Trotter contradicts himself

Chris Trotter has written a post ostensibly about Josie Pagani, but mainly against the “Whatever it takes” attitude saying that leads inextricably down the road to corruption:

“ALL POWER CORRUPTS”, wrote Lord Acton, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But the risk of political degeneracy exists not only in the proximity of power, but is also present in its absence. If winning is the politician’s sole objective, then seeing victory slip through her fingers over and over again surely renders her equally vulnerable to corrupt counsels?

The most persuasive of these siren songs is the one that begins: “One day in Government is worth a thousand years in Opposition.” Meaning: genuine political achievement is available only to those with access to the levers of power. Once this precept is accepted, the idea that serious politicians must be willing to do “whatever it takes” to win office becomes dangerously easy to sell.

And the moment it is purchased, the politician is lost. The means we adopt inevitably shape and determine the ends we arrive at. Being prepared to do “whatever it takes” means being willing to enlist evil in the cause of right; and in that encounter it is not evil which is changed.

Like all stories peddled by the corrupt, the notion that political achievement is restricted to those with access to the levers of power is a lie. The greatest movers of human events are ideas and the moral force they generate. And a person does not need to be in government – or even in Parliament – to advance an idea or exert moral force.

…To abandon Labour’s new position, as a gesture of appeasement to the ill-informed prejudices of working-class National voters – because that is what it takes – would signal a willingness to march into office over the backs of impoverished families.

It’s hard to conceive of a Labour victory more corrupting – or less worth winning.

It is not that hard to conceive of a Labour victory more corrupting. Chris Trotter himself once suggested that Labour’s $840,000 rort for their pledge card and the subsequent Electoral Finance Bill that the furore spawned was “acceptable corruption“.

There was often an implied trade-off: that shutting down those with money was a necessary restriction on freedom of expression. It reeked of political commentator Chris Trotter’s disgraceful conclusion a year ago that the unlawful spending on Labour’s pledge card had been acceptable corruption.

So it seems that some level of corruption is acceptable to Chris Trotter…in achieving victory just not the corruption that Josie Pagani is suggesting.

UPDATE: Chris has posted the full article in the comments. He is pointing out that I have misquoted him and so I have. He never did say the words “acceptable corruption”, what he in fact said was INHO much worse:

Which is why, with all due deference of the Auditor, Solicitor and every other “General” with an interest in upholding the letter of the law, I am glad that, for once, Labour erred on the side of – “Let’s f**k these bastards!”

Had Helen Clark, Heather Simpson, Mike Williams and Mike Smith not decided that social democracy was worth a decent scrap, New Zealand would now been in a whole world of woe.

Social peace for a paltry half-million dollars? Strikes me as the most courageous – and forgivable – kind of corruption.

Just so there is proper context. What Chris thinks is a “courageous – and forgivable- kind of corruption” was the stealing of $840,000 of taxpayers money, and then when getting caught retrospectively validating it and at the same time creating the Electoral Finance Act to attempt to silence anyone who dared speak against the Labour party.

Chris later blamed the Electoral Finance Act partly for the demise of the Labour party in the 2008 election. But as the old saying goes, he was for it before he was agin it. Or as Chris says “it’s the little things that get you”.

 


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  • Chris Trotter

    Seriously, Cam, your verification link is to a Herald editorial?

    Why not to the original article in the Sunday Star Times of 27 August 2006?

    Quoting people out of context should form no part of the Whaleoil repertoire.

    So, to help people make up their own minds, here’s the whole article:

    Making A Fight
    Of It

     

    I know I should be outraged – but I’m not. The truth of the
    matter is I’m glad Labour exceeded its spending limit at the last General
    Election. If it hadn’t, there is every chance New Zealand would now be
    experiencing civil strife on a scale not seen since the 1860s.

     

    The 2005 General Election stands alongside the pivotal
    contests of 1938, 1951, 1975 and 1984 as a crucial moment in New Zealand’s
    history. Up for decision on 17 September 2005 were questions as central to our
    national well-being as: How should our economy be run? How should our society
    be encouraged to develop? And: How should our political system be organised?

     

    Many in Government – some say a majority of the Cabinet –
    believed that a National Party victory in 2005 was inevitable.

     

    They were convinced that the vast reservoir of social and
    political conservatism which had been filling steadily since the early 1990s,
    and which Don Brash’s Orewa speech of 29 January 2004 had released, was
    powerful enough to sweep the Centre-Left from office.

     

    Labour’s key strategists were also convinced that National
    would outspend them. Don Brash was widely believed to be the political creation
    of a shadowy cabal made up of a small group of extremely wealthy tax exiles,
    the Auckland business elite, and the Business Roundtable.

     

    Money was no object for these people. From the moment Brash
    was elected leader in October 2003, substantial financial donations began
    pouring into the National Party’s war-chest.

