Tuesday, September 26, 2006



Brash does the decent thing

Don Brash has finally severed ties with the Exclusive Brethren, declaring that National wants nothing to do with a group which uses such underhanded tactics. Good. While he vacillated shamefully for a few days, he got there in the end, and that's what matters.

Meanwhile, Pete Hodgson, who since Saturday has been calling on Brash to renounce the Brethren, is now calling him a flip-flopper for doing so. It's a perfect example of the emptiness at the heart of politics - there seem to be no principles, only tactics.

33 comments:

I think it's fair enough to draw attention to his indecision, it's an important issue given that he aspires to be PM, but I agree that tactical considerations now appear to dominate over all others.

You may be interested in another example, this time from Oz, where Labor having advocated the establishment of a federal Water Ministry but criticised the Coalition for establishing a National Water Office - it's all a bit pathetic really as water probably is *the* biggest medium term issue for Australia. Interestingly, it is Turnbull who's star rises with this issue as he is the Under Secretary for Water.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 12:38:00 PM

I think saying that Brash "got there in the end" is far too kind. He clearly faced a caucus revolt, and media trouble, if he didn't renounce his links. I really don't think he deserves any credit at all.

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 9/26/2006 01:04:00 PM

Wonderful.

Now anyone ringing the National Leader's office wanting an appointment will be asked 'are you a member of a religious group that the Prime Minister deems acceptable?' before they can get one.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/26/2006 01:06:00 PM

Russell: I think you're probably right - what is it with Brash and the Brethren? - and it's a fair avenue of attack. But to criticise him for changing his mind at all, when that's exactly what you've been demanding is hypocritical and intellectually dishonest.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/26/2006 01:24:00 PM

"Now anyone ringing the National Leader's office wanting an appointment will be asked 'are you a member of a religious group that the Prime Minister deems acceptable?' before they can get one."

Substitute Prime Minister with 'National Caucus' or 'Mainstream New Zealand' and you sentence may be close to the truth

Posted by Anonymous : 9/26/2006 01:29:00 PM

sure.

It's still appalling.

Refusing to meet with all members of a particular church because you don't like something that 7 members of that church did is highly objectionable.

Refuse to meet the instigators of the false election leaflet; refuse to meet anyone who hired or approved the hiring of privage investigators etc. etc.

But this guilt by association? This bill-of-attainder-like decision.

People have not broken the law, but because people whom they are related to, or who attend the same congregation as, or belong to a different congregation of the same chruch as, them, did something some New Zealanders consider not illegal, but perhaps distateful or immoral they should all be punished.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/26/2006 01:58:00 PM

RB:

You're probably right, but I'll be happy if media criticism and the threat of a revolt in the Labour caucus convinces some folks on the Labour front bench to switch to decaf and rethink their toxic waste strategy of recent weeks. To be coldly pragmatic, I'm not interested in why the bullshit buffet is closed, as long as it happens sooner rather than later.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/26/2006 02:00:00 PM

Graeme, you're being a little disengenuous here. When you request a meeting with the PM of course you say who you're representing if not simply arranging a personal meeting and of course the PM, Leader of the Opposition can decline the meeting - it has nothing to do with groups approved or disapproved of by anyone. I'd not meet with any group that had hired a PI to investigate another political party. Such behaviour has no place in NZ's democracy.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 02:05:00 PM

backin15 - what I'm suggesting is that the decision to refuse private meetings with anyone from the Exclusive Brethren (which I beleive is what Don was called on to do by Labour and ultimately acquiesced) is not a decision to refuse to meet with people who hired a PI, but much broader.

A member or members of the exclusive brethren church appear to have hired a PI. Don Brash should refuse to meet with them. He should not refuse to meet any member of the exclusive brethren because of something those people did.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/26/2006 02:20:00 PM

Graeme, I understand your point. I don't think blaming Labour in this situation is warranted however, Brash and the National caucus have, to varying degrees, accepted the support of members of the EBs, and only they can be accountable for the situation they find themselves in. That Labour drew attention to some of the more dubious behaviour of *members* of this group is simple politics.

I have to say I don't believe the various declaration made by the individual members of the EBs. I think the similarity between the various campaigns in different countries suggests a fairly high degree of co-ordination, not the random acts of isolated individuals.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 02:32:00 PM

"Refusing to meet with all members of a particular church because you don't like something that 7 members of that church did is highly objectionable."

Graeme - get real. If this were about a 'normal' group, rather than the EB's, you'd have a case. Of course, then we might have expected to have heard some signs of real dissention within the EBs at the actions of an individual member(s). The fact there hasn't been any visible dissent (presumably dissenters would face excommunication..), coupled with the evidence the EBs are coordinating their campaigns across national boundaries, just blows that case away.
By far the greatest part of the threat to the operation of NZ's democracy comes from the actions of the EBs themselves not from any reduction in access to power that comes as a consequence.
What they *should* be experiencing for the good of our political system is a sharp metaphorical slap across the face and exactly that reduction in access.

