful example of crass stupidity.

Either way, this is precisely what Cameron Slater has recently done. In a post on Whaleoil published a couple of days ago, entitled Manufacturing Clark’s History, Slater refers to a television interview the former New Zealand Prime Minister gave to Australia’s Channel Nine programme The Bottom Line and to a subsequent report on the interview, entitled ‘Helen Clark reflects on life as a leader’, which appeared on Stuff.

The Stuff report of the interview contains numerous quotes of things Clark said. You can tell they’re quotes because they’re all in inverted commas.

At one point in the interview Clark is asked how she pitched for her current job at the United Nations.

She replies: “So my pitch was, ‘This job needs a leader, and I am that leader’”.

That reply is directly followed in the Stuff report by this sentence:

Having led the Labour Party without barely a whisper of a coup for six years in opposition and then nine years as Prime Minister, human resources at the UN could hardly argue that credential.

Note that there are no quotation marks around the sentence. That’s presumably because Clark didn’t say it. Everything else she said in the Channel Nine interview is reported in quotes.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Polonius (behind the arras) offers some free advice to David Cunliffe

Hamlet Kills Polonius

I recall a meeting in the Leader of the Opposition’s office some time in 1999. Present were Helen Clark, Heather Simpson, Mike Munro, Michael Hirschfeld (then President of the Labour Party), Judy Callingham, Brian Edwards and possibly some others. Among the topics for debate was whether Labour should enter into a coalition agreement with Jim Anderton’s Alliance Party. The view of those in favour prevailed.

Under MMP, Labour won the election taking 49 seats in parliament, while the Alliance took ten. Fears that the Alliance’s more left-wing policies would damage Labour were proved to be unfounded.

In 2014, Labour Leader David Cunliffe has declined Russel Norman’s invitation  to enter into a pre-election coalition agreement with the Green Party, while conceding that, should Labour win the election, an unspecified number of senior Green Party MPs could expect to be part of his Cabinet.

Though it can be defended – a la Winston – as an appropriate reluctance to enter into coalition agreements before the votes have been counted, it’s hard to see Cunliffe’s rejection of the Green’s marriage, or at least ‘engagement’ proposal, as anything other than a snub. At the very least, the Labour leader is making it perfectly clear to Norman/Turei just who will be running the show, should National lose the election. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sort Of Open Letter to the ABCs in the Labour Caucus

A good mate pointed out to me that it wasn’t very smart to heap abuse on the heads of people whose opinion you hoped to change. He was referring to my most recent post On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party Stupidity, in which I called the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ brigade ‘numbskulls’.

My good mate is right. It wasn’t very smart and you aren’t all numbskulls. But I was angry with you. Very angry.

I’m still angry with you because, though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, that’s where my political sympathies lie – left of left. Like you, I want Labour to win the next election. I want to see the back of a government that rewards the rich and powerful and punishes the poor and powerless. So I’m unlikely to have time or sympathy for anyone whose words or actions make that Labour win unlikely.  That is what you are doing by supporting either Grant Robertson’s or Shane Jones’ bid for the leadership. Robertson can’t win for Labour and Jones is a harmful distraction.   Read the rest of this entry »

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John Key on 41%, David Shearer on 10%. That can’t be right. Can it?

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There’s been debate about the latest TV3 Reid Research poll. The poll, which was taken between February 12 and February 21, has National on 51.4%, Labour on 32.6% and the Greens on 11%. No other party reaches the 5% threshold.

In the ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ stakes John Key is on 41% with David Shearer on 10%.

Where the parties are concerned, the poll is out of step with recent TV1, Fairfax, Herald and Roy Morgan polls by between 2% and 7%. Commentators have also pointed out that in the last election all the major polls overstated National’s support by between 3% and 7%.

Given Labour’s and Phil Goff’s woeful results in that election, one might think it barely mattered.

But when you take into account the current level of unemployment, the Government’s abysmal handling of the Christchurch school amalgamations and closures, the Novopay debacle and the Prime Minister’s complicity in the shonkiest political deal I can remember since I’ve been in this country, National’s and its leader’s high ratings do seem somewhat strange.

But in one sense, the accuracy or lack of accuracy of the polls really is irrelevant. This is because the pollsters are objectively proved right or wrong only once every three years: after the election, when it’s too late for their influence on the outcome to be undone.   Read the rest of this entry »

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A conundrum: When is a secret ballot not a secret ballot? When you want to get rid of David Cunliffe of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In February of next year the Labour Party caucus is constitutionally obliged to conduct a secret leadership ballot. The key word in this simple statement of fact is “secret”. No caucus member will be required to say who he or she voted for.

None, that is, except David Cunliffe. Talk of Cunliffe’s demotion or exclusion from Labour’s shadow cabinet and, beyond that, of his possible expulsion from the parliamentary Labour Party, revolves largely around the issue of his refusal to say whether he will support David Shearer in that February ballot. Cunliffe is being asked to say how he will vote in a secret leadership ballot three months from now. His failure to do so is being taken as evidence of his disloyalty to Shearer and possible grounds for his expulsion from the Labour caucus.

This is not merely entirely unreasonable, it is a major breach of Labour’s own constitutional rules. A caucus member is being asked to declare in advance how he will vote in a secret ballot.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Despite the danger of becoming a right charlie, I offer some free advice to David Shearer.

