Friday, 11 December 2015

The Secret Agreement.

The Crusher Returns: Judith Collins, a shrewd Auckland lawyer, is well aware of the widely-held belief that politics has become an almost entirely disreputable profession. She knows that those who enter it are greeted with a knowing cynicism – as if both the voter and the politician have entered into a secret agreement that nothing good will ever come from the latter’s intentions and achievements.
 
JUDITH COLLINS is to be congratulated. There are very few western nations in which a parliamentarian hauling as much baggage as Ms Collins would be given a second chance. When did ours become the country that awards the average politician more lives than the average cat?
 
Is no one surprised that Ms Collin’s rehabilitation is so unsurprising. Is no one asking: why wasn’t her treatment of Justice Binnie; her decision to allow Serco into the New Zealand prison system; her fraught dealings with the Orivida company; and her friendship with the highly controversial blogger, Cameron Slater, enough – more than enough! – to rule out a return to the Cabinet Table?
 
The answer lies with, and in, us – the New Zealand electorate. Our steady disengagement from the political process (in which we were once amongst the world’s most enthusiastic participants) has been accompanied, and justified, by the widely-held belief that politics has become an almost entirely disreputable profession. Those who enter it are greeted with a knowing cynicism – as if both the voter and the politician have entered into a secret agreement that nothing good will ever come from the latter’s intentions and achievements.
 
In practical terms, this means that it is the honest and principled politicians who attract the most scathing condemnation. Such people have clearly failed to understand their job description, which demands only a show of decency – and not even that if the politician’s indecent objectives can be achieved swiftly, decisively – and with ostentatious brutality.
 
As Freddy Gray wrote recently in the British magazine, The Spectator: “What strange people we Brits are. We spend years moaning that our politicians are cynical opportunists who don’t stand for anything. Then along comes an opposition leader who has principles — and appears to stick by them even when it makes him unpopular — and he is dismissed as a joke.”
 
Not that the Brits have “strange” all to themselves. When David Cunliffe, having heard the statistics on domestic violence and met with some of its victims at the Women’s Refuge charity’s annual conference, told his audience that it made him “feel sorry for being a man” – a not unreasonable admission in the circumstances – he was universally pilloried. The New Zealand electorate doesn’t appreciate that sort of raw and unmediated political honesty.
 
Ms Collins, a shrewd Auckland lawyer, would never make such a fundamental error. She knows what New Zealanders expect of their politicians – and she gives it to them good and strong.
 
Critics accuse her of arrogance, but a heapin-helpin of self-importance has been de rigueur for National Party politicians ever since the days of “Piggy” Muldoon.
 
Others accuse Ms Collins of being unable to differentiate private from public responsibilities. But those who believe that all politicians are venal and self-serving remain completely unfazed by such charges.
 
The same applies to the Serco contract. Sure, the company has a less than stellar international reputation. Yes, it is determined to make incarceration profitable. But – so what? That’s what Capitalism does, and it’s unreasonable to ask capitalist politicians to do otherwise.
 
But, surely, it is the duty of the Prime Minister to uphold the highest standards of behaviour in public office? Regardless of the low esteem in which many citizens hold their political representatives, shouldn’t the Prime Minister do everything within his power to elevate the public expectations of his government?
 
John Key knows better than to attempt such a risky project. Improving the average citizen’s opinion of politics and politicians must, of necessity, involve reversing that secret agreement between the leaders and the led. Instead of endorsing the public’s withering contempt for the political process, Mr Key would be forced to contradict it. Instead of validating the unspoken assumption that the system is rotten and immutable, he would have to redefine politics as the best way of improving the lives of ordinary people.
 
In conveying these messages to the electorate, the Prime Minister would, of course, also be asking them to assume responsibility for holding him and his ministers to account. He would be inviting them to apply a consistent moral code to the conduct of all politicians, and imposing the duty of taking action to reprimand and/or punish all those who break that code. In short, he’d be demanding they behave like virtuous citizens.
 
“Crusher” Collins would roll him before you could say “Democracy”.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 December 2015.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

One is reminded of the musical play, Cabaret, which hinted at a connection between hedonism and nihilism - the hedonism of the cabaret nightlife, and the rise of the National Socialists.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's in the interests of the right-wing to have cynical, low information voters. It's as simple as that. To which end the tremendous bout of social engineering undertaken since 1984.

Anonymous said...

But haven't we known all this since about 1513, post Machiavelli's The Prince?

John said...

Would there be another country in the world where a politician could come back after having been caught drinking a glass of milk? I don't think so.

