Nige suggested I repost this popular column from the weekend, so those who missed it can understand a bit more clearly my thoughts on Bill English, after a reader emailed me wracked with angst about what I should be doing on my own website. I’ve had a lot of direct feedback via email, texts and private messages about it. I’ll add some of those at the end.
A reader emails:
Hello Cam, I’m a straight white male in my mid 20’s and have read Whaleoil for about 4 years, first thing every morning in great detail as well as a sneaky check at lunchtime when my boss isn’t looking. I’m pretty disgusted by your article earlier. One of the things I like is the no-holds-barred approach to your reporting, and calling the lefties out on their messed up ideals, and providing an honest view on how this country is deteriorating socially.
I have noticed how you have a strong respect for Judith Collins, and how much you pushed for her election in the recent leadership race, which is okay by me (and many other right wingers), however it eventually seemed to turn into a fