Mathers story seems odd

Just about everything about the story about the Mojo Mathers seems odd – see Taxpayer Union versus Mojo Mathers (the story has developed since then).

Summary

There was an article in the Herald on Sunday by Patrice Dougan about deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers that asked more questions than it answered.

Mathers is a very unlikely and unwise target for a petty political attack regarding MP travel when many questions could be asked about use and possible misuse of travel.

Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers’ Union poorly answered questions put to him by the HoS but he denies initiating the issue and he went into damage control quickly.

David Farrar, also involved with the Taxpayers’ Union, had no apparent involvement until making a late comment on Facebook, and posted nothing on Kiwiblog.

Through the day a number of Greens, including co-leader Russel Norman and communications director Andrew Campbell, kept trying to link John Key and National to the attack on Mathers.

Blogger Danyl Maclachlan (who’s partner works in the Green communication team) posts twice making serious accusations about funding of the Taxpayers’ Union and links with the TU and National and reacts aggressively when confronted.

There was no apparent involvement of Labour with no post and from what I can see no mention of this at all on The Standard (very unusual for something like this). Grant Robertson jumped on the bandwagon late yesterday.

The first question asked by the Herald remains unanswered – who asked it in the first place?

The Article

It started with an article in the Herald on Sunday this morning. It was odd. It was by Patrice Dougan – not a name commonly seen associated with political stories. It began:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

It then detailed Mathers’ trip to Masterton, and quoted her explanation. It then said she “did not know the cost of the trip” but then provided a detailed cost estimate.

It then closed with:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.

“The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

Much criticism of Williams and the Taxpayers’ Union ensued. But Williams later claimed that he didn’t initiate the story or ask any questions, the Herald cam to him and asked him for comment.

Back to the opening sentence – “Questions are being asked about…” – who asked questions? That wasn’t answered, but it was implied that it had been the Taxpayers Union.

Green indignation

Social media was buzzing with Green indignation and criticism through the day. Much of it was the usual sort of quick reactions common when something controversial and potentially damaging politically.

But there were some unusual Green reactions as well.

@RusselNorman
The National Party’s ally doesn’t want Mojo speaking at a rural disability event. Seriously?

John Hart@farmgeek 
If you had any doubt the @TaxpayersUnion is a right-wing attack organ…

@RusselNorman
Whaleoil, Kiwiblog, Taxpayers Union, John Key. The four legs of the National Party attack dog.

Except Whale Oil and Kiwiblog do not appear to have been involved in this story. Slater reacted late in the morning – he is likely to break stories he is involved with. And Farrar was away on a walk for most of the day and still hasn’t posted on Kiwiblog about it (he covered it on his Facebook page late this afternoon).

@louise_bee
@RusselNorman
Interesting that they’re going after the Greens so much. They must consider you a bigger threat than Labour.

It’s common to see Greens talking up their importance like this when a scandal breaks, there was a lot of it during the Turei jacket episode.

@Andr3wCampbell 

Really glad @mojomathers gets out to rural communities to talk to people with disabilities. National’s attack petty.

@nzheraldnznews are people with disabilities in rural communities questioning the trip? Or just a @NZNationalParty aligned operative?

in actual news @JordNZ, here is a real story on tax payer spending @NZGreens uncovered whole you were chasing $500.

I think Andrew Geddis sums up the National Party attack on @mojomathers pretty well here http://pundit.co.nz/content/lets-all-pick-on-the-deaf-girl …

Andrew is “Aotearoa New Zealand Green Party Communications Director”.

Repeatedly linking National to the story and to the Taxpayers’ Union.

Support act

Danyl Mclauclan used to be an accomplished satirist at his Dim-Post blog, but he has evolved into a usually occasional political commentator/activist. Unusually he posted twice today, both on this topic.

