Chris Penk book on how to undermine a leader and an election campaign

Chris Penk, first term National MP for Helensville, has self published a sort of a book called Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown – but it is more like “How to undermine a new leader and an election campaign”.

Penk praised his ex-leader Simon Bridges, and says that he had discussed his book with ‘the party’s leadership when Bridges was in charge, implying he had approval, but he has made no mention of discussing his book with new leader Todd Muller or getting approval from National’s election campaign team.

Penk also said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public. Is he naive, stupid, or deliberately dumping on Muller and National’s campaign? Possibly a bit of all of those.

I think that back bench MPs shouldn’t be gagged, and they should put their views out in public so that voters can see what they are like and what they think and believe in. But they also should have the sense to put the good of their party and the good of the country ahead of their own agenda, especially heading in to an election.

RNZ: National MP Chris Penk’s book derides government’s Covid-19 response

National backbench MP Chris Penk has released a 30,000 word missive criticising the government’s “lockdown lunacy” and calling its initial response to Covid-19 “shockingly slack” and “incompetent”.

Penk unveiled his self-published book – “Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown” – on his National website on Thursday evening, alongside an offer to send out signed copies for $20 a pop.

The book is heavily critical of the Covid-19 response, arguing that a poorly prepared and panicked government “set about destroying the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

“It was only supposed to be the curve that got flattened, not the whole country,” the book begins.

The whole country is nothing like flattened. We have come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed, albeit with some substantial economic, business and employment difficulties. But compared to many other countries New Zealand looks to be very well off.

Speaking to RNZ, Penk said he had discussed his plans for the book with the party’s leadership going back to when Bridges was still in charge.

“The positions that I have stated in the book are consistent with the messages that National has been putting out from the start.”

Messages that National had been putting out perhaps. But the leadership change also changed the leadership messaging quite a lot. Did Penk not think to check out his messaging with Muller and the new campaign team?

He said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public.

“A large number of people are fearful about expressing a view that is anything other than the received wisdom, the single source of truth, and they don’t want to be ostrasised as not being part of the team of five million.

“Frankly, the bullying tactics that have been applied to others don’t hold any weight with me.”

Is that a swipe at Muller and the new National leadership? Even if not intended as such it effectively looks like it.

Penk’s book is closer in tone to that of former Opposition leader Simon Bridges than that of the new leadership team, and it is complimentary of Bridges’ performance.

Indeed, Penk noted that Bridges would be remembered in time “for performing his constitutional role with commitment and courage”.

Is it a sort of a ‘Bring back Bridges’ campaign?

Early on in the book, Penk acknowledged the lockdown was “necessary” and its timing “roughly right”, but he went on to critique “Labour’s particular form of lockdown lunacy”, arguing it was too harsh and was unnecessarily extended.

Level 3 would have been a more appropriate starting point, Penk said.

“Whole industries have been led like so many lambs to a no-longer-non-essential slaughterhouse.”

Penk also reserved some harsh words for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing her as a “cheerleader-in-chief” and “one trick pony” for repeatedly imploring the public to “be kind”.

“Compulsory kindness is oxymoronic. And moronic. And insulting,” he wrote.

He includes quotes from social media including Kiwiblog in his book. It sounds like it.

and he may have put himself (and National) in an awkward position regarding donations. Stuff: National MP Chris Penk’s lockdown book raises political donation questions

He’s now published it on the National party website, where people have the choice of reading the book for free or ordering a signed copy for $20 after depositing money in Penk’s bank account, which is listed.

Penk also asks people who read the book for free to “consider making a small contribution to fund the printing and distribution of more copies”.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the donations may have to be declared as donations to Penk as a candidate, although not if the donation was a “like-for-like” fee covering the cost of printing the book.

Penk may not have thought things through.

Penk said all laws relating to the donations would be complied with.

They will have to be complied with, he hasn’t got any choice. He can’t claim ignorance, now at least.

The book has confounded critics. It is critical of the way the lockdown destroyed “the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

Yet, in its opening pages, the book also acknowledges the lockdown was “necessary” and the timing was “roughly right”.

It also acknowledges tourism would have been destroyed anyway, and there would always be “considerable” economic disruption.

Not very consistent.

This book may have seemed like a good idea to Penk and perhaps a small faction of National MPs, but it is likely to have a negative impact on his party’s election chances.

