Tuesday 20 October 2015

Spinning, Spinning, Spinning: Are Matthew Hooton's TPP Musings Personal Or Professional?

The Sultan Of Spin: Matthew Hooton has been delivering superior quality spin about the TPP across the entire media spectrum ever since the deal was signed in Atlanta. The question is: Is he spinning for love - or money?
MATTHEW HOOTON runs a PR company, Exeltium. His clients include some of New Zealand’s largest companies. Joseph Stiglitz, is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, and he recently told the readers of the New York Times, that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.” Do you think, perchance, these two events might be related?
In the fortnight since the deal was done in Atlanta, Hooton has been all over the media (social as well as mainstream) with his analysis of the TPP. The essence of what he’s been saying is that both the proponents and the opponents of the TPP are guilty of grossly over-selling its content. The free trade boosters claimed it would usher New Zealand into a land of milk and honey (or, at least, a land of milk powder and beef) while the fair traders claimed to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping over every ridge.
The truth, argues Hooton, falls somewhere in between. Moreover, New Zealand’s chief negotiator, the wily Tim Groser, determined to preserve this country’s bipartisan approach to free trade issues, was at some pains to bring back an agreement that met (more or less) the Labour Party’s famous five TPP preconditions.
“What’s not to like?” is Hooton’s upbeat refrain. Groser’s deal is something both political parties can sign-up to with a clear conscience. In fact, adds Hooton, mischievously, if Labour had been smart, it would have claimed the whole thing as a triumph. “By standing firm on our five preconditions,” Andrew Little could have said, “Labour gave Groser no choice but to bring home the bacon. So, what’s everybody waiting for? Fire up the barbie!”
Now, this is spin of a very superior sort: carefully crafted to calm people’s fears about the TPP, and convey a sense of cautious optimism about its content. The National Government comes out of it looking good – but also humble. Because, after all, it had to fashion a deal that Labour could live with. And Labour? Well, if the Left had only possessed a modicum of common-sense, it could have come out of this whole thing smelling of the finest red roses. That Little and his team have managed to cock things up so comprehensively is just, well, astonishing.
Seriously, as spin, this really sparkles.
So, why has the news media not made a determined effort to discover whether this excellent line in pro-TPP spin is nothing more than Hooton’s personal thinking on the matter. Just his idle cogitations, which, as a good citizen, he feels duty-bound to share with the rest of New Zealand. Or, whether he’s actually acting on behalf of a client?
Because if, just for the sake of argument, I belonged to the New Zealand United States Council, a body committed to “fostering and developing a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between New Zealand and the United States.” And if, as an American member of the Council, I was a strong “advocate for the expansion of trade and economic links between the two countries including a comprehensive free trade agreement achieved either bilaterally or in the context of an expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.” And if the Council was Exeltium's client. Well then, I'd feel that Matthew was giving us truly excellent value for our money.
Not that I have any way of knowing who – if anyone – has contracted Hooton to sell the TPP to an apprehensive New Zealand electorate. But, you know, were I the editor of a major New Zealand newspaper, I’m pretty damn sure I’d be asking one of my best reporters to find out.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 20 October 2015.


Nick J said...

Well sniffed Chris: rats may be washed and perfumed but ultimately they still smell of rat.

To answer the newspaper question of why they have not been rat catching, simple: they are owned, run and operated by rats.

greywarbler said...

So that's where the Sparkles went. Cadbury stopped making Sparkles in 2008 (Kiwi lollies lose their Sparkle). This was reported on by the indefatigable Dominion Post which will no doubt follow this report and delve into Matthew Hooton's involvement with this sweet treat.

But the trend today is to steer clear of sugar, as latest scientific findings have found it injurious to individual's health and welfare and the nation's economic wellbeing. I think Hooton should desist in dabbling in this enterprise, whatever the prize is for him.

Anonymous said...

Well I am not 100% sure, but he acknowledges that he is from the right, he certainly has sources within Labour, I have some proof of what he says from one of the LECs in Auckland. He would probably have sources in all the political parties because of his writing, radio and television appearances, he is widely followed by all political parties and people from those parties would communicate with him. He is a good writer and communicator. He knows a great deal about the political processes in NZ. I believe his TPP opinions are honest and well written. I have never spoken or had contact with him. Chris, I have never spoken or had contact with you and I believe your opinions are honest and well written. The truth of the matter is that Labour have stuffed up badly on the TPP, they are seen by many who comment politically that they are, ill informed (beef to India), inept and unworthy of support. I agree with most of them.

