Jul 6, 2008

Herald Editorial On The Hager 'scandal'

Good Editorial today in the Herald on Sunday. We hope the PM reads it

In fact, despite the breathless tone with which author Nicky Hager claimed that National leader John Key had hired the Australians, there is nothing remotely to be ashamed of in the relationship. As a political party that, despite its poll lead, is preparing for an election campaign that promises to be bruising, National is entitled to employ the services of whoever it wishes. It can scarcely be castigated for selecting a consultancy with an impressive track record - four electoral triumphs for John Howard in Australia and Boris Johnson's recent victory in the race for the mayoralty of London.


Key's secrecy also delivered Helen Clark plenty of political ammunition, which she fired rather too wildly in the House on Wednesday, making an uncharacteristic gaffe with an innacurate accusation about Key's association with the 1993 privatisation of TranzRail. Her comments outside the House were no less problematic. Her claim that Labour does not hire political strategists "to the best of my knowledge" was a silly utterance coming from a leader who famously allows nothing of note to take place without her having signed it off.

Labour does, of course, use image consultants, media trainers and focus groups: Clark's alliterative description of the Nats actions as "the tactics of Tory tricksters" had the unmistakable whiff of spin doctor's advice about it, as did the repeated yoking of John Key's name with the adjective "slippery" in utterances by almost every Labour frontbencher throughout March.

The bottom line is that politics is a tough business, particularly in election years. Labour, reeling from its repeated bad poll results, will play hardball to hold on to power; it should expect its opponents to play to win as well. Importantly for both of them, the public will soon tire, if it has not already, of name-calling and point-scoring. It is earnestly to be hoped that the ugly tone of the past week is not the shape of things to come.