I can’t see any reference to the book on the main National Party website, but it is prominently promoted on Penk’s National Party site where you can read the book: FLATTENING THE COUNTRY

Maybe Muller doesn’t feel flattened by Penk’s attack, but it doesn’t look good for the new National leader. the book doesn’t mention him at all, but has 14 mentions of Bridges.


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  1. NOEL

     /  13th June 2020

    “set about destroying the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.
    Geez would love 5 dollars for every time that of the original appeared in No Minister or the Kiwi thingy..

  2. NOEL

     /  13th June 2020

    Oops “or”

    • Did the Todd Miller phonecall have a real number or one of those with so many digits that it can’t possibly be a real one ?

      The last one from Spark that said that they had been trying to get in touch with me for some time (if I was a customer, wouldn’t they have my email or street address ?) had one like that; the one before had a number that looked like a real one but wasn’t.

  3. Gezza

     /  13th June 2020

    Two stints in the Navy – served on HMNZAS Te Kaha, & in submarines in Oz. Did Law after that. Started his own law firm in 2015 before standing in Sir John Key’s seat in 2017.

    A look at his National Party website tells he’a not shy about self-promotion & his military background suggests he believes that going on the offensive is the best policy.

    I don’t think it will do any harm to Muller to have another attack dog in the pack as long as he & Nikki concentrate on being “nice” and “reasonable”.

    His book will probably excite those who are always hard out National. Could well offend some swing voters. Don’t imagine it will be a best seller outside of Helensville.

    Seems ambitious & maybe even prepared to be ruthless. Muller & his successor(s) better watch out this one doesn’t turn into another JLR. 😐

    • Corky

       /  13th June 2020

      I agree. A vicious mutt in the pack may be an advantage as long as Muller and Nikky keep up appearances. If tackled on the issue Muller can always claim National is a broad church.

    • Duker

       /  13th June 2020

      Penks wife is Media Works journalist Kim Chloe
      “Kim Choe. Digital Product Manager – Newshub at MediaWorks NZ and before that Fairfax … Managing a team of around 12 reporters covering breaking news and features for a mobile audience.
      A law degree as well. Seems highly capable lady

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  13th June 2020

    The Government was hampered by the ludicrously sycophantic media response they got that eliminated all serious critical thinking and challenges to mistakes and official secrecy.

    So far Mueller is a non-event. He has done nothing worth a mention other than rolling Bridges.

  5. David

     /  13th June 2020

    Are we not allowed to critique the monarchy now. There were numerous flaws in Arderns lockdown, it was too harsh, she was too slow with the border, she was slow in re opening.
    An opposition member writing a book that opposes the governments actions would be nothing unusual in normal times but because we have a “kind” PM its now wrong.

    • Duker

       /  13th June 2020

      Slow with the border reflected the hard reality, that there is something capacity for under 500 people per day for 14 days plus the deep cleaning between new arrivals.
      Those early days were 8000 kiwis per day flooding back.
      We just werent prepared for this scale of pandemic and its unusually long incubation time/ 40% with no serious symptoms.

      Slow in reopening ? We are well ahead of Australia as our ‘elimination has worked ‘ , they are still getting new cases

      • David

         /  13th June 2020

        Yup its an opinion and yours is different (and your 8000 a day is wrong) and for me and my businesses keeping construction for example going would have been great and not have spread the virus, hasnt in Australia. It cost the taxpayer 70k in subsidies and we didnt pay around 50k in tax and gst during that period let alone PAYE. Ardern and her cabinet didnt have the brain power to design a better lockdown.
        Yes we were slow in reopening and she was bullied into opening now given she didnt want to do level 1 until the 22nd June so even she acknowledged she was slow. Its hardly a controversial opinion.

        • Duker

           /  13th June 2020

          Every other country has taken similar measures. Except Trumps USA has gone full socialist by directly funding big business ‘commercial paper’ debt

          • Yes, and look at the results.
            [use correct names please] seemed shocked that the businesses who prolonged the inevitable with the the wage subsidy are now making those staff redundant. Did she imagine that as soon as we were at L1 it would be business as usual ? How can anyone be so naive ?

            The reporter said that we had borrowed $20,000,000,000 to prolong the inevitable. DL expressed surprise and horror that the inevitable was happening. What did she expect ? Businesses don’t just need wages, they have many other costs. Her time in a chippy, that Lurch says made her know all about business, didn’t tell her that it isn’t possible to close a business and start again just like that.