And Serco should definitely be sacked for letting fights happen in a prison. That would never happen in Corrections Department Prisons. Under the Corrections Department, we might have quite a few deaths at Otago prison, and there might be a riot at Springfield where the prisoners take over the prison, and burn down a whole wing causing $10 million in damage, but at least there's been no reports of fighting like at Serco.

Anonymous said...

John Key is a wise politician, he knows that Collins is a shrewd operator, unafraid and ambitious, he also knows that she is superb on the front bench. The front bench is where the battles are won, winning those battles demoralises his enemy's.
John Key has scored big on Andrew Little who dishonoured one of his best Generals, David Cunliffe, this has weakened Little's front bench to a point of impotence.
John Key announced with this rehabilitation his determination to secure a fourth fourth term Prime Ministership.
Andrew Little urgently needs to re-think his strategy and reinstate Cunliffe back to frontline fighting with a portfolio of duties to match Collin's. Unless Little does that he is confirming that he is a bureaucratic leader, who will not take chances, and give John Key his determination.

Anonymous said...

Good to see such a potent operator back in cabinet, not so good for the opposition, she will leave them 'crushed' and bruised in the debating chamber. So she leaked to Cam Slater - big deal Trotter, your hero Cunliffe did an interview with the equally toxic but leftwing Martyn Bradbury on his ascension to leadership and Helen Clarks government leaked and leaked to various media contacts - but Slater is evil and vile so that makes leaking to him bad.

Nick J said...

Yesterday afternoon was spent at the Victoria graduation ceremony. The Chancellor mentioned in his speach direct references to entrepeneurship and links to business and government. He gloried in the annual billion dollar worth of his university to the local economy. Leaving were indebted students. The pure rotteness of 30 years of neo liberalism permeated the thinking, the speakers position, the event and the reality.

Tradition was mentioned, lauded even. Which shows that like parliamentary democracy our traditions and institutions are party to the deep corrosion of their bodies by money and those who possess it.

Anonymous said...

Good article Chris.

You say
Critics accuse her of arrogance, but a heapin-helpin of self-importance has been de rigueur for National Party politicians ever since the days of “Piggy” Muldoon.

Arrogance has been around the National Party for ever, the most arrogant of all was Keith Holyoake, now there was a buffoon.
And a very Do Nothing PM at that.

But this lot are running a very close second to him.

Nandor Tanczos said...

Spot on Chris. That is why the whole 'Dirty Politics' thing was so depressing. Apparently even journalists who expect more from politicians are now to be condemned.

Charles E said...

Yes a reasonable arguments Chris, except you are part of the problem you complain of, always dishing politicians, as here.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@9:37

I don't know how to break this to you Anon, but Key put her back in at No. 14 - which is not on the Front Bench.

Try to bear up!

Chris Trotter said...

To: Charles E.

Ah, I see, Charles. Clearly, you'd prefer it if we went back to the days when the PM was greeted outside the TV studios by the Director-General of the NZBC and journalists were required to submit their questions in advance.

If the Fourth Estate is not allowed to keep the Government honest, and the electorate won't, who will?

Bushbaptist said...

John Key is getting desperate to find a "decent" minister. Had to call Crusher back into the fold because almost all the other ministers as as weak as piss-farts.

As GS so eloquently put earlier, the righties have been working away to make politics irrelevant to the general public. Why should people vote when it makes no difference?

What we have now is a one party Govt. with two branches. One slightly more "Compassionately Conservative" than the other. The term "Compassionate Conservative" is an oxymoron. One cannot be compassionate and conservative at the same time.

For a true Democracy to work the main parties must have policies that are diametrically opposite. That way people have a genuine choice.

Charles E said...

No Chris, does that really follow from my criticism?

And the demolitions you attempt on our politicians at times, almost always National ones of course, surely does not qualify as 'keeping the Government honest' does it. No it is nothing of the sort. You paint them as evil at times, which none are in reality, even Peters.
Your argument is that nowadays there is an unspoken conspiracy between the public and the elected to accept low standards of behaviour. That is a good theory.
I'm merely pointing out that you as a very public commentator are part of that, boots and all.
Of course for my part, I enjoy watching it so am guilty as a cynical bystander..

Anonymous said...

Interesting contrast in the two main parties, Cunliffe and Crusher are both high performance operators and both have big ambitions and egos to match. Labour rinse Cunliffe and Key reinstates Crusher to cabinet.

Its almost like they want to lose, or perhaps they believe the sanctimonious drivel spewing out of predictable blowholes on the cynicism of leaking to whaleoil - dirty politics - Id call it clever politics bring it on Crusher, great to see you back.

Anonymous said...

