Summary of the Glyn report

I haven’t read the Gwyn report, I haven’t had the time. However ‘georgebolwing’ has read it and posted a summary at Kiwiblog.

Having read Cheryl Gwyn’s report, my take on what happened is as follows (sorry, this is very long, but complex issues will cause that):

a) On Monday 14 March 2011, the Director of the SIS met with Leader of the Opposition; the SIS’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR) on Israeli issue was included in Director’s agenda for that meeting (we’ll get to whether this constitutes a “briefing” later);

b) on 21 July 2011, in response to the question “If the SIS is still investigating this matter, would you as Leader of the Opposition and being on the committee that oversees the SIS expect to be told?”, Phil Goff said : “I would, actually. I get briefed, regularly, by the Security Intelligence Service and sit on the Committee that oversees the Security Intelligence Service. … This hasn’t come before the select committee. It’s not been part of any briefing to me.”. (Emphasis added).

c) knowing that he had received a briefing on the matter, and suspecting that the Leader of the Opposition had too, the PM had his office check with the NZSIS whether there had been a briefing. The Director of the SIS told the PM, over the phone, that Goff had “received the same briefing” as the PM.

d) Mr Phil de Joux, the PM’s deputy Chief of Staff, with the PM’s authority, also spoke to the NZSIS at this time to confirm that The Leader of the Opposition had received a briefing. He was given a description of the briefing documents and the date of those documents, by the the Deputy Director of the NZSIS on 22 July.

e) it transpires that the way the PM was routinely briefed by the Director and the way the Leader of the Opposition are briefed was materially different. With the PM, the Director ticks off each item on the agenda, and the PM, at the end of the meeting, signs the agenda, signifying that he has, indeed, been “briefed” on each item. With the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader never gets to see the agenda, doesn’t counter-signed it and the director makes a note, that he keeps on file and never gives to the Leader, of anything that needs to be recorded.

f) thinking that when the Director said that Goff had “received the same briefing as the PM”, the Director meant “received the same type of briefing, with the ticking off the agenda items and counter-signing”, the Pm decided that he had a “gotcha” and went on the attack. In a television interview broadcast on 24 July 2011, the Prime Minister said that the Director had told him the Leader of the Opposition had received the same briefing that he, the Prime Minister, had received.

g) faced with this statement from the PM, Goff sought a meting with the Director, which took place on 25 July. At that meeting, the Leader and the Director discussed the briefing. Phil Goff made notes, which said “Mr T Recollected – flicked thru a number of issues which included looking at Israelis in Chch at time of EQ but not dwelt on it. Mr Tucker said he had a report on the Israelis but having now looked at it I am certain I had never read it. It was an initial report dated 8 March which was inconclusive about the activities at that stage of the investigation. I have not seen nor been offered the subsequent reports on the matter.” The director was given a copy and wrote on the top of it “Note made by Mr Goff during our meeting on 25 July 11. This is our agreed position. WT 25 July.( Emphasis added. “WT” means Warren Tucker. Ed.).”

h) On the same day, Phil de Joux, told Jason Eade of the PM’s office of the nature of the briefing given to Phil Goff and the dates. He suggested to Eade ion that it might prompt an OIA request for those documents. Mr Ede then provided that information to Mr Slater, discussed the terms of the OIA request with Mr Slater and provided Mr Slater with draft blog posts concerning the issue.

i) in subsequent press comments, Phil Goff started to used the “position” he thought he had agreed with the Director: that they had “flicked through” a number of issues, but Goff had never read the document.

j) Tucker thought that in doing so, Goff was attacking his integrity. He wanted to put the record straight.

k) the NZSIS received three requests for material about the briefing given to Goff, one from Cameron Slater (expressed as an OIA) and two from news media, in the form of requests for comment. All three requests went to the same general inquiries e-mail address.

l) the two requests from the news media were sent to NZSIS press officers, and were declined, as part of normal NZSIS practice not to comment on operational matters;

m) Slater’s request went to the NZSIS’s OIA officer, who assembled most of the relevant papers (not the hand written note from Phil Goff — this becomes key later) and recommended that they not be released on national security grounds.

n) the Director told his staff that he was inclined to release the documents, with significant withholding, and work was put in train by the NZSIS’s general counsel to redact the documents, to remove material not covered by the request and material covered that was to be released.

o) without going into detail, the documents released were inaccurate, incomplete and misleading (Gwyn’s words).

p) when informed by the Director of the impending released, Goff is angry and asks to see the material to be released. Tucker refuses, so Goff has to put in his own OIA to get copies.

q) Shit hits fan. Cameron Slater, armed with inaccurate, incomplete and misleading information, makes inaccurate, incomplete and misleading comments, which are picked up by others.

