Monday, August 29, 2005

A cuckoo in the nest

The Cuckoo is a European bird best known for its strategy of brood parasitism. It lays its egg in another birds nest, thus dumping the cost of incubation on the unwitting victim. Worse, after hatching, the young cuckoo systematically evicts its competition, thus monopolising the investment of its "parent".

A similar strategy seems to have been pursued by New Zealand's hard-right in cuckooing Don Brash into the National Party leadership. A pair of articles in yesterday's Sunday Star Times revealed how ACT and a cabal of extreme free-market idealogues had backed Brash's bid for power, providing advice, media training, campaign consultants, and even organising a "strike" among National's financial backers to force the change of leadership. The SST is focusing on the schadenfreude angle - from ACT's point of view, the move has backfired, as National has cannibalised ACT's support and funding. But I think the more interesting story is how Brash was advised and assisted by some very old, very familiar faces from the 80's: people like the Business Roundtable, Michael Bassett, Roger Douglas, and Ruth Richardson. Douglas and Bassett provided detailed advice on organising and staging the coup, while Richardson reassured him during the post-coup period and helped him organise a media strategist. BRT member Barry Colman paid for media training, BRT CEO Roger Kerr and vice chair Diane Foreman provided advice and policy recommendations, and BRT chairman Rob McLeod made sure that the money flowed for National after Brash had taken the reins.

During the 90's, Brash was an enthusiastic and vocal defender of extreme neo-liberalism. He shared these people's ideology. Their support for his leadership bid really does call into question how much of his recent move to the center can be taken at face value - and how much of it is just a regurgitation of his predecessor's politics of deceit, a practical example of his belief in a moral obligation to lie.

A second interesting aspect is who is leaking this. The SST says that the documents came from "a National Party source", and there's no real reason to doubt it. While many of the emails could have been sourced from their sender as well as their recipient, that's an awful lot of people, many without clear motivation to reveal their role. That, and the fact that copies of his caucus speeches have also been leaked, points to a National party source - and likely someone fairly senior (they'd have to be, to get their hands on this stuff). This just screams internal sabotage by someone wanting to preserve their chances of becoming Prime Minister in 2008 - which in turn begs the question of why the electorate should vote for National, when people within the party clearly do not want it to win.


I can see the big billboard now - Helen on the left "For New Zealanders" and on the right Don,"For the BRT"
The leaker ? the mind boggles.
Keys: Wants to be CEO yesterday.
Nick Smith: Utu.
Lockwood Smith: Trying to be helpful, thought it might take attention away from foreign policy gaffes, forestry policy gaffes, gender issue gaffes, petrol tax gaffes.
Brownlee: Did it, but forgot why.
English: National's honest man who new who was behind his leadership change, along with Bolger, who fired Ruth Richardson. Both know how far from 'mainstream New Zealand' ACT and the BRT are

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2005 07:44:00 AM

No real surprises that those people are supporting Brash. Interesting that there is still someone high up who thinks that releasing this stuff will do damage.
Katherine Rich or Georgina Te Heu Heu supporters, I wonder?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2005 08:22:00 AM

Those involved, trying to block any accomodation with ACT. Because they are aware that it could lead to a one term government.

ACT seeks a revision of the tax programme to place company tax cuts and a top rate tax cut first. This means a huge and unaffordable tax cut, or one where income tax cuts for lower income earners and families are delayed. Either way, a one term government.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 08:24:00 PM