     

    And money wasn’t the only thing Labour’s strategists were
    worried about. Labour Party President, Mike Williams, knew that Brash’s
    advisers had reached out to National’s kindred parties in Australia, the United
    Kingdom and the United States for assistance and advice.

     

    This came in many forms – not all of them immediately
    obvious.

     

    The Maxim Institute, for example, having no formal ties to
    the National Party, was to all intents and purposes an independent think tank.
    In that role, it was perfectly positioned to spread the word through the
    conservative Christian community that the defeat of secular humanism in New
    Zealand could best be accomplished by encouraging right-wing voters to rally
    behind a single political party.

     

    No prizes for guessing which party that was.

     

    Then there was the campaign financed by seven members of the
    Exclusive Brethren Church.

     

    There is little point in rehearsing the details of their
    aggressive campaign against the Labour Government and its Green Party allies.
    What does merit scrutiny, however, is how these deeply conservative Christian
    businessmen chose to spend the $1 million-plus they had committed to achieving
    “Godly Government” in New Zealand.

     

    The Electoral Act is very clear that money spent promoting a
    political party must be explicitly authorised by that party, and will be
    included in the calculation of it’s overall election expenditure. Anyone who
    spends money promoting a political party without securing its explicit
    authorisation commits an offence.

     

    But what if a group of people, or an organisation, decides
    to spend a million dollars smearing a political party? What does the Electoral
    Act have to say about that?

     

    Nothing.

     

    That’s right, New Zealand citizens are free to spend as much
    money as they please tearing down a political party. It’s only when they
    attempt to build one up that they run foul of the law.

     

    Accordingly, the Exclusive Brethren’s million-dollar
    campaign to discredit Labour and the Greens simply wasn’t included in the
    official calculation of National’s election expenses.

     

    Never mind that the Brethren’s derogatory pamphlets
    politically damaged National’s opponents – especially the Greens – and let’s
    just ignore the fact that Labour has uncovered evidence of persons associated
    with the Exclusive Brethren Church engaging in push-polling against the Government.
    The legal fiction that none of this activity counts as part of National’s
    election effort cannot be challenged.

     

    Here was Helen Clark’s dilemma. Adhere strictly to the rules
    and watch the National Party and its corporate and conservative Christian
    allies over-run Labour’s defences, or, stretch the rules to breaking point and
    fight them off.

     

    The historical precedents for following the rules were not
    encouraging. In 1951 and 1975, Tories with the scent of blood in their nostrils
    had cut to pieces the flimsy defences of Labour’s timid and impeccably
    well-behaved campaign teams.

     

    New Zealand paid a heavy price for those National victories.
    Sid Holland’s landslide ushered in six years of crony capitalism and
    narrow-minded social conservatism. “New Zealand the way YOU want it”
    liberated even uglier aspects of the Kiwi character – ending with the moral
    squalor of the Springbok Tour and an barely functioning economy.

     

    A victory for National in 2005 would have been much worse.
    It would have meant the resumption of the same neo-liberal programme which had
    so badly disfigured New Zealand society in the 1980s and 90s.

     

    This time, however, right-wing economic policies would not
    have been off-set by progressive foreign and social policies. A rampant
    Christian Right would have moved swiftly to undo a quarter-century of social
    progress.

     

    Emancipated women would have been targeted first, with
    access to safe, legal contraception and abortion coming under immediate fire.
    Next in line would have been gays and lesbians. And that would only have been
    the beginning of the persecution: “Godly Government’s” roll-call of sinners is
    a lengthy one.

     

    Most disastrous of all would have been the National Party’s
    policies in relation to Maori. The abolition of the Maori seats would have
    sparked racial conflict in this country on a scale not seen since the Land Wars
    of the 1860s.

     

    Instead of ending her reign with a moving demonstration of
    racial harmony, Dame Te Atairangikahu would have been buried in conditions
    bordering on civil war.

     

    Which is why, with all due deference of the Auditor,
    Solicitor and every other “General” with an interest in upholding the letter of
    the law, I am glad that, for once, Labour erred on the side of – “Let’s f**k
    these bastards!”

     

    Had Helen Clark, Heather Simpson, Mike Williams and Mike
    Smith not decided that social democracy was worth a decent scrap, New Zealand
    would now been in a whole world of woe.

     

    Social peace for a paltry half-million dollars? Strikes me
    as the most courageous – and forgivable – kind of corruption.

    Making A Fight
    Of It

     

    I know I should be outraged – but I’m not. The truth of the
    matter is I’m glad Labour exceeded its spending limit at the last General
    Election. If it hadn’t, there is every chance New Zealand would now be
    experiencing civil strife on a scale not seen since the 1860s.