My conclusions are as follows:

a) Goff was caught out making a statement that was inaccurate;

b) the PM and his office thought they had a “gotcha” and facilitated released of documents to embarrass Goff;

c) the Director and Goff disagree on some aspects of what transpired and their is no way of reconciling that;

d) the Director released information that was inaccurate, incomplete and misleading, and in doing so was probably in breach of a very special statutory obligation that he (and few other public servants have), which is that he “must take all reasonable steps to ensure that … the Security Intelligence Service does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party”.

From what I know about it that seems a reasonable summary. And ‘mikenmild’, who stands out from the right-leaners at Kiwiblog, says “I agree with george’s analysis”.

I remember that Goff publicly attacked Warren Tucker, presumably presuming that Tucker had no right of reply,

But Tucker gave himself a right of reply via the OIA request, providing Slater with “inaccurate, incomplete and misleading” information that was used to publicly attack Goff. Tucker claims he was “between a rock and a hard place”.

Phil Goff: “please explain” spleak

The media have now Phil Goff’s leaking of confidential information prior to the release of the Gwyn report, at the instigation of a “please explain” request to Goff after it was claimed and it was later admitted he gave information to journalists.

Stuff reports:

The inspector-general of intelligence and security yesterday issued a “please explain” request to Goff over why aspects of her report were given to journalists before it was released.

Gwyn said she was aware of Goff’s statements that he had disclosed some information concerning findings in her report.

She would be seeking further information from Goff and others. A conviction for a breach under the IGIS Act could trigger a fine of up to $50,000 against a company or corporation or a $10,000 fine and a year in jail, or both, for an individual.

Goff leaked selected parts of the report in an obvious attempt to pre-empt the publicity the report would receive. A classic spin leak (spleak).

Goff has a history of leaking – see “Goff is a serial leaker”. And that’s just significant ones that are known about.

Prosecutions for breaking the law involving politics are not common, hence the continuation of leaking with apparent impunity.

In this case it is very ironic as the Gwyn report looked in to the passing on of information for political purposes. It turns out that the report found nothing illegal about the information passed on to Slater, but Goff seems to have blatantly broken the law trying to set the narrative around the report.

Goff’s spleaking may have been counter productive anyway. Media and blogs got excited about the damage the report would deliver for Key and National and then the report delivered far less – and was called a whitewash by some.

“Goff is a serial leaker”

Keeping Stock comments at Kiwiblog on Phil Goff’s record as a leaker, the latest example the leaking of

Phil Goff was allegedly warned by the police recently for breaching a suppression order over the circumstances of the death of an NZDF member. Now it seems that Goff is responsible for knowingly breaching the embargo on the Gwyn report, in contravention of the instructions of Ms Gwyn when advance copies were released; potentially a criminal offence, punishable by up to one year in prison. Here’s how Bill English described it yesterday:

This is the man who leaked the findings of this report yesterday in direct breach of the confidentiality order that he signed, which states that it is an offence to leak it. So why would the public believe anything that the Labour members say about this report? This is the confidentiality order, and on the bottom it says: “Received and acknowledged”. That is, when you give evidence you sign it to say that you acknowledge that you are under a confidentiality order and that you acknowledge that it will be an offence if you breach it. Despite him personally acknowledging that, he leaked it.

Phil Goff is a serial leaker; “gone by lunchtime”, MFAT, NZDF suppression order and now this. I hope this matter is referred to the Police, and that on this occasion, it is decided that is IS in the public interest to prosecute Mr Goff, if for no other reason than to prove that NO New Zealander, even a 27-year veteran of Parliament, is above the law.