Chris

Didnt she win her electorate in a massive land slide in the midst of the dirty politics allegations. If the allegations were so bad, then surely she would not have won. Are you suggesting those people that voted her are complete morons for voting for her despite the allegations.

Maybe I have a different view of democracy. She democratically won her seat in a landslide making her eligible for cabinet selection. If you have a problem with that condemn those that voted for her!!!

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
I think Key will be wanting to get back to making real money for himself by the next term; He's done the job for the multinationals he set out to do and Shipley is his natural replacement, so she has to begin her restoration now.
Cheers David J S

Fern said...

David Cunliffe had only himself to blame for the hammering he got over “I’m sorry for being a man…” He made the mistake of pausing after “man”, thus making an exciting little soundbite for the press to seize on. (They probably couldn’t believe their luck.) He should either have carried on full-tilt with the rest of his sentence “…because family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men,” or he should have reworded it. I thought at the time – and I still think – that he was politically na├»ve in this matter.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny how those who support Collins described her as "high performance" "shrewd", "unafraid", "potent". Not a word about humanity or empathy, in which she is sadly lacking. She's just a horrible human being. I guess if that's the sort of person you want to be led by, but it's not as if we are in a war or anything. Personally I wouldn't want her in charge of a dust cart.

Brendon Harre said...

So Chris how does a modern social democratic progressive movement battle this jaded, cynical view of our political economy. How do we unite and find common cause to battle for the common good? Where is the hope?

Anonymous said...

John Key bought his reshuffle forward to dump on Labour.
Judith Collins is now a plus for National.
David Cunliffe is now a minus for Labour.
David Cunliffe is now a plus for National.
John Key is a people manager.
Andrew Little is not a people manager.
John Key wants to be re-elected PM in 2017.
Andrew Little does not want to be elected PM in 2017.
Andrew Little wants a safe seat in 2017.
Neither Rongotai, Mt Roskill or Kelston want Andrew Little!!!!.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11 December 2015 at 13:22
Your bang on there mate, the left feel that hacking into a private citizens computer, stealing his property and then penning a completely one-sided book by a recidivist left wing activist who releases it weeks before the election to inflict maximum political damage on his political foes is ok - and in a Machiavellian sense its bloody good politics.

The problem is middle NZ saw it for what it was - a cynical political hit job by a recidivist left wing post stirrer - who middle NZ happen to distrust and despise and Labor and the greens were the beneficiaries of this hit. So they hit the polling booths hard to make sure the coalition of Haager and Dotcom didn't steal the election and prevented this kind of Dirty Politics from prevailing over the more ordinary dirty kind - with damaging leaks and faux outrage - which we expect and ignore from the lot of them.

Kim, Nicky and Laila almost pulled off the biggest hit since watergate - but middle NZ saw it for what it was. Get off your high horse trotter, your not fooling anyone with this sanctimonious faux outrage.

Kat said...

Yes, we should condemn the total 47% that voted National. And when the next Labour govt is elected lets condemn the voters that put it in power.

This is a divided country and successive govts are elected by a small percentage of 'swinging' voters. So what else can be expected from an often nearly equally divided electorate.

Chris is right in that we the electorate are our own worst enemies.

vortexx said...

The essence of the "our steady disengagement from the political process" is patently shown by the way one of her appalling areas of performance is stated: "Her fraught dealings with the Orivida company."

I don't see Collins' dealings with the Orivida company as the main problem. Sure, there was enough to have seen her in another time, in another place, hung until no more devious breath was exhaled, but the capital problem for me was her dealing with us about the episode. And Parliament. That brazenness, the stunning arrogance, was born of a confidence that it didn’t matter, that it could be done, that she could get away with it.

Not only did our steady disengagement from the political process allow that to happen, but even worse now, the level of that disconnection sees some hailing the comeback as some sort of messianic resurrection.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Oh dear ... I got my dragons mixed badly there didn't I.. We are discussing Collins now not Shipley aren't we.
D J S

Grant said...

@ vortexx

"That brazenness, the stunning arrogance, was born of a confidence that it didn’t matter, that it could be done, that she could get away with it.

Not only did our steady disengagement from the political process allow that to happen, but even worse now, the level of that disconnection sees some hailing the comeback as some sort of messianic resurrection. "

Beautifully expressed. The age of the Athenian demagogues returns.

"Demagogues appealed directly to the emotions of the poor and uninformed, pursuing power, telling lies to stir up hysteria, exploiting crises to intensify popular support for their calls to immediate action and increased authority, and accusing moderate opponents of weakness or disloyalty to the nation. While all politicians in a democracy must make occasional small sacrifices of truth, subtlety, or long-term concerns to maintain popular support, demagogues do these things relentlessly and without self-restraint."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demagogue



Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Shipley is his natural replacement" Wha'?