Posted by Huskynut : 9/26/2006 02:54:00 PM

backin15:

Sorry, I think you're the one being disingenuous here. Richard Nixon was raised a Quaker, and he was responsible for some pretty legendary political skullduggery. But if I suggested that placed all Quakers beyond the pale, I can think of one other member of that *ahem* oddball little sect (Marian Hobbs) who would quite strenuously disagree with you.

Gareme isn't misrepresenting what Hodgson's been saying - and neither is I/S for that matter. Perhaps it's enitrely fair to draw attention to his words as well.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/26/2006 02:55:00 PM

Craig, I understand Graeme's point (though didn't initially) and agree that not all members of the EBs should be damned by the actions of their leaders (not least of all because it is clear there is a major point of division between the leaders and the followers). However, practically speaking (perhaps politically speaking), Brash really had to say he'd not meet with the EBs unless someone from within leadership of the EBs credibly disclaimed the actions of the seven.

The question is, would anyone now believe the EBs leadership given everything that's happened recently? Frankly, I wouldn't.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 03:14:00 PM

Sorry, I think you're the one being disingenuous here. Richard Nixon was raised a Quaker, and he was responsible for some pretty legendary political skullduggery. But if I suggested that placed all Quakers beyond the pale, I can think of one other member of that *ahem* oddball little sect (Marian Hobbs) who would quite strenuously disagree with you.

No, you're being disingenuous, and so is Graeme. The EB aren't the Quakers, they're a tightly-controlled sect which has been acting in a very creepy fashion.

Labour didn't tell Brash to stop meeting with its representatives, his own caucus did, because to continue the association would have made a mockery of the loudly expressed distaste for its covert action.

The same caucus was clearly upset that Brash didn't bother to inform it of what he was doing. Honestly, is everything Brash's caucus says to him Helen Clark's fault?

I can only imagine the hullaballoo on Kiwiblog if the roles had been reversed and Clark continued to meet with an organisation that had been secretly spying on Brash and his wife. I mean, tell me I'm wrong ...

I think the other factor is plain distaste. Rich, Brownlee and others clearly don't want to be associated with these people.

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 9/26/2006 03:52:00 PM

backin15:

Well, that's an argument. But it's quite legitimate to ask whether Pete Hodgson gives a shit about the Exclusive Brethren, boyond how useful they are as a cudgel to beat the National Party with?

Perhaps, behind closed doors, Labour - and its Maori & PI wings in particular - are diengaging themselves from the faith-based bigots they're happy to "accept help" from. That process might be helped along if the MSM hung around for a while the next time they sweep into town for a photo-op, and ask some questions about who these people are, how they treat dissenters and women, and how much influence that have on communities the left consider electorally vital.

But, sadly, I think I/S is right. A lot of the hot air around the EB's - if not most of it - is all about tactics and very little about principle.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/26/2006 04:16:00 PM

RB, I don't believe it's a surprise to anyone that I'm generally a National supporter, but the reason I'm commenting on this matter now, having been rather quiet, is not that I want to blame Labour, but because I disagree with Brash' caving, however politically expedient.

"they're a tightly-controlled sect which has been acting in a very creepy fashion."

I'd have said that they were a tightly controlled sect members of which have been acting in a very creepy fashion.

"Labour didn't tell Brash to stop meeting with its representatives, his own caucus did."

Yes the National caucus did, but so did Labour. Are you seriously disputing that a number of high-ups in Labour have been calling on Brash to denounce the EB and refuse to meet them in the future?

"I can only imagine the hullaballoo on Kiwiblog if the roles had been reversed and Clark continued to meet with an organisation that had been secretly spying on Brash and his wife."

No organisation (to my knowledge) has been spyin on the PM, some members of an organisation have.

If the entire church had been spying then the entire church is off limits. The Catholic church isn't off-limits because in some catholic congregations a substantial number of catholics wish harm on abortionists. And nor should every member of the EB church because of the actions of some, or many, or even most.

And I do think Labour bears some responsibility for the National caucus's decision over this. Had Labour not vilified the entire EB church, or impliedly suggested that meeting with members of that church meant agreeing with everything they stand for and every tactic they use, then it would not have been necessary ... just as National will bear some responsibility if the Labour caucus decides to pay the money back (even if as Dean Knight has suggested they perhaps shouldn't have to).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/26/2006 04:29:00 PM

Graeme, I really take issue with the idea that the EB leadership are just simple church folk, and that anyone in that sect would act without the authority of that leadership. This a bullying, controlling organisation that really hurts people who step out of line

Check out the ABC Four Corners page I linked to from my blog this morning. Watch the interview with the New Zealander who lists the family members who have committed suicide because they could not bear pressure from their leaders. Stop pretending this is a benign organisation.