Will the media pick up on that?

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager

John Key hasn’t dealt with the fallout from “Dirty Politics” well. He has batted off many accusations, that’s normal for playing politics. But he should accept some responsibility for what has been played out of his office via Jason Ede.

Some of the claims against Key have been overplayed. Anthony Robins at The Standard in John Key vs the truth:

RNZ sums up:

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to accept there was a link between his office and right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, despite the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) watchdog finding his official passed on information.

Key thinks he can simple lie and refuse to accept facts. He can’t get away with it. Can he?

It depends on what “link” means.

Certainly Key’s office – and Key himself – have had contact with Slater and have used him for playing political games – and Slater has used Ede and Key for his own agendas.

But there is no proof yet that an out of the ordinary smear campaign was orchestrated by Key through his office.

Many of the mainstream media are not neutral bystanders here. They have been used far more than Slater has been used for a long time, by Prime Ministers, their offices and by other party leaders and their offices.

The question that none of them seem to be asking is was the collusion with Slater any different to what politicians have done with journalists for yonks? He may have received favourable feeding in the Goff/SIS case but one channel or newspaper often get political exclusives from informants. So was this much different to politics/media as usual?

And how different was it to Hager playing the media when he released his book? And since?

And how different is it to Goff leaking favourable (to him) parts of the Gwyn report a day before it was due to be released? Did he leak to all media equally? Or did he feed journalists who he thought would promote his spin best?

“Dirty Politics” is supposed to be “Key evil, the Left exemplary”, and mainstream media are aghast – to an extent at Whale Oil stealing their thunder and doing little different to what they have done with politicians for much longer.

I’d like to see Key and Goff and Norman to all own up to playing politics, and playing it dirty at times. Hager and Norman won’t think they are part of the dirty brigade but they involve themselves in gamesmanship, promoting selective facts and over the top attacks as the other lot.

I don’t expect Cameron Slater to change his spots, but they are polka dot in effectiveness now anyway.

Will anyone in the media take a step back and look at their complicity in all of this? That’s just about as unlikely as Whale Oil becoming modest and reasonable.

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager there is some decent, honest and balanced politics, but it’s not evident at the moment.

Most of the public are likely to see this as “a pox on all their parties, press officers, journalists and bloggers”.

Stepping up in the Labour boat

Andrew Little – obviously he has to step up big time. He’s put himself forward as leader, he has been chosen, and he has a massive job to do.

Labour caucus – while Little has to work on uniting his Caucus all the MPs need to unite behind Little and contribute to recovering and rebuilding.

Past leaders – Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe have all had a go and failed. It is their duty to help Little succeed.

Grant Robertson – he ran a very close race and will be bitterly disappointed. He needs to take some time to get over it, then do his utmost to help Little and Labour succeed. He isn’t leading the party but he can and should take a significant role in leading the Caucus support of Little.

David Parker – has indicated he doesn’t want to be deputy and doesn’t want to be Minister of Finance. He may be disappointed and he may be hurting, but this is very disappointing. Parker thought he was good enough and committed enough to be Labour leader, so he must be big enough and committed enough to be a strong senior member of Little’s caucus. He go in on the Labour list for another three year stint, like all the other MPs he owes it to Labour to do his utmost repair the damage and rebuild.

Nanaia Mahuta – has been criticised for being low profile and insignificant in her EIGHTEEN YEARS as an MP for Labour. She felt she could take on the huge challenge of being party leader. She must step up and repay her party.

Andrew Little has taken on a huge challenge. His success will be partly up to him, and it will just as much be up to all other 31 Labour MPs in Parliament, as well as the Labour Party.

If they all don’t out in the effort and work together they will live down to National’s expectations (this was a multi-party dig but it could be applied to Labour’s past performance on their own):

LabourRowboatOr this will be the Labour boat:

LabourRowboatEmpty

Slater’s version of OIA request

The media is in a frenzy over the OIA release from the SIS to Cameron Slater but they are ignoring the primary source – Slater. He has been cold shouldered, but that ignores the most important part of the story.

