FROM: Perdita Causa Public Relations Ltd
TO: Hon. Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition
RE: Winning in 2017
THINK OF YOURSELF, Andrew, as the captain of a company pinned down by enemy fire and fast running out of ammunition. In this situation, you have three options. 1) Put your faith in the Geneva Conventions and surrender. 2) Hope that reinforcements arrive before your ammunition runs out. 3) Identify a weak spot in the enemy’s defences and attack.
Option No. 1 should be ruled out. The Geneva Convention may still apply in warfare, Andrew, but what we are discussing here is politics. Clausewitz may have said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, but what he neglected to say is that, of the two forms of conflict, politics by far the more unforgiving. There are no Geneva Conventions in politics, Andrew. If you give up the fight, your reputation will be shot.
Yes, they stood aside for Michael Wood in Mt Roskill – to excellent effect. So, why aren’t they doing the same in Mt Albert? Yes, National’s not fielding a candidate, we get that. And, yes, the Greens are keen to give Julie Anne Genter more exposure, we get that too. (She’s very impressive.) What nobody in the Greens seems to get, however, is that all Joe and Josephine Public will take from the spectacle of Labour versus Greens in Mt Albert is that these two parties are not BFFs after all – they’re rivals.
All of which, Andrew, leads us to wonder whether relying on the Greens to hoist you and Labour into power on their shoulders is really such a good idea. Reinforcements aren’t much use if your unit’s been over-run and slaughtered. About all they’re good for then is burying the dead. Which (and we must apologise here for expressing such a wicked thought) may well have been their objective all along.
Which brings us to Option No. 3 – finding a weak spot in the enemy’s defences and attacking.
On the face of it, this would seem to be the most unrealistic option of all. National is bigger than Labour, richer than Labour, and enjoys all the advantages of incumbency.
Key may have gone, but Bill English is well respected – and may soon be well liked. So, if you were thinking about targeting English as National’s weakest link, then we would urge you to stop right now. Playing the man rather than the ball always makes those responsible look petty and weak.
No, if you want to discover National’s weak spot, stop looking for a person and start thinking about the spirit of the times. Things are about to turn very nasty: not just here, but everywhere. The coming of Donald Trump is History’s answer to Leonard Cohen’s last, chilling, challenge/question: “You want it darker.”
Your winning strategy, Andrew, is to answer that challenge/question.
Michelle Obama famously quipped: “When they go low, we go high.” Well, Andrew, if the zeitgeist wants to make it darker, then you and Labour must promise to make it lighter. With tolerance and decency shutting down all over the world, you must make New Zealand a shining refuge for both. With the state, everywhere, assuming the role of overseer, jailer and spy, Labour must speak out boldly for liberty, dignity and the individual’s right to privacy.
Here’s what we propose.
Labour announces a dramatic overhaul of the freedom of information legislation. State sector CEOs are warned that, under a Labour Government, the unjustified with-holding of information will be a sacking offence. The Ombudsman’s Office will receive a massive boost in funding. Every cabinet minister in a Labour-led Government will be required to make themselves available for live media interviews. There will be more money for news and current affairs programming on public radio and television, and a special fund for the support of investigative print journalism. The surveillance powers of the SIS and the GCSB will be curtailed.
Remind your colleagues, and the electorate, Andrew, that Labour stands for the freedom and dignity of every New Zealander.
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, 6 January 2017.