The idea that Labour bears complicity because it urged Brash to cease contact doesn't hold up. Labour and National urge each other do do things all the time. As I noted a little while ago, National had moved to distance itself from the EB before the PI stuff blew up anyway: hence the "they did us more hard than good, the association was not welcome" line that everyone was reciting.

Presumably someone forgot to tell the leader. I think you know deep down that meeting with EB representatives without bothering to tell his colleagues was, given all that's happen, an act of the most screamingly bad judgement on Brash's part.

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 9/26/2006 04:49:00 PM

Russell:


I'm pretty fucking upset with the whole National Party (and most of the rest of Parliament for that matter) who bent over backwards to avoid criticising Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe for his "world without gays" drivel. He's only the elected head of a Christian denomination that's about as mainstream as you can get - you know, our head of state is legally obliged to be be an Anglican.
It's not as if he's a fringe-dweller, whose real influence is next to non-existant, like Brian Tamiki.
And while we're talking about creepy, socially reactionary, closely controlled cults how about the Mormons? Given their presence around Hamilton, I hope David Bennett (Nat-Hamilton East) and Martin Gallagher (Lab-Hamilton West) keep their distance from these nuts. Ditto for any Xenu worshippers out there. Have you ever come across the testimony of any apostate Mormon or Scientologist? Bone chilling stuff - and there also seems to be a rather nasty history of their leadership engaging in harassment and intimidation of their critics, or apostates.

But the problem is that we don't shun people for being creeps, and we don't convict whole classes of people in the court of public opinion because of the actions of individuals. Do we Russell?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/26/2006 04:49:00 PM

Craig, I think we agree more than we disagree on this issue.

I am very suspicious of the Exclusive Brethren, for the same reason I'm wary of any and all zealots, and there's now a reasonable body of evidence suggesting that they're behaving in a way that is inconsistent with what is reasonable political behaviour.

nions, Ratana, even the BRT are generally above board about their political activities, the EBs (or at least very senior members of the EBs) are not and until they are, they are best avoided. Whether, as Graeme says, individual members might be unreasonably affected by this situation is a matter for the church's leadership, not for Labour or National.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 04:54:00 PM

Craig, you are right about the silence that greeted Vercoe's comments, absolutely right - I'd previously genuinely admired him and his public comments but he lost my support when he strayed this close to outright homophobia.

Your reference to the Mormons is a fair one and no, we can't accept people being prejudiced against simply by virtue of their membership of a particular group (assuming the group isn't promoting race hate etc) however I believe it is for the members of that group to discipline their leaders.

I watched the EBs documentary on 4 Corners last night, it was nothing short of disturbing. It's also made me think about the support of other Christian groups I accepted when involved in student politics... personally, I can't divine a simple rule to assess when you must and when you must not meet with or work with people who are legitimately your electors, but I am clear that whatever the rule might be, the EBs are on the wrong side of it at the moment.

Posted by backin15 : 9/26/2006 05:02:00 PM

But the problem is that we don't shun people for being creeps, and we don't convict whole classes of people in the court of public opinion because of the actions of individuals. Do we Russell?

You and Graeme seem bent on assuming that the people who met with the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the political situation were simple individuals. I'm assuming, rationally, I think, that those people were either there at the direction of the church leadership, or were the leadership themselves.

And I think the leaders of that sect are bad people.

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 9/26/2006 05:17:00 PM

RB wrote:
Honestly, is everything Brash's caucus says to him Helen Clark's fault?

That would require a level of Machiavellian cunning - and demonic powers of mind control - that I'm not willing to grant Miss Clark. She's not that evil. :)


Nobody here is saying the Exclusive Brethren are nice people, or that anyone who hires a PI to stalk an MP is engaged in savoury political activity. And you've made it perfectly clear that you think Don Brash is a spineless sack of offal you wouldn't trust to organise an orgy in a brothel let alone be New Zealand's head of government. Fine.

Honestly, Russell, OTOH, are Labour's 'senior strategists' responsible for anything they say? For that matter, have I/S or Graeme misrepresented what Hodgson has been saying and is it unreasonable to say there's a wee bit more opportunism than principle involved?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/26/2006 06:06:00 PM

There seems little point in arguing the merits/legality of the EB and what they have done. The reality in NZ politics is that association with religion is an electoral red card. For instance, despite their major publicity, the egos and flash suits the Destiny Party got similar votes to the legalize maurijuana party. Kiwis just don't like to mix religion and politics, unlike our friends in the US.

Posted by Kent Parker : 9/26/2006 06:33:00 PM

"I'm assuming, rationally, I think, that those people were either there at the direction of the church leadership, or were the leadership themselves.