He has just given his version at Whale Oil:

I watched Phil Goff on TV slam into the SIS about not being briefed about the situation with Israeli tourists. I thought to myself…that can’t be right, he is the Leader of the Opposition he must have been briefed. So I decided to write an OIA.

In the meantime several sources, none of which work in the PM’s or any other Minister’s office or indeed any National MPs office contacted me, about the very same thing.

When politicians dump on civil servants who cannot speak for themselves then sometimes they get pushed too far.

I put in the OIA and within hours I was being pressured by the PM’s office and others senior in the government to withdraw the request. I refused. I was told that people wouldn’t speak to me etc. I said so what. I won’t be told what to do by anyone. About the only person who can even try to tell me what to do passed away two years ago.

So I waited, and I waited. I was then phoned to be told that the release was coming and that It was being posted to me, it was also being released to other media the same day by post…I was livid. I was the first one to put in an OIA. Selwyn Manning was a couple of days behind me I’m told. I was livid because it was being posted…and being in Auckland I was at a distinct disadvantage.

I received the letter the next day and scanned it and rang TV3, they agreed to a joint release and at 6pm that night the story broke.

Far from the mad conspiracy theories of Phil Goff, the government actually tried to stop me asking the OIA.

I am happy to swear under oath what happened, and then I expect a personal apology in writing for publication on the blog from Phil Goff for lying about me.

I haven’t seen anything yet that contradicts this.

While it’s possible the SIS leaked to him or someone in the Prime Minister’s office leaked to him (John Key emphasised that was an imprisonable offence it’s quite feasible that someone outside of those with experience of OIA and perhaps the SIS gave him advice on the best way to request the information.

This possibility should at least be considered seriously.

Goff blatantly lies about ‘dirty politics’

Phil Goff blatantly lied on Campbell Live last night when asked if he ever got involved in dirty politics. Goff said “No, no, not at all”.

Goff has a history of misleading and leaking and accusing others of lying. He has been involved in:

  • Leaking and misleading over the Don Brash ‘gone by lunchtime’ statement in 2004.
  • His office leaks from MFAT in 2012 which led to a fight through the courts to hide the identity of the Labour associated leaker.
  • A Goff office leak led to the forced resignation of National MP Richard Worth in 2009.
  • Goff “appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan” in 2013.
  • Accused SIS director Warren Tucker of lying about briefing him in 2011.

Yesterday morning Phil Goff claimed John Key was lying about not having been briefed by the SIS prior to an OIA release to Cameron Slater. During the day Key’s version was supported by ex-Director of the SIS Warren Tucker and Ombudsman Beverly Wakem – see Goff versus Key, Tucker and Wakem.

Last night Goff was interviewed by John Campbell. The prelude on Campbell Live did not give all the details this. It began:

Campbell: Phil Goff, who was at the centre of all this because these SIS documents were about you and they were really embarrassing for you and they were a big judder bar in your campaign in 2011 weren’t they.

Goff: Let me come back to what the Prime Minister said because it’s fascinating. This is somehow a smear campaign from the left. No, this is a campaign against smears and dirty tricks of which there is abundant evidence shown in the emails leaked from Cameron Slater. So that’s the critical point John

In the morning Goff said “It’s important because John Key is not being truthful in saying that he wasn’t told”. He seems to have moved on from that accusation.

Campbell: I couldn’t agree more that there is abundant evidence that Cameron Slater smears and is thoroughly unpleasant…

Goff: …and gets information from the Prime Minister’s office.

Campbell: Absolutely. Where does that lead back to the Prime Minister because I stood in that media conference as he answered question after question after question and he was emphatic he didn’t know?

Goff again ignores this and moves the story onto to something else.

Goff: What do we know about this for certain. We know that material was leaked from Security Intelligence to Cameron Slater. There were two possible sources. One is the SIS itself, and the second is the Prime Minister’s office. 

Now I’m not so conspiratorial that I would think that the SIS would leak that material. The Prime Minister’s office had the motive to do it and the close links with Cameron Slater. Any reasonable person will come to the conclusion that that leak came from the Prime Minister’s office. 

But Tucker the SIS were highly annoyed with accusations Goff had made about them so also had motive – in fact the SIS suggested that journalists make an OIA request after Goff had said effectively accused Tucker of lying – “I never read that document. Warren Tucker is wrong”.