 (Update: David Shearer and Helen Clark met in his office on Tuesday night.  They discussed, inter alia, the difficulties faced by a Leader of the Opposition.)

Welcoming wrongdoers to hell, Rowen Atkinson’s ‘The Devil’ turns his attention to the large assembly of atheists present and says, ‘You must feel a right lot of charlies!’ It occurred to me that, if David Shearer becomes Prime Minister in 2014, he will be well within his rights to address the same comment to the Shearer non-believers, myself included,  who wrote him off two years earlier.

So what does Shearer have to do to ensure that he has that moment to savour? For starters, he would do well to take note of the fate of his predecessor, Phil Goff.

Here’s what I know from first-hand experience of knowing and working with Phil. He is highly intelligent, extremely hard-working, hugely politically experienced, a tough debater, morally scrupulous, a decent human being. His reputation as a minister in Helen Clark’s government was second to none, most notably in the Justice and Foreign Affairs portfolios. As a candidate for the highest office in the land his credentials would seem to have been impeccable.

So why isn’t he Prime Minister?   Read the rest of this entry »

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The writing’s on the wall for David Shearer – and it’s in Tapu Misa’s hand.

A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.

Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.

Her politics are to the liberal left.

For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to the Herald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.

Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.

What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Shock! Horror! Labour Luvvie spurned by David Shearer!

David Shearer shuns Labour Luvvie. I spotted this intriguing headline in this morning’s Herald. What could it mean? Who was ‘Labour luvvie’ and why had David Shearer shunned him or her: I just had to read on:

‘David Shearer needs media help and he’s getting it – but not from former Labour love Brian Edwards.

‘Edwards was paid to media-train Helen Clark and her ministers, and even got the SOS call from Phil Goff during the election after a couple of years in the wilderness.

‘However, he’s been left out in the cold by the dynamic new Labour leader and his chief of staff, Stuart Nash. Sources tell me Sean Plunket was considered for media advice, but Nash told The Diary there will be “no external media training”.’

OMG, imagine my consternation! I was ‘Labour Luvvie’. I am ‘Labour luvvie’. And I have been ‘shunned’ by David Shearer – ‘shunned’ by a man I didn’t even know I was dating. ‘Left out in the cold’ by the ‘dynamic new Labour leader’ and his chief of staff, Stuart Nash.

Can you understand the humiliation? To be ‘left out in the cold’ by someone you spoke to once outside a cafe in Herne Bay, without even the chance to mail a billet doux or plight your troth.

And the ultimate insult – to learn that he’s getting what he needs, but not from you!

Could this all really be true? Of course, it was in the Herald. And the writer was not just some anonymous hack, but tabloid intellectual and rapier wit Rachel Glucina whom I’ve long since forgiven for calling me ‘irrelevant’.

Still, I refuse to give up hope. Someone else is bound to come along yearning for a luvvie. I may not even have long to wait.

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Random thoughts on why Labour did so poorly in the election

 

Josie Pagani, Labour’s candidate for Rangitiki in the last election and, incidentally, my researcher for two years on Top of the Morning, has penned an interesting opinion piece in today’s Herald  which the paper has headed “Workers lose faith in party with glum message”. Her theme is essentially that making people feel miserable about their lives is not a good way of getting them to vote for you. Helen Clark sometimes used the term ‘”shroud waving” to convey a similar message.

I think Josie has a point, though it’s difficult for an opposition Labour Party during an election to avoid talking about poverty, unemployment, kids going to school without breakfast, the minimum wage and the appalling and widening gap between rich and poor in this country.

Josie’s column led me to thinking of some other reasons why Labour did so poorly in the election. Some can be summarised in just a few words:

  • The extreme improbability of any political party in New Zealand being voted out after just one term in office;
  • The nation’s love affair with John Key, without doubt the greatest exponent of the photo opportunity and ‘skinetics’ in the history of New Zealand politics;
  • The relative lack of voter enthusiasm for Phil Goff;
  • Earthquakes, mining and shipping disasters which, in media terms, disadvantage those not in power and unable to influence events;
  • The Rugby World Cup, a convenient distraction for National shortly before the election;
  • The general euphoria that winning the Cup produced;
  • Widespread voter disengagement from politics, particularly on the Left.
  • The self-fulfilling nature of three  years of polls branding Key and National  sure-fire winners and Goff and Labour sure-fire losers.
  • Labour’s courage in advancing policies that made long-term economic sense, but were highly unattractive to voters in the short term: a capital gains tax and raising the age of eligibility for the pension.    Read the rest of this entry »

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The Prince Charles Syndrome

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I assume Phil Goff would like to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He has every reason to think he deserves the job. He’s served a lengthy apprenticeship, having come into Parliament in 1981, the same year as Helen Clark. And he’s had a distinguished career as an MP and Cabinet Minister. He’s highly intelligent and well-informed on a whole range of portfolios from Justice to Foreign Affairs. And he comes from good Labour stock.

Goff and his party are languishing in the polls at the moment, but their figures are actually better than Helen Clark’s and Labour’s were in early-mid 1996. Both the party and its leader then looked like dog-tucker. In my book, Helen, Portrait of a Prime Minister, she takes up the story:  Read the rest of this entry »

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