            • Dear Leader has been in use for months, and not just by me. It’s not an obscenity.

            • Duker

               /  13th June 2020

              Thats sort of renaming isnt allowed anymore . Its the intent that matters

            • It might well be meant admiringly.

            • Gezza

               /  14th June 2020

              Aww … come on Kitty … who are you trying to fool? 😉

              Dear Leader is most commonly associated with North Korea’s paranoid, narcissistic & psycopathic leaders.

              Accept your metaphorical rap on the knuckles & move on.

          • Pink David

             /  13th June 2020

            “Every other country has taken similar measures.”

            You know this is untrue and still post it. Why?

            • Duker

               /  13th June 2020

              It’s pointless as you don’t know the front cover from the back cover of a book
              US to borrow record $3tn as spending soars
              That’s not counting the US Federal Reserve $2 trill in lending to business , not all of which is allocated ….yet, but they have delegated it to Wall Street banks to organise so they’ll get there

            • Pink David

               /  13th June 2020

              Your definition of ‘every other country’ is the United States? You really are a single function thinker.

              “It’s pointless as you don’t know the front cover from the back cover of a book”

              I don’t look at the covers, I read what a book contains and actually look to understand it. Something you have proven you are not really capable of.

  6. Corky

     /  13th June 2020

    ”The whole country is nothing like flattened. We have come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed, albeit with some substantial economic, business and employment difficulties. But compared to many other countries New Zealand looks to be very well off.”

    Presently, I’d say most people would agree with you. I’m not prepared to make that call yet.
    America looks like a country decimated by Covid. But the reality is they COULD hit blue skies and clear waters and wind up in the same position we are in at present…and then leave us in the dust because of their economic might. Then a comparison of whether we did the right thing will become more apparent. In the meantime we need to do what we can to make money from our present lauded position…starting with filling Eden Park with people to watch a world unification heavyweight boxing match.

    • duperez

       /  13th June 2020

      Leave us in their dust? Absolutely. We will always be a speck of dust on their mantelpiece. Like maybe our universe is a speck of dust on someone else’s mantelpiece.
      The important thing is seeing ourselves as important.
      If that seems like delusion and illusion maybe that’s how the world operates. As shown by things like a ‘world unification heavyweight boxing match.’

      • Two men beating each other up in a way that would see them doing a long stretch if they did it in the street. Causing GBH and possible brain damage that will be there for life. Other gladiator sports are long gone; why isn’t this one gone ?

        • Corky

           /  13th June 2020

          A great thing about democracy ,Kitty, is you have a choice not to watch. For those of us who love the sweet science, such an event would be eagerly anticipated. And, Eden Park would be filled to capacity.

          Do you see boxing fans trying to interfere in your life? Trying to stop you entering cake making competitions? What about knitting jamborees? Of course not. You should take a leaf out of their book and mind your own business. That goes for talkback hosts who hold a similar opinion of boxing as you do. They are also put in their place quick smart.

    • Pink David

       /  13th June 2020

      “America looks like a country decimated by Covid. ”

      It’s the American response to Covid that has caused the damage. Covid is not even a blip.

  7. Pink David

     /  13th June 2020

    “We have come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed, albeit with some substantial economic, business and employment difficulties. ”

    Remarkably unscathed, except for all the things that were massively scathed.

    The complete dishonesty of this is comical.

    • It’s a contradiction in terms.

      The unemployment rate is set to rise massively (it already has and is unlikely not to get worse) Bankruptcy, recession, huge national debt, anything up to 15% unemployment are not difficulties; they are disasters that could have been avoided.

      • Duker

         /  13th June 2020

        You know the unemployment rate do you, that’s strange as you know very little outside your front door…..oh you listen to talk back do you

        It’s was about 110,000 before Covid for 4.5% rate., So that’s say another 55,000 people might make it around 6.5%

        • Pink David

           /  13th June 2020

          “It’s was about 110,000 before Covid for 4.5% rate., So that’s say another 55,000 people might make it around 6.5%”

          Can you explain how you think NZ will see an unemployment rate of only 6.5% when most of the countries that have had lockdowns will hit 15-20%?

          The wage subsides will be ending soon, care to take a wager on unemployment numbers a month after that?


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