     

    The 2005 General Election stands alongside the pivotal
    contests of 1938, 1951, 1975 and 1984 as a crucial moment in New Zealand’s
    history. Up for decision on 17 September 2005 were questions as central to our
    national well-being as: How should our economy be run? How should our society
    be encouraged to develop? And: How should our political system be organised?

     

    Many in Government – some say a majority of the Cabinet –
    believed that a National Party victory in 2005 was inevitable.

     

    They were convinced that the vast reservoir of social and
    political conservatism which had been filling steadily since the early 1990s,
    and which Don Brash’s Orewa speech of 29 January 2004 had released, was
    powerful enough to sweep the Centre-Left from office.

     

    Labour’s key strategists were also convinced that National
    would outspend them. Don Brash was widely believed to be the political creation
    of a shadowy cabal made up of a small group of extremely wealthy tax exiles,
    the Auckland business elite, and the Business Roundtable.

     

    Money was no object for these people. From the moment Brash
    was elected leader in October 2003, substantial financial donations began
    pouring into the National Party’s war-chest.

     

    And money wasn’t the only thing Labour’s strategists were
    worried about. Labour Party President, Mike Williams, knew that Brash’s
    advisers had reached out to National’s kindred parties in Australia, the United
    Kingdom and the United States for assistance and advice.

     

    This came in many forms – not all of them immediately
    obvious.

     

    The Maxim Institute, for example, having no formal ties to
    the National Party, was to all intents and purposes an independent think tank.
    In that role, it was perfectly positioned to spread the word through the
    conservative Christian community that the defeat of secular humanism in New
    Zealand could best be accomplished by encouraging right-wing voters to rally
    behind a single political party.

     

    No prizes for guessing which party that was.

     

    Then there was the campaign financed by seven members of the
    Exclusive Brethren Church.

     

    There is little point in rehearsing the details of their
    aggressive campaign against the Labour Government and its Green Party allies.
    What does merit scrutiny, however, is how these deeply conservative Christian
    businessmen chose to spend the $1 million-plus they had committed to achieving
    “Godly Government” in New Zealand.

     

    The Electoral Act is very clear that money spent promoting a
    political party must be explicitly authorised by that party, and will be
    included in the calculation of it’s overall election expenditure. Anyone who
    spends money promoting a political party without securing its explicit
    authorisation commits an offence.

     

    But what if a group of people, or an organisation, decides
    to spend a million dollars smearing a political party? What does the Electoral
    Act have to say about that?

     

    Nothing.

     

    That’s right, New Zealand citizens are free to spend as much
    money as they please tearing down a political party. It’s only when they
    attempt to build one up that they run foul of the law.

     

    Accordingly, the Exclusive Brethren’s million-dollar
    campaign to discredit Labour and the Greens simply wasn’t included in the
    official calculation of National’s election expenses.

     

    Never mind that the Brethren’s derogatory pamphlets
    politically damaged National’s opponents – especially the Greens – and let’s
    just ignore the fact that Labour has uncovered evidence of persons associated
    with the Exclusive Brethren Church engaging in push-polling against the Government.
    The legal fiction that none of this activity counts as part of National’s
    election effort cannot be challenged.

     

    Here was Helen Clark’s dilemma. Adhere strictly to the rules
    and watch the National Party and its corporate and conservative Christian
    allies over-run Labour’s defences, or, stretch the rules to breaking point and
    fight them off.

     

    The historical precedents for following the rules were not
    encouraging. In 1951 and 1975, Tories with the scent of blood in their nostrils
    had cut to pieces the flimsy defences of Labour’s timid and impeccably
    well-behaved campaign teams.

     

    New Zealand paid a heavy price for those National victories.
    Sid Holland’s landslide ushered in six years of crony capitalism and
    narrow-minded social conservatism. “New Zealand the way YOU want it”
    liberated even uglier aspects of the Kiwi character – ending with the moral
    squalor of the Springbok Tour and an barely functioning economy.

     

    A victory for National in 2005 would have been much worse.
    It would have meant the resumption of the same neo-liberal programme which had
    so badly disfigured New Zealand society in the 1980s and 90s.

     

    This time, however, right-wing economic policies would not
    have been off-set by progressive foreign and social policies. A rampant
    Christian Right would have moved swiftly to undo a quarter-century of social
    progress.

     

    Emancipated women would have been targeted first, with
    access to safe, legal contraception and abortion coming under immediate fire.
    Next in line would have been gays and lesbians. And that would only have been
    the beginning of the persecution: “Godly Government’s” roll-call of sinners is
    a lengthy one.

     

    Most disastrous of all would have been the National Party’s
    policies in relation to Maori. The abolition of the Maori seats would have
    sparked racial conflict in this country on a scale not seen since the Land Wars
    of the 1860s.