Campbell: Can I ask you a question? You were a leader of the Labour Party, up against and extraordinarily popular Prime Minister John Key.

Did you ever seek to do what you’re accusing him of doing, or use your office to do it, which is to get really dirty behind the scenes, arms length?

Goff: No no not at all…

Campbell: Never, not once?

Goff: No, no, because fundamentally to me the integrity of our political system is important.

That’s an emphatic denial from Goff. It is brazen lie.

Goff was prominent in an MFAT leak in 2012.- this had similarities to the current issue because it involved someone closely linked to the Labour Party.

Documents leaked to Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff showed a reworked plan for the ministry would cut 146 jobs, down from 304.

He had also been leaked documents from trade negotiation staff which showed the restructuring had dented staff confidence.

There was la lengthy legal battle to keep the identity of Goff’s leaker secret. David Farrar in Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints:

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Someone with strong Labour Party links leaked to Goff.

Goff misled with his “gone by lunchtime” leak that was damaging to Don Brash. TVNZ in 2004:

Goff said Brash told the US delegation New Zealand’s current ban on allowing nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships into its ports would be lifted  “by lunchtime” if the National Party were voted in to power.

The comments were noted down by a Foreign Affairs Ministry official present at the January meeting, according to Goff.

Goff said of Brash’s comments: “That is deceit that is dishonesty and the public would expect that to be revealed.

“…either he was not telling the truth to the delegation or subsequently he was not telling the truth to the New Zealand public.”

More accusations of lies from Goff – and it turns out he was not being truthful again himself, as Fran O’Sullivan wrote:

Goff’s problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.

He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy “would be gone by lunchtime” under a National government.

The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.

Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had “misquoted” an Mfat staffer’s notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be “gone by lunchtime”.

“Brash denied he intended to get rid of the ban without a referendum, but was unable to respond credibly when Labour said that must mean he was planning to scrap the legislation, which many Kiwis view as an iconic part of the country’s identity,” McCormick said.

It’s notable that Goff refused the Herald’s request under the Official Information Act to release the full notes of the meeting that Brash had with the six visiting Republican senators.

Goff’s office leaked a rumour that led to the resignation of Richard Worth in 2009. NZ Herald:

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Common elements – leaks from Goff’s office, moral high ground, dirty tricks, Goff.

In 2013: Goff leaks secret army death report:

Labour MP Phil Goff appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan.

Mr Goff has released part of the report into the death of Corporal Doug Hughes which he says reveals “critical deficiencies in the training and deployment of Kiwi troops”.

Phil Goff’s hands are dirty. It is dishonest of him to deny being involved in dirty politics.

It’s perhaps not surprising he is laying all the leak blame on Key’s office – Goff has a history of leaking from his own office.

No wonder much of the public dismiss all this with “they are all as bad as each other”. Goff and his staff and Labour friendly leakers look to be as bad as anyone.

Goff’s lying while reminding of Labour dirty tricks is not helping Labour’s Vote Positive campaign. Has he gone rogue or is he pushing this to keep a separation between dirty politics and David Cunliffe?

 

Popular Prime Ministers

There’s been some interesting charts published of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition poll popularity.

Dim-Post On popularity:

Helen Clark was a widely respected Prime Minister who won three elections and led Government for nine years. John Key has ranked high in the popularity stakes since becoming Prime Minister.

Clark and Key have tracked very similar paths over their second terms.

Leader’s of the Opposition struggle to get recognition in polls. David Farrar at charts this at Kiwiblog in Opposition Leader in the Preferred PM poll:

Clark languished as low as 2% for her first three years as Labour leader and then shot up, presumably around the time of the 1996 election which Labour came close with 34.68% to Bolger’s National’s 35.05% to be thwarted by NZ First siding with National in coalition.

Key started much higher and kept rising until and after National won in 2008.

Phil Goff started much lower until a late climb for the 2011 election but withdrew from leadership soon after.

David Shearer had modest ups and downs before pulling the plug on a position he never looked comfortable in.

David Cunliffe picked up from there but has slid since. He’s got time to recover and challenge Key in September – but not much time.

“Labour face disaster at the next election”

Labour have struggled to make an impression since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen departed after their 2008 election loss.

They struggled under Phil Goff.

They struggled more under David Shearer.

And they continue to struggle under David Cunliffe.

It must be more than a leadership deficit. The Labour caucus and the Labour Party machinery seem to be in perpetual struggle mode.

In the last few days alone – launching their election year, a time when it was essential Cunliffe and Labour made a strong impression – Labour have lurched from embarrassment to stuff-up.

Their ‘baby bonus’ launch has been overwhelmed by controversies. As well as strong criticism for offering people on high incomes a baby benefit the policy has been beset by controversy and David Cunliffe has had to admit he made mistaken claims.

And amongst this Dunedin North MP David Clark, once promoted as a fast riser in the Labour ranks – Shearer promoted him to 12 in the Labour rankings – has made a major blooper suggesting the Government should be able to threaten to ban use of Facebook if the multinational didn’t pay enough tax.

3 News reported:

Banning Facebook was an extreme suggestion from Labour Party MP David Clark – and it took party leader David Cunliffe just 24 hours to shut it down.

Mr Cunliffe has now ruled it out completely, but ridicule from the Government still came hard and fast.

Just 24 hours? That was far too long, this embarrassment should have been dealt with swiftly. It wasn’t.

In yesterday’s post David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce ‘Goldie’ commented on the litany of Labour errors.

The comment by Kiwi in America is spot on.

First, it underlines the lack of talent in the Labour caucus. Dunedin is a Labour stronghold, so the MPs should be the stars of the party – instead you have Clare Curran and David Clark.

Second, it shows the lack of discipline in Labour – there is absolutely no way, when the policy focus should have been the “baby bonus”, that Clark should have been permitted to talk on anything else. Cunliffe’s office is not operating as it should. It lacks grip over its MPs, and can’t control its own issues (witness the speed with which the “baby bonus” policy got derailed).

Third, Labour have not been able to uncover a single major scandal on the Government and Labour have not been able to make a single policy that has not been widely shredded within days in three years. It says to me that the political machinery behind the scenes – the party researchers and advisers – have become “hollowed out”.

In contrast, the Greens are busy, focused and confident. They have the great advantage of not needing to appeal to either centre or apathetic voters, but only to people who are going to vote left anyway. As National look increasingly like they will win the election, left-leaning voters will have less reason to stay disciplined to Labour, and will “shop around” (like what happened to National in 2002).

Labour face disaster at the next election.

It’s very early in election year but Labour, who desperately needed a strong start, have stuffed up again. And again.

Unless Cunliffe can transform himself into a strong and positive alternative (too many mistakes and too much sneering snark), unless the Labour caucus can look united and competent, unless the Labour media machine can provide competent advise and support and unless the Labour Party can function effectively then it’s on the cards that Labour could face disaster at the next election.

If that happens it will be bad for New Zealand politics. We need strong party leadership and performance, especially from the large parties. Labour is losing it’s way, losing credibility. If this continues we all lose.

Update: It appears to be continuing unabated. Good grief. David Parker this time, in Parliament yesterday. See Labour says Apple et al plundering NZ economy.

“Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

In an NZ Herald article on David Shearer’s demise as Labour leader a sad observation is made:

The Mana Party’s Hone Harawira said he always found Mr Shearer to be “very, very friendly and very open”.

“I think that was probably his downfall. Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

That’s how Harawira sees it, and I know others in politics see it that way. I was this told myself recently on Whale Oil.

It’s rubbish.

This sounds to me like it is an attempt to excuse bad behaviour, to excuse politicians who act awfully.

Some of the longest standing politicians in Parliament are widely regarded as decent, nice people – for example Phil Goff and Peter Dunne, both MPs since the 1980s.

There are also long serving MPs with reputations of being not so nice at times, like Trevor Mallard, Winston Peters and Clayton Cosgrove.

Politicians can be strong and still by nice. That means standing up and challenging the nastiness, and make it clear it doesn’t belong in Parliament. MPs are the people’s representatives, so they should represent decent and honourable behaviour.

Politics needs more nice guys and women. Strong and principled works best with nice.

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