"If you don't want to be called on what you say then think a little more carefully about how you say it."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Your bang on there mate, the left feel that hacking into a private citizens computer, stealing his property and then penning a completely one-sided book by a recidivist left wing activist who releases it weeks before the election to inflict maximum political damage on his political foes is ok - and in a Machiavellian sense its bloody good politics."
And yet the object of the alleged theft himself stole information for his (rather disgusting I might say) ends. Sauce for the goose anyone?

greywarbler said...

Fern
I agree that David Cunliffe was naive. He must have been lacking a sensitive antenna for the most effective way to reach today's audience.
The time for men doing mea culpa about treatment to women is over, new approaches are needed. True concern and looking for new ways to break through underlying support for violence would have been welcomed. Exhorting men to stop being violent has been repeated ad infinitum, and much money spent; result doesn't meet financial or cultural cost-benefit analysis.

GS at 16.12 - Exactly. Every word I agree with. And yet at the end I wonder if your opinion is not skating over another secret agreement.
Maybe we are at war. Maybe we are being attentuated - being dismembered by a thousand cuts and go on browsing like innocent, unaware animals being attacked by a vicious organism.

greywarbler said...

First Anon at 9.05
That's an interesting thought. I was just looking at the vid of Money Money last night. And I think that probably is the medium on which the Judith Collins and the National Party grow, a rich and fertile soil laced with blood and bone from the less fortunate hoi polloi.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBtn2NQ5k58
And then for some delicious hedonism.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chdpiSX2ino

MikeM said...

John@09:35, Serco's issue hasn't just been the fight clubs. It's been a near-total negligence in reporting serious incidents in a way that it's contractually required to do.

ie. Serco and the government designed the contract so that Serco had to tell the government how well it was performing, which of course then has an impact on assessments of how well Serco is performing. In response, Serco reports that things are running great, which is rubbish, but there's also every incentive in place for Serco to outright lie.

Go figure.

Prisons won't be easy to run for obvious reasons and Corrections aren't perfect either, but there's at least a reliable avenue for accountable representatives and Ministers to learn when stuff's going wrong, and deal with it, and (if necessary) for that information to be discoverable under the OIA.

Serco, meanwhile, is in the global business of being the lowest bidder for treading on people whom much of society is averse to caring about. It's an expert in knowing what it can get away with. Yet it's also not as if the government shouldn't also be held to blame, if not for hiring Serco in the first place then for the ridiculous arrangement for monitoring.

Grant said...

@GS. "Shipley is his natural replacement" Wha'?

"If you don't want to be called on what you say then think a little more carefully about how you say it."

12 December 2015 at 10:39

Another mix-up?

David Stone said...

Fair cop G S
Taking bad spelling to an extreme eh!
D J S

Anonymous said...

She is MULDOON who also was able to behave with impunity eg Marilyn Waring damaged by the lack of accountability of our political system.Political parties have too much power to damage others rights to democracy

Unknown said...

Michael Reddell asks why no one is concerned about our high unemployment. Could it be that we have bought Alison Maui's (out of the side of her mouth ) : "Kiwis don't wanna do the work"? In other words the glorious migrant meme has eclipsed concern for our people needing a recycle and or scrub up?

Victor said...

What concerns me most about our acceptance of bullies and manipulators in high office is that it reflects broader changes in our society, in which bullying and manipulation have become norms of behaviour.

peterlepaysan said...

Victor, you are so correct. Even more worrying is the medias complicity in this bevaviour. The media love it. They never call it out. It might offend advertisers.

Hey it makes great headlines,that attract advertisers.

It was the media that anointed Collins with "crusher".

Remember pony tail stories.

Who got bullied?

Who did the bullying?

Yeah right! The waitress was wanting unwanted attention.

Rachel Glucina was helping the waitress as a responsible Herald reporter.

Everybody forgot about john key.

Does anyone remember Paula Bennet and her behaviour. Not the media, now that a leadership position may be on the horizon.

Both National and the media love bullys. Bullying, as gangs know, commands "respect", as well as attention from generous business interests.

Anonymous said...

Chris, when you say "There are very few western nations in which a parliamentarian hauling as much baggage as Ms Collins would be given a second chance", are you forgetting that Dover Samuels managed to get a 16 year old girl pregnant whilst she was in his care, yet was subsequently reinstated by Clark?

In my mind Collins has done nothing that an astute politician wouldn't do in the normal course of her duties. The REAL issue is that Labour is simply terrified of her.

I'm not a betting man, but I'd give good odds for Judith to eventually replace John as Prime Minister.