Bushbaptist said...

Mathew's mother put the nappies on the wrong end when he was a baby.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I am beginning to believe that Andrew Little is finding that he is leader in name only. But even that doesn't begin to unpick the question of how labour could have cocked this up so comprehensively. Hooton analysed this on Monday with Catherine Ryan, not very often I agree with him but he was pretty spot on there. All they had to do was say "We'll wait until we see the actual document." It's not as if the public was pressing them for a decision on it. But now cock-up seems like an understatement.

pat said...

lmao...aint no doubt about it...one must concede however that Mr Hooton has developed a nice little earner for sweet f a

Anonymous said...

President Obama, Helen Clarke, Phil Goff and now (allegedly reluctantly) Andrew Little are in favour of the TPP.

Helen said we would be crazy not to be part of such and important trading block, Phil Goff has said the TPP is not the monster its detractors claim (he after all kicked it off and knows it back to front) and of course National believes its good for us.

Another Liberal Nobel Laureate golden boy Paul Krugman is having second thoughts about the TPP, initially he was a lukewarm opponent (this guy won his Nobel for trade theory so he would know). His parting comment on it is:
"The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.:

I can't see us losing much from the TPP, and we gain reasonably, at the end of the day if its good enough for the greatest labour leader in living memory then its good enough for me.

Tiger Mountain said...

“It's not as if the public was pressing them for a decision on it.”–Guerrilla Surgeon

exactly, why was the 5 point TPP bottom line recoiled from within hours of NZLP’s short lineup meeting the Groser delegation? if not obviously explainable–deep state is the answer–c’mon old chap some things are bigger than this ghastly party thing, old sausage…you don’t want things to get sticky, remember how we shook up Goffy in 2011…

greywarbler said...

Somebody at 9.49 21/10 said that because some Labour leader liked TPP that was good enough for them. Of course some NZs don't care to set any standards for anything and are too craven to make a complaint even. She'll be right, don't worry. +

So don't read about the other treaties and the bad deals countries have had from them. Don't inform yourself as is your precious right, hard-won by thoughtful, protective citizens. You probably thought Roger Douglas was the best thing since sliced bread too. 'A businessman who knew what he was talking about, get the country on its feet etc...'..

Anonymous said...

Re: Labour party insights, you must remember that Hooton is a good friend of Mike Williams ex-Labour party president of some standing. They often appear on radio and both refer to each other as friend.

Charles E said...

Of course Hooton does work for your enemies Chris but who ever said, let alone Hooton, that he didn't? He's a fully 'interests declared' party.
And one man's spin is another man's well seated, objective argument or fact. You know that as you do both all the time.

On the TTP I don't think it is done yet. The US may reject it. They too have very silly politicians who say they will cancel it or flout it, and other treaties. Trump for one. Yeah right, but they may not have to eat their words if it does not pass Congress.

To be fair to Little, I think he meant his government would pass whatever laws were right for NZers, and if sued, so be it. That is true of most governments and so he should have right away clarified that and withdrawn 'flout'.
Only if NZ gets sued will the huge majority that has no real concerns about the TPP take another look. And then only if it's a major issue of policy we are sued on and then only if we lose. If not the TPP will get even more support.
Another thing against Kelsey's team is NZ biz may successful sue the US, or Japan or Canada. Then will you still oppose it?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Another thing against Kelsey's team is NZ biz may successful sue the US, or Japan or Canada. Then will you still oppose it?"

Yes. If it's wrong in principle than it is wrong – both ways. As long as the law seems genuinely concerned with something like preserving the environment, rather than simply preserving local businesses. That sort of moral ambiguity is what pisses me off about the right.

Anonymous said...

Both, personal and professional, he knows how to make a Quid.

Jigsaw said...

Mike Williams and Mathew Hooton friends? They deserve each other. Remember how Mike Williams went to Oz in a last desperate attempt to 'dig some dirt' on John Key....