And I think the leaders of that sect are bad people."

I thinks that's rational, and from what I hear (I don't like to rely too much on media for this sort of information) the latter point is correct too.

I agree that if the leadership of the EB are responsible for the actions of businessmen (or if those businessmen are the leadership) they are the type of people whom Don Brash should refuse to meet.

I'm opposed to the blanket "I will not meet with members of the EB" that Brash appears to have issued, and which members of the Labour Party called upon him to issue.

I think your conclusion that the EB poeple whom Brash has had private meetings with in the past are perhaps the type who ought not have ready access, but to rule out ever meeting with any member of the EB ever again (or to ask for such a ruling) is IMO a step too far.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/26/2006 06:42:00 PM

> Stop pretending this is a benign organisation.

I think most of us dont find the EB an attractive group.
BUT my experience of Bretheren revolves around how the rest of society seems to enjoy punching them insulting them and humilating them. Frankly we are pretty disgusting maybe the government should refuse to meet with us.

Fortunatly it is usually just youths although apparently labour hasn't grown out of it.

there are lots of weird organizations such as the mormons or the falun gong that might be worth discouraging but if we want to do that we should do it fairly and debate it openly. Anything they do that is weird didnt suddenly become weird because some members put out a pamphlet - it was weird already.

> Labour and National urge each other do do things all the time.

It is comical to say one has no responsibility for those things one demands. That also implies an unbelievably low standard of debate.

> You and Graeme seem bent on assuming that the people who met with the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the political situation were simple individuals.

Russell - I would have thought a liberal would say you are obliged to make that assumption until it is demonstrated otherwise.

---

> Kiwis just don't like to mix religion and politics, unlike our friends in the US.

fair enough ken, I just hope it is applied fairly

Posted by Genius : 9/26/2006 07:31:00 PM

Craig: But the problem is that we don't shun people for being creeps

Speak for yourself. I try and avoid them as much as possible, if creepyness is brought to my attention.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/26/2006 11:46:00 PM

I/S:

So do I in my private life, but I don't generally have that luxury with some clients and co-workers for whom 'creepy' would be one of the milder adjectives I'd use. I have to keep doing my job, regardless.

Kent Parker wrote:
Kiwis just don't like to mix religion and politics, unlike our friends in the US.

Yeah, wasn't Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. - and much of the civil rights movement - a real c**t? You might also like to take another look at those who were prominent in the abolitionist movements on both sides of the Atlantic who regarded slavery as a moral evil and affront to their Christian values, every bit as much as it was a political and social one. If you're of a leftist bent, histories of the labour movement might also complicate your world view a tad.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/27/2006 06:38:00 AM

I never knew MLK Jr was an elected politician?
Learn something new everyday...

I think the difference between mixing religion and politics in the US and the rest of the Western world is best shown by comparing Tony Blair & GW Bush, both born-again Christians, yet only the American leader uses that fact as campaign fodder.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/27/2006 09:02:00 AM

I didn't know we had any Exclusive Brethren in Parliament either, Anonymous. I'm just suggesting that on this subject Kent might want to avoid speaking in slogans and not particularly helpful generalisations. Just a thought.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/27/2006 10:33:00 AM

Craig,

I don't think the very clear statistical result for Destiny in the 2005 election is either a generalization or a slogan. Strong association with the EB is likely to produce similar results for National. Politicians who wish to succeed keep their religion in their private lives along with their sexual indiscretions.

Posted by Kent Parker : 9/27/2006 12:56:00 PM

Yeah, wasn't Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. - and much of the civil rights movement - a real c**t?

Yeah all the good Christians lined up with Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Hardly. Do you have an example from post WWII America where religious groups have uniformly led on a progressive social issue like those earlier abolitionists?

The point stands. New Zealanders don't like religion in their politics, and rightly so.

Posted by MCMC : 9/27/2006 06:06:00 PM

mcmc:

No, I don't think you've proved your point at all - though it's quite fair to point out, that there were also people who were quite happy to cite Biblical precedent for slavery and racial segregations.

And it's quite legitimate to point out that in New Zealand attempts to rally Christians around a policical vehicle haven't beeen successful, and I'm personally quite pleased about that because the likes of Graeme Capill and Brian Tamiki never spoke for me, or the overwhelming majority of Christians I know. But to say "New Zealanders don't like religion in their politics"? Well, do I need to remind you who has found a near-unbroken political alliance with a certain whacky Christian cult no barrier to political success over the last eighty-odd years?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/28/2006 09:04:00 AM

True about that Craig, but I don't think their influence is anywhere near that of evangelical Christians in the US. It's a few seats, not a 1/4 of the country.

Posted by MCMC : 9/28/2006 11:04:00 AM