Another question for the Taxpayer Union

Here’s my question for the Taxpayer’s Union and the journalists who run their copy. How much of the revenue of the various companies, consultancies and law firms run by the founders and directors of this ‘union’ is taxpayer funded? Given the individuals involved – eg Jordan Williams, David Farrar – I’d be shocked if the taxpayers were paying less than a million dollars a year to the people involved in this organisation who run around planting attack stories against opposition parties.

And:

Slightly more thoughts on the Taxpayers’ Union

Here’s how I’m guessing this works. The (taxpayer funded) opposition researchers in the National Party find a smear story they like. They pitch it to an editor at the Herald and – because they can’t provide comment themselves for obvious reasons, such as John Key’s taxpayer funded golf game – they say, ‘Call Jordan Williams at the Taxpayers’ Union and he’ll give you comment.’

So, that’s sort-of how political media works.

That sounds odd too, as if he is trying pin something on an opponent. Danyls insists he isn’t a Green but has been open about the fact that his partner works in the Green communications team.

I suggested to him on Twitter that “As much chance that #NZGreens could be playing this game as easily as @NZNationalParty are? Party and surrogates could be spinning?”

He usually ignores me but this time responded:

When is the last time you saw me quoted in a media story, vegetable?

And to a tweet from someone else:

Where did you get the idea that I was a member of the Green Party or shared their values? Fuck off lick-spittles.

That’s uncharacteristic and could suggest some sensitivity.

Labour’s involvement

What’s most notable about Labour’s involvement was the absence of any. The Standard didn’t post on it and remarkably there seems to be absolutely no comment on the most talked about political issue of the day.

Grant Robertson joined the issue very late, 8.36 pm last night, with a single tweet.

@grantrobertson1
Lets be clear Jordan Williams and his so called Taxpayers Union are simply a right wing political front. They should be reported as such.

Labour to have been right out of this loop

National’s involvement

Tau Henare tweeted early in support of Mathers…

@tauhenare
@mojomathers
Dear Mojo, tell these self serving pricks to go find something else to do. You are doing your job. #Endofstory

…and reacted to accusations later:

@Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Ok bro so there are NO #NatMPs involved as far as we know. Just tell the truth FGS

@Andr3wCampbell And where’s the answer to my question. What MPs belong to #TPU? Answer the blinking question!

This is the face of the @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope 2. dear #TPU, thanks for nothing.

The @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope,Liar pic.twitter.com/W7eFU7SNcI

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Shutup you backed the greens Coms director, he said it, you tried to support him! U got caught, you deny it

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP and BTW don’t woah me. Your supposition isn’t the point. There are no MPs and it’s not Nat party apparatus.

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP I have no raw nerves, your mates lied and you over cooked it. Our MPs wld be outrAged at #TPU stupidity.

Judith Collins was only briefly drawn into it.

@JudithCollinsMP

@tauhenare: @Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?”Tau, you can’t expect the Left to tell the truth

Where does this leave it?

I’ve seen many attempted political hit jobs in media and online and this looks quite different to normal. There’s no sign David Farrar was involved and Jordan Williams did not appear to be pushing the story, to the contrary, he tried to retreat from it. He said it was “a hard lesson learned.”

It looks like a job done by people who are not practiced in the dark arts of politics.

While it’s possible it was opportunist reaction to the story Green leadership and their communications team were actively pushing a wider story, trying to taint the Taxpayers’ Union and also trying to smear National and Act.

But this currently left where it started in the Herald article – “Questions are being asked about …” – what questions? And who asked them?

We know who kept asking questions through the day, but we can’t be sure who put the question to the Herald in the first place.

The Herald is based in Auckland. It reported on a minor trip to Masterton by a Christchurch MP with a low profile. And it’s primary question seems to have deliberately implied something mischievous without answering the question.

There is something very odd about this story.

Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s going to be hard for the TU to claw back some credibility from this. Regardless of how the story came about they didn’t handle it well.

    Reply
  1. Did Pete George do it? | Imperator Fish
  2. The Mojo story and a Masterton coincidence | Your NZ

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