Deborah Mahuta-Coyle letter to Don Brash

An open letter from Deborah Mahuta-Coyle to Don Brash after Brash launched a ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ campaign (see Hobson’s choice ‘anti-separatist’ campaign)

Kia ora Don,

When I was 11 years old I took part in my school’s yearly speech competition. The topic was a famous Māori leader and I had decided to do my speech on my great-great-great-great grandfather Kingi Tawhiao.

My Nan helped me write it and when I made it to the finals I remember seeing her in the audience with quiet tears running down her face. My cousins all came to watch. I was wearing a hideous 80s puffer skirt that was bright pink; I was so short the microphone was at my nose, but I was too scared to move it. I remember all this like it was yesterday. Each family with a kid involved brought plates to share at the end of the evening. My Nan was a pretty mean caterer so she brought enough chocolate logs and eclairs to feed the entire place.

That night something happened that has affected me ever since. My cousin and I were standing in front of the food table with our plates when a couple of Pākehā ladies came up to us, turned their back on me and one of them said to my cousin, “This is not a place where you can just eat for free. You have to have brought food to share. You people are always making the most of events like this.”

Don’t worry – I rounded on the lady and walked about pointing out all of the food my Nan had brought. She just said, “Thank you, at least I know what plates to avoid.” My cousin did not eat a thing.

I’m now 35 years old and while that lady has probably long forgotten the 1990 final of the St Anthony’s School speech competition in Huntly, her words still hurt me to this day.

You see, Don, when you talk about Māori privilege, you say you’re referring to the Treaty, or to water rights, or to all these “special privileges” that Māori get and other New Zealanders don’t. But that’s just a political veneer. Underneath it, you’re giving permission for people to say horrible things, to unleash prejudice, to target Māori because they are Māori. And thanks to you, people think it’s all good as long as they use the rhetoric of tackling Māori privilege that you have happily constructed for them.

All Māori react to your tirades very differently. Some, like me, take to social media to tell you to shut up. Others hear what you say and think, “Here we go again.” Most tend to cringe and wonder how many others think the same way as you.

Nothing good comes from sugar-coating hate speech. What it tends to do is linger in the memories of those affected decades later. Don, you’re like those ladies at my speech competition – totally ignorant of the long-lasting effects of your rude and racist remarks. Those ladies didn’t understand that from that day on, I made sure whenever I’ve been asked to “bring a plate” I over compensated – and still ate nothing. They didn’t know that their words would mean my cousin has refused to attend “Pākehā events” ever since. And that, to this day, I still feel embarrassed to eat at social events as somewhere deep in my consciousness I worry that people will judge me for it because I am Māori.

Don, you shouldn’t say things if you don’t understand the far reaching effects they will have. You’ll never undo the hurt of Orewa or the impact of your latest rant. Thousands of 11-year-old Māori kids will have their identities shaped by the prejudices you have helped to nurture, legitimise and unleash over these past years.

And trust me: no one is going to forget what you have said. People will tell stories about you, Don, like I have about those two ladies from Huntly – to show that the horrible things some people say can cause a lifetime of pain.

Mā te wā,


Labour’s insidious dirty politics

Labour supporters Deborah Mahuta-Coyle and Robert Reid clashed on a Q & A panel discussion this morning in a display of dirty politics.

Mahuta-Coyle is an ex-Labour candidate – Tauranga electorate and ranked 26 on the Labour list in 2011 –  and Robert Reid is General Secretary of First Union and was prominent in organising the anti-asset sales petition last term.

Dirty politics is spread across the political spectrum to varying degrees. One form of dirty politics is more prevalent on the Labour left – an intolerance of not being ‘left’ enough, an intolerance of different opinions and an intolerance of criticism and an intolerance of questioning of unsubstantiated claims.

It frequently results in Labour Party members or supporters (or potential Labour voters) being attacked, often for not being left enough, with little or no attempt to debate the issues raised. On blogs it’s not unusual for it to be used as an excuse to ban people deemed to be not having the right degree of leftness.

Mahuta-Coyle describes this on Q & A during a discussion on the Labour leadership contest:

Mahuta-Coyle: But Labour has real problems within the party structure itself. , and what I’m saying is this process is gonna be messy but not in a good way, because at the moment there are a lot of members that feel as if the culture of Labour is wrong.

So for example if I hold a different opinion about say what people are calling a fringe issue, and I voice that issue in Labour, I will get attacked, I’ll get slaughtered on social media, I’ll be isolated.

Because even though we talk as a party about being a broad church, in practice it’s actually not real, and that’s the problem…

Reid:But half way though an election campaign you’ll sit on this panel and criticise your own party…

Mahuta-Coyle: Of course I will, the thing is  because give me something to defend…

Reid: …but this is a discipline that La-, this is a discipline that Labour is lacking…

Mahuta-Coyle: Don’t sit there and tell me I’m criticising my party, I am Labour, I will call myself original original Labour, I’m not light blue, I’m not light Green, I’m Labour.

And when I get up here and criticise my party I do so because I want the party to improve, I want it to change and I want it to win. Don’t sit there having a go at me…

Reid: I would do that a few months before an election or now after an election but not in the middle of a campaign.

Mahuta-Coyle: But that’s you, that’s you. For me I was not happy…

Susan Wood: I think we’re seeing as illustrated before the divisions in Labour…

Mahuta-Coyle: Exactly. Yeah because I criticise the party someone has a go.

That was relatively civilised. The example was picked up at The Standard by a long time Labour activist Anne:

Its just a pity no-one told Deborah Mahuta-Coyle on Q&A this morning. Loud and abrasive… she treated Robert Reid with overt hostility and tried to rubbish everything he said despite the pertinent points he was making. She shouted over the top of him and when in response, he brought up her disgraceful critique of Labour half way through the campaign, she did a Pagani and claimed victim status.

A terrible performance so what is she doing there? Together with Josie P, these two are light weights who, more often than not, have no idea what they’re talking about.

Was she another of Matthew Hooton’s “recommendations”?

Josie Pagani has also had a few run ins with The Standard. She is not considered left enough so is labelled right wing (as also happens to me).

David H continued:

If this is the New face of Labour then it’s going to be worse than the last one. Robert did make (when you could hear him) some pertinent points. I hope that she gets hauled up before the powers that be and told to pull her head in. Because tired Labour voters just want the leadership sorted and not another overly loud prima donna starting even more problems.

Colonial Viper (another Labour candidate from 2011):

Deborah Mahuta Coyle works for the oil and gas industry now in PR. Do you need to know more.


As does Josie’s husband and Shearer supporter John Pagani.

Follow the money.



More “Dirty Politics”.

Ironic accusing Mahuta-Coyle of “dirty politics” because of where she works. This was picked up by ‘lurgee’:

Yes, actually. Unless you can actually prove influence or taint, you’re just smearing – engaging in your own little bit of dirty politics.

So they become the target of baseless attack by Anne:

Haven’t read the book have you cos if you had you would not have smeared. Some of us are well informed and have considerable personal experience to draw upon. Something you apparently seriously lack.

‘Lurgee’ responded:

Actually, I bought the book on the day after it was published. I have read the book and re-read it. Closely. And The Hollow Men.

I have commented several times that I see worryingly similar trends hereabouts – the constant denigration of people who have different ideas, the trial-by-rumour seen above, the implacable assumption of right and that the ends justifies the means, the Hollow Men style attempt to infiltrate a party an impose an extremist ideology on it and crush dissent. There are several pint sized whales swimming around this website.

Still, nice to see you doing a Slater yourself, immediately, and stupidly, trying to dismiss an argument with a personal attack.

If CV has proof that Deborah Mahuta Coyle is tainted or acting dishonestly because of her employment, let him present it. Otherwise, it is rumour and hearsay, smearing to silence or discredit alternative opinions. Very, very Dirty Politics.

Not at the level of Whale Oil dirty politics on it’s own but it’s so common – often the default reaction to anyone deemed critical or not left enough – and it is so widespread across the Labour left it’s insidious. It’s a trademark of the most Labour associated blog, The Standard.

The left of left activists of Labour are driving away support – and I know from experience that if you point out the negative nature of this culture of smearing and personal attack and how it’s counter-productive to building a health Labour Party you get banned.

They don’t want to hear, and they don’t want to change.

The rebuilding of unity within Labour and the attracting of new members and more voters will be very difficult, if not impossible. The culture is toxic and probably terminal.

See this exchange with Lynn Prentice yesterday – arrogant, self important and blind to the damage, he is a significant part of through his promotion of the toxic intolerant abusive culture at The Standard.

They are shitting in their own nest and blame everyone and everything else for the decline in support for Labour.

It’s not as in-your-face awful as Whale Oil but it’s at least as widespread and insidious as on the right and the results are a significant part of the damaging dirty politics culture ingrained in Labour, from top to bottom.

Whoever becomes the new Labour leader will have a very difficult job uniting a party riven by dirty politics.