Guest blog by Boris Hampton, Principal of Wellington Public Affairs Consultancy Hampton Wick
Monday 18 August
A meeting with the Nat’s brains trust. He demands his rattle and a ride in the imitation ministerial limousine we’ve hired as a kind of motivational device. After I coax him out, he settles down and asks me, worriedly, if I’m sure we’ve got the balance of this secret agenda thing right? I reassure him quietly, passing him a Lion Red.
The place has definitely gone back since its glory days. Back then we would have had a bottle of Cold Duck.
The Nats have got to nuance this right. There is, of course, no secret agenda. There’s barely an agenda at all, in fact. But, as I have urged them many many times, they need to give at least the impression of having one, because we don’t want too many votes to scarper to Act.
Which is why we got a Young Nat to dress up as a Save the Snails protester trying to be a Young Nat – as I said, its about nuance – and pretend to secretly tape Bill English, Lockwood Smith and Nick Smith. Bill and Lockwood played their parts well: Lockwood especially. He nearly went too far. He really is sick at heart about not having policies which will make the party as electable as Bert Potter.
Nick not so much. He didn’t say anything embarrassing during the entire chat, something which has puzzled us. Nick never goes more than about 90 seconds without saying something embarrassing at the best of times. Perhaps those who think his heart is not in this have something, after all.
Leaking it to Scoop was perhaps taking a risk, but their taking it to TV3 was an act of genius. Duncan Garner has been criticised so much for being pro-National he was looking for a story which would really embarrass the party. it meant he really went to town on the story.
I love it when a plan comes together.
Tuesday 19 August
I sit in the palatial surroundings of an Auckland high-rise and let the sensuous, lilting Celtic tones wash over me. There is something about Irish women – their fire, their passion, their gorgeous way of talking – which I find difficult to resist. Which is why I’m providing Cathy Casey with a couple of hours of pro bono advice.
There is no point objecting to the Boobs on Bikes parade, I tell her. There will always be a bunch of emotional retards, stuck somewhere about 15, who will want to gawp at such things: all you do by objecting is allow them to dress their puerility up in self-righteous nonsense about freedom of expression.
She would be better to organise something which simply ridicules these inadequates. Laughter is always the best medicine. Or perhaps just have a party.
My argument doesn’t work. Cathy gets very worked up, which I always find distracting.
I am never at my best in these situations. As I show myself out, I see, in the waiting room, a group of grim women in dungarees and a line up of representatives from the Exclusive Brethren waiting to see Cathy.
I am disappointed in this. But I still think Cathy is lovely.
Wednesday 20 August
My fax goes on the blink, which nearly causes a catastrophe. But the paper we have drafted does go through, just in time, to a certain machine at the Pacific Islands Forum. The Australians quickly attach it to their briefings and out it goes.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to stage this ‘leak’ from the Australians but it seems to have achieved its object. I hear the prime minister has cheered up enormously. She has been down in the dumps lately over the polls, and how under appreciated she is by New Zealanders.
To have the Australians describe her as “left wing” and “control freak” has put the spring back in her step, and it was good to have them play along with this. It has reminded her of who she is.
Thursday 21 August
An urgent council of war, with representatives from most of the small parties. We began, shortly after the last election, a project to better position them for how much of the media, especially the electronic media, now treats politics.
Stage one of this was to subliminally send messages associating them with Coronation Street characters. This would help the soap opera aspect of how politics is now treated, and with Listener and Dom Post columnist Jane Clifton now doing both politics and TV columns, we were sure it would lift the profiles of all the small parties.
Rodney attended the first meeting, said it would never work, and left early. Subsequent developments suggest he seized upon the idea and took it to a whole new level.
Of those who stayed, some have managed better than others.
Peter Dunne has taken to his Ken Barlow role rather better than anyone dreaded. It has worked almost too well.
Jeanette has aimed for the Annie Walker role, but unfortunately few people, let alone young would-be Green voters, remember the pub owner who became increasingly disapproving of pretty much everyone as she got older.
Winston has been a worry. He has had trouble trying to decide whether to be Mike Baldwin or Vera Duckworth. And at times, lately, he’s been throwing back to Ena Sharples.
I call this a mixed success, but I give them a pass. One needs to be encouraging.
The question is, what do we do next?