Guest Post – David Garrett – EXCLUSIVE

Exclusive to Whaleoil a Guest Post from David Garrett. It is published unedited.

At the beginning of – and  several times during – my short but eventful career, that consummate politician Rodney Hide told me that if I wanted things to be fair, I should go and find another game. Many of Rodney’s supposed wrong doings illustrate that dictum. His trip to London with his then girlfriend  was entirely  within the rules – but he was rightly criticized for hypocrisy given his “perk buster” persona. It was public perception that was important, not whether his trip was within the rules.

His alleged “cover up” of my past foolishness was neither a cover up  nor his at all: as the Whale noted this morning, the entire caucus – and a member of the Board – knew about it before I stood,  and  they all made the judgment call that it was so long ago it didn’t matter. They were wrong. The public – and of course the scandal driven media – decided that it did matter, regardless of the fine details.

Fair or not, those “scandals”, Hides alleged bullying of Heather Roy, and his failure to deliver to  ACT supporters all they (unreasonably) expected from ACT being part of the government, have all  resulted in him losing popularity, both in Epsom and the wider electorate. Just how unpopular is unclear; at the time of writing, TV news featured a “leaked confidential poll” allegedly showing Hide running a poor third to Brash and John Banks in a theoretical contest for Epsom.  But then there have been leaked documents of dubious authenticity emerging from ACT – and indeed other parties – before now. Some reading this will no doubt know if the poll – the third in a series supposedly – is bona fide or a jackup.

In one of the sound bites he is so good at, Hide said tonight his focus was doing the best thing  for the party, the prime minister, and the country. If I am any judge, there is no doubt that Hide truly believes he is the best person to lead the party – and not  just because of his ego. All politicians are egotistical – how else could you justify putting yourself forward to make laws for other people?

Who would be best, for the party and the country – Brash or Hide? That is not an easy question. For me, watching Rodney and other politicians on TV apparently calmly handling questions is like watching the proverbial duck serenely travelling across the pond with no hint of the furious activity below the surface.  Only those who have been intimately involved  in the game know  what preparation goes into the duck’s serene traverse.

As a political operator, Hide is superb, with very good instincts for what will fly –  and perhaps more importantly, what won’t. In this regard, in  my view   Hide is   much better than Brash. Hide  doesn’t always get it right, but who does? Teflon John Key has also  dropped clangers like cannibal jokes at an iwi dinner, and not being “across” the issue of the new BMW’s. But to pretend Rodney is not hugely damaged by the events of last year would  be wilfully blind. In a very recent communication to supporters, he says he does not “have his head in the sand” regarding his present predicament. I don’t know; he can be wilfully blind.

For me, Brash has a couple of significant  pluses. Firstly, he appeals to  three significant segments of ACT support: the “economic literates” who founded the party; the “law and order” group, which was pushing three strikes long before I came along; and perhaps just as importantly now, those who strongly believe in “one law for all” and an end to race based laws and division of resources. For reasons I never understood, ACT was always scared of confronting that issue head on.

As a party and a caucus, ACT  were  and probably remain terrified of being labelled racist – seeming not to see that in the present climate, regardless of how reasoned and reasonable they sound, they would be labelled racist anyway. Brash seemingly is prepared to run that risk because the issue is so important, and I applaud him for that.

Both Hide and Brash  come with  great strengths – one of the reasons I find it easy to believe Hide offered Brash co-leadership.  Hide is smart, and knows what Brash could bring to the party.  Sadly, a showdown now appears inevitable, and to me that is a situation fraught with peril. Just as the prospect of two left wing parties delights those on the right, the prospect of the remains of ACT fighting it out with  a new Brash led vehicle is great news for the left.

So, who is best equipped to lead the right? For all his limits, probably Brash; he says he is going to form another party anyway, and he strikes me as a man who says what means. And the raw reality is he also  appears to have  the vital financial backers.  Just as ACT can’t be “the Rodney Hide Party”, even Alan Gibbs will not go on funding a losing horse forever. If Brash is to be believed – and he does not strike me as a man who is slick enough to lie convincingly – other financial backers have put their money on him and not Hide.

There has been another crucial development today – Key has not ruled out working with Brash, whether as ACT leader or as the leader of a new party. That is a significantly different  stance from his unwavering refusal to consider Roger Douglas as a Minister.

As Hide told me, politics isn’t fair. It’s often not sensible either.

 


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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