A glorious example of dirty politics… the old way

Dirty Politics was meant to destroy Whaleoil.  The insertion of blogs into the political process is one that doesn’t sit well with the ruling classes – they have less control.   Whereas before politicians and journalists has “understandings”, now “attack” blogs can publish anything at all.  Even if Whaleoil had been destroyed, dirty politics would have carried on, like it always has.  Here is a textbook example.

David Cunliffe has ordered that nobody from the party should talk to the media.  Of course, the media still get their stories anyway.   Observe and learn how the Robertson faction are not just leaking but gushing like a firehose in an attempt to drive public opinion against David Cunliffe.

Let’s set the scene

Labour MPs are manoeuvring to install Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern in the leadership as David Cunliffe seeks advice from backers over whether he can survive a run-off.

Cunliffe is expected to resign after taking counsel from Labour’s union affiliates, the party hierarchy, loyalists and friends following a brutal caucus meeting on Tuesday.

His resignation would trigger a leadership run-off, unless he pulled out altogether and no one else contested Robertson for the leadership.

Cunliffe is said to be still weighing up whether he would stand again in order to seek a fresh mandate from the party, or pull out of the race altogether.

Central to Cunliffe’s decision is likely to be the willingness of Robertson’s camp to offer significant concessions in return for him pulling out. They might do so to avoid a run-off, of which there is no certainty Robertson would win.

Concessions would likely include the deputy leadership and jobs for Cunliffe supporters.

Those supporters are convinced he still has the backing of the wider party, particularly its South Auckland and Maori delegates. They are also confident the unions remain rock solid behind him though that was unclear last night.

Are you ready for the hit?  Here it comes

But sources close to Robertson believe the unions could be shifting their support over concern about the damaging effect of ongoing instability caused by installing Cunliffe as leader over a hostile caucus.

That may also play on the minds of the wider party.

Cunliffe has been under pressure to resign since Labour’s humiliating election loss, the worst in 92 years.

His position was made worse by a speech seen as ducking any blame for the loss, and exacerbated by an email going out to party supporters that night making it clear he intended staying on as leader.

Under Labour’s rules he must face a caucus confidence vote within three months – and he would be certain to lose.

That would trigger a leadership run-off voted on by the wider party and union affiliates.

Cunliffe could also force the run-off by resigning – but he has resisted till now, possibly because that would see him lose control over significant parliamentary funding and staff in the leader’s office.

Sources close to Robertson is the same as Robertson.  Probably one step removed to allow deniability.


A source close to Cunliffe said last night he remained ‘‘convinced’’ he could win a leadership primary but he was taking into account what was in the best interests of the Labour Party, ‘‘both now and in the future’’.

That was not clear cut, however, because parts of the Labour Party may not support Robertson as leader, the source suggested.

Robertson went into the last leadership primary with the backing of the caucus, and confident he would also get the backing of the unions and wider party.

But he was unprepared for the backlash to his homosexuality in some quarters of the party.

He will be better prepared this time and has rising star Ardern on his ticket as his deputy.

There’s the potential spin.  The source close to Cunliffe probably doesn’t exist and is the same person as the source close to Robertson.  What happens next is a careful framing of making a Robertson/Ardern ticket slowly seep into the public’s mindset.

He wasn’t ready last time?  That’s to get you to agree.  Yes, you didn’t think he should have had the leadership job.

Mention backlash about his homosexuality?  Get it out in the open, dealt with, out of the way.

Better prepared and taking Ardern with him?  Softening the objections by taking the non threatening woman along with him who everyone wants to do well but we all know she’s too young for the role herself.

This, my dear readers, is what politicians and journalists have done forever.  This is a well measured hit on Cunliffe while at the same time starting the media supported framing as Robertson being an acceptable candidate.  The media is picking its own candidate – before the party gets a chance.

This, is dirty politics old style.  The “news” you read in the past has always been tainted in this fashion.   It is the relationships between media and journalists that make this possible.  But it also compromises.  It means that if something happens to Robertson that doesn’t fit the narrative, the journalist will overlook it.

Not so with blogs.   We can not be relied on to play ball.  I can not be relied on to keep my mouth shut.

That’s why both traditional media and politicians fear the rise of new media, and why Whaleoil had to be destroyed.

At Whaleoil you have front row seats to the best show in town.


– Tracy Watkins, Hamish Rutherford, Stuff

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