Lost appetite


FURTHER UPDATE: Salmond – surprise, surprise – was making stuff up about everyone else in the article too. Here's the indispensible Keith Ng. 

UPDATE: I just noticed Labour staffer Rob Salmond wrote an article in the Sunday Star Times where he repeated the offensive lie that I am comparing Labour's race-baiting tactics with the genocide in Rwanda. I have been crystal clear in multiple forums that my experience in Rwanda merely helped explain the strength of my reaction. Anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty knows that this is not remotely the same as comparing the two events.  As the post below concedes, misrepresenting an opponent's argument to make them look foolish is the kind of nasty, dishonest trick I might have played as a political staffer in my early twenties, so it's not like I can't see what Salmond is up to.  But his claim that I am comparing the genocide with his trivial racial politics is knowingly dishonest, and I am ashamed that my friends in Rwanda might for a moment think it is true. Of course it is not. Rob Salmond is lying, knowingly and with glee.  As I suggested to him on Twitter, perhaps the time has come when he needs to take some time off and rediscover some personal integrity. 


On Q+A this morning, Michael Cullen dutifully recited Labour’s talking points about how Phil Twyford's trawling through lists of home buyers looking for Chinese sounding names was not racist.

We shouldn't really blame Cullen because party loyalists serve up fatuous arguments like this every day of the week. I spent, or misspent, many years of my career compiling it into bullet points for them.

Cullen wants to remain a party elder statesman – a position he has well and truly earned – and would doubtless consider it it recklessly self-indulgent to throw Little and Twyford under a bus over what is arguably a trivial matter of tactics. It would involve paying a high price for no return, and I see why Cullen wouldn't make that play.

Equally, I  understand why many in the party, including friends of mine, have put aside their initial disgust at Twyford’s stunt because they think the broader issue – foreign ownership and housing affordability – deserves a proper airing.

Most of all, I fully empathise with the pragmatists who are neither here nor there on the morality of the ploy, but see it as a "game-changer” that has wrong-footed National and put Labour in contention.  The end justifies the means.

This was my attitude towards politics for a very long time. In fact, I worked hard at cultivating a reputation for a take-no-prisoners approach to winning marginal seats on both sides of the Tasman through the nineties and early noughts. I tore down and defaced more hoardings than I can count (once turning National candidate Arthur Anae’s name into “Fart Anal”). I drafted blistering direct mail letters and unauthorised “shit-sheets" in which I gleefully defamed opposing candidate, drumming up fears about crime in Taranaki and, most effectively, the entirely non-existent threat of a casino in Hamilton.

We didn’t engage in no-holds-barred campaigning merely because we thought it was necessary to prevail in what felt like an epic struggle between Good and Evil, although we certainly believed that.  We played hardball because we were young, stupid, often drunk, and high as kites on adrenaline. Or at least I was.

It dawned on me last week that I am no longer comfortable with the certainties of hyper-partisanship. Events also gave me cause to contemplate the ethical trade-offs politics requires of us; and to wince with embarrassment at the misdemeanours of my campaigning days, back when Twyford’s stunt would have had me high-fiveing perfect strangers.