Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Thakur Ranjit Singh

National Party seems to carry the legacy of its past leader, recently Knighted Sir John Key, in copying him to win an election. The hallmark of National’s win in 2014 election was its indulgence in Negative Campaigning.

National’s campaign model was to use outside groups to deliver hard-hitting “mongrel –type” messages on behalf of the Party, while protecting the leader. 

The government machinery rubbished Nicky Hager’s claims raised in his 2004 book, “Dirty Politics” and Key won, largely due to a weak and divided opposition, and effects of negative campaign. (Read analysis of Dirty Politics in KIWI PUNDIT blog, parts 1 to 5. 

Since departure of Key, leadership in National passed to Bill English. National’s smooth and confident fourth-term run was rudely interrupted by Andrew Little’s Hail Mary pass to Jacinda Ardern. Positive poll results for Labour and Jacindamania have been causing uncertainty, desperation and perspiration in National Party.

National Party's smear campaign of discrediting Labour Party was well-depicted by NZ Herald cartoon of 18 September, 2017. This depicts how a scarecrow, usually a figure of a person in old clothes is set up to frighten crows or other birds away from crops. Here the imagery is that National Party is using advertisements of imaginary taxes to scare away the voters.

With departure of Key and the ‘hounds” of National Party being exposed and kennelled, the negative campaigning became obsolete.

Under Bill English, a new form has taken shape- Dirty Campaigning. This involves picking up things that are lies, borders on hypocrisy, using scare tactics and relying on negativity. You discredit opposition because you cannot stand on your own merit, spending all your energies and advertising dollars in smearing your opposition with information that is not even correct.

Their hypocrisy was rudely exposed by Corin Dann of TVNZ . Very cleverly he pulled up Bill English on Q + A (17.09.17) on National’s desperate attempt to discredit Labour. When asked by Dann if there would be any interest increase under National, English replied that no government could guarantee that. Dann retorted, then why National was sending lies in campaign flyers claiming that interest would go up if Labour came to power?  He asked, whether it was not hypocritical, lies and scaremongering, when National could not guarantee interests themselves?

Nicky Hager's 2014 book, "Dirty Politics" that was discounted by National Party as mischief-making. But it revealed how John Key had two-pronged strategy where his hired hounds discredited opposition, while he maintained good clean image, that came to be known as  the"smiling assassin"

English retorted that interest would go up as Labour would have to borrow more. He was again proved a liar and scaremonger by Dann who stated that National’s debt went up from 9% of GDP to 25 % and yet interest rates dropped. Hence, National was relying on misinformation. 

On the $11.7 billion hole, nobody could prove there was one, yet National was still using this as scaremongering in campaign. The other forms of taxation: inheritance, income and capital gains have all been shelved. And fart tax? But why were they still being used by National with negativity in Radio campaign. 

On water tax, there would not be substantial difference, so why are lies presented to people? Lies, and more lies. In a politically-motivated farmers protest in Waikato, we had a scenario made famous by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. In his book, “Things Fall Apart” which I studied as school literature in my Fiji Secondary school, I still recall one memorable adage: “outsiders crying louder than the bereaved”. This was the case at Waikato protest, orchestrated by National supporters, but very conveniently, denied by Bill English.

Federated Farmers, who organised the protest where few of those who attended would ever be affected by such royalty.

Key (pun intended) players in National Party's Negative Campaign, as revealed by Nicky Hager's "Dirty Politics: From left-Cameron Slater, Simon Lusk, Jordan Williams, Carrick Graham and Cathy Odgers ( NZ Herald photo)
Of the 1.2 million hectares of farmland in Waikato, only 20,000 (1.6%) is irrigated, and only 15,000 ha (1.25 %) are dairy farms. Hence, the protest in Waikato was indeed like a funeral where the outsiders cried louder than the relatives of the deceased. The event does not escape the scrutiny that since it was organised at the home ground of Jacinda a few days before election smacks and stinks of Dirty Politics.

Indeed, some farmers felt threatened by a 37 year old woman and held a protest march, strategically in her hometown. For a moment, ignore the fact that many of those farmers have their own water supply, or never irrigate, hence the tax will not affect them. But the fact that the march started and ended  at the local RSA shows how  serious they were, and I suppose they had a good piss-up and enjoyable time after the protest, which ironically was called ‘non-political.

What is very evident in this election campaign is negativity of National versus positivity of Labour. 

Over the last nine years, National has so many skeletons in their closet, but Jacinda is too decent to use them in Labour’s ad to degrade them. If she wanted she could have exposed skeletons that John Key and Bill English amassed in National’s closet.


But no, Jacinda is too decent. If she wanted, she could have arranged a union protest, and gone to Bill English’s back yard, as National supporters descended on Morrinsville. 

She could have organised it in a small town in the Southland region of New Zealand, located 20 kilometres south of Lumsden and 60 kilometres north of Invercargill. In there, she could have taken a dip in local Oreti River, and come with a ton of dirt. That would have been the clean Oreti River of Dipton, hometown of Bill English!

If she really wanted to be nasty, she would have prepared this campaign ad:

What happens when a lying Foreign Affairs Minister misleads a sleeping Prime Minister, and equally intellectually- lazy Finance Minister, who pays $30 million dollar of your money as bribe to a Saudi Arabian middleman to obtain a trade deal that never eventuated? And that payment was based on legal threats, from a legal opinion that never existed!
Now, can you trust such an intellectually-lethargic Finance Minister as your next Prime Minister?“ End of Ad.

But you will never see this advertisement.

Jacinda Ardern is too decent to degenerate and descend to the gutter level that National has sunk to.

This ad will just blow away like National’s Fart Tax in smear campaign.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

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