     

    Instead of ending her reign with a moving demonstration of
    racial harmony, Dame Te Atairangikahu would have been buried in conditions
    bordering on civil war.

     

    Which is why, with all due deference of the Auditor,
    Solicitor and every other “General” with an interest in upholding the letter of
    the law, I am glad that, for once, Labour erred on the side of – “Let’s f**k
    these bastards!”

     

    Had Helen Clark, Heather Simpson, Mike Williams and Mike
    Smith not decided that social democracy was worth a decent scrap, New Zealand
    would now been in a whole world of woe.

     

    Social peace for a paltry half-million dollars? Strikes me
    as the most courageous – and forgivable – kind of corruption.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • Ok so you didn’t say “acceptable corruption”…. Fair enough, I stand corrected, but you did say that the corruption was forgivable and courageous….gee perhaps you should have gone with the acceptable.

  • I spent two hours looking for the original…I found plenty of references including the Herald article, the others were on other blogs. 

    I note you haven’t provided the link either. Also Google searches failed to find the original. They will now though because it is in your comment above.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like “corruption” is “forgivable” as long as it’s by the left.

  • Anonymous

    As thor said. It has always been, and continues to be, the position of the left that since they are always in the right, and everyone else is wrong, overstepping the line to win is acceptable.

    If anyone else were to steal $800,000 to win an election, that, to the Left, would be absolute proof that no-one else can be trusted.

    It was shown again by Claire Curran. The entitlement and haughty arrogance of “these are my votes” and “the Mad Butcher is a turncoat” demonstrate this stance.

    Look at the Bretheren matter. No law was broken. No money was stolen. Yet – because it was anti-Left – the entire matter was turned into a conspiracy of monumental proportions.

    • Macrobertson

      Too true!  The shear hypocricy of the left is nothing short of breathtaking!  Then to top it off they have the audacity of accusing the media of being ‘Tory lovers’ – or similar.  Are they dumb as well as blind?!

      The absolute mountain out of a mole hill which was made by the media about the tea party was a national disgrace and Womens Weekly reporting at its finest!

      Had they put in 10% of that effort in to trying to get Goff’s CGT figures to stack – or any of their figures to stack for that matter, Labour would have been blown off the park!  Let alone the 100,000 green jobs the Goons were promising – wind farms anyone?

    • jay cee

      it was.

  • Jman

    Just when I was starting to think Chris Trotter was a rare principled lefty I read this garbage.

    To think we could have had Don Brash’s sensible economic stewardship leading us into the GFC instead of the disaster that was Labours 3rd term.

  • Than

    I’m not seeming any meaningful difference between the paraphrase “acceptable corruption” and the original. Chris expressed the opinion that Labour’s outright breaking the law is justified in the name of continuing their political agenda – the ends justify the means. Power corrupts indeed.

    It still amuses me that Labour made such a fuss about the Exclusive Brethren pamphlet (which was legal, and *failed* to buy an election; in the end it had the opposite effect) but somehow justify their pledge card (illegal, and successfully bought an election).

  • Thorn

    Trotter channels Trotsky by contending the Labour Party and its embedded bureaucracy is like all ruling classes in that it is ready to shut its eyes to the crudest mistakes of its leaders in the general politics, provided in return they show unconditional fidelity in the defence of its privileges

    As for a 1860’s scenario, if Trotter and his ilk wish to leverage this then the reasonable anticipation this will be engineered as cost-effectively as possible. We watch and wait.

  • dad4justice

    Mr Trotter – corruption is the norm under a socialist regime.

    You must agree Chris T ?

  • jay cee

    yeah and right wing parties a paragons of open financial rectitude. still at least this blog attempts to give both sides of the story. pity we don’t get more of the excusive brethren episode that was an attempt by a pack of religious  fundamentalists to influence an election to the tune of 1/2 million bucks,their money admittedly,no arguement,but in light of that episode it’s amusing to read posts sneering at labours backers.
     

    • EX Navy Greg

      If Labour had sufficient “backers” why did they steal $ 800.000.00 of TAXPAYER money to fund their propaganda ?

    • Dutyfree

      seriously jay cee, you see no difference between taking tax payer money, some portion of which would have come from people who don’t support Labour to fund something illegally to help them win an election, versus a group willing to spend their own money? Then Chris tries to defend it as if the end justifies the means.  I can hear North Korea calling Chris now……………..

  • Dad4justice

    but there are no right wing parties in NZ. please,, socialism just rolls over decade after decade!Q!

  • Edwin Wigmore

    Talking about the “Whatever it takes” mentality, Michael Bassett has a beaut article here: 
    http://michaelbassett.co.nz/articleview2.php?id=181&yh=2008&yl=2007 on the appalling corruption and end justifies the means attitude that opitimised Clarkes government.

  • Dr Wang

    Trotter disappears up his own arse.

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