Dirty Politics by committee



We all know that Nicky Hager has told us that skillfully and effectively influencing the media to push a certain political agenda has only been achieved by the National Party. The National Party he said, were only able to achieve what they did with the help of influential and popular right-wing Bloggers who would hand interesting stories on a platter to journalists who were happy to take the credit and reduce their workloads. The Labour Party clearly read the book cover to cover because as we wrote about earlier this year they were canvassing their supporters by e-mail for sob stories on certain topics like housing which would then a few weeks later mysteriously appear in the media.

The Labour Party are not the only political group to think that if the right can influence voters then they can too. A group called ActionStation have decided to have a go at influencing the media themselves. Unlike the original Dirty Politics masters, however, they have eschewed dark smoke-filled rooms for their strategy sessions and have instead  decided to plot by committee.

What could possibly go wrong?


Dear XXX,

Next year New Zealanders will vote to choose a government for the coming three years.

Help us decide what we should do together in Election 2017:

In two years of taking action together to create positive change, the ActionStation community has shown over and over again that democracy is about much more than voting. But the election is still a big opportunity to use the power of our growing movement to ensure everyone in New Zealand can play their part in shaping the future of our country.

Over the past few months we’ve been working with a range of experts to come up with options for how the ActionStation community could have a positive impact on next year’s election.

We’ve identified three different strategic paths we could go down:

Rewrite the rules

Get out missing voters

Set the agenda

The “set the agenda” option is straight out of the Dirty Politics playbook as with that option they choose the issues most important to them and focus on them alone. They do everything they can to get their messages into the media in order to get the political parties and voters to pay attention during an election year.

Those issues might be things we are already campaigning on together:

  • funding essential health care services, including mental health

  • cleaning up our rivers so we can swim in them again

  • making sure every family in New Zealand has the resources they need to give their kids a good start in life; or

  • protecting public broadcasting, to keep our democracy open and accountable

Or it could be something new, like ending homelessness in New Zealand by 2020. We’ll decide that together.

The point is that we’ll ensure the focus this election is on the issues that matter to everyday New Zealanders, not just the major political parties. It’s time for us to set the agenda.

The main risks of this approach:

  • It’s really hard to set the agenda, especially without a big budget

  • Unless a LOT of us get involved, hard to influence major parties

The big trade off in this approach is:

  • We’d have to choose just a few issues, which means not focusing, or campaigning, on many of the issues that matter to us as a community and as individuals.

The main strengths of this approach:

  • It’s ActionStation doing what we do best, making an impact on the issues that matter is our superpower!

  • It flows on from the campaigns we are already running

In a nutshell:

We do what we do best – we combine our voices, resources, and influence to make it impossible for politicians to ignore the issues that matter most to us. In order to have a big impact, we’d have to choose just a few issues and stop campaigning on other things we care about. But if we choose the right issues, and force the parties to adopt ambitious policies on those issues, we’ll know we’ve made a lasting difference.

What do you think?


I think that it is a great idea and that it is democracy in action. I think that there is nothing dirty about using strategies to try to get your message out there. I think that political parties and activist groups have been using strategies like this long before any of us were born and that they will be continuing to use them long after we are dead. The only thing that has changed is how the messages get out there. New Media are becoming the new influencers. Just look at Breitbart News.  They started as a blog and now they are going head to head with dead tree media who are fighting to survive declining subscriptions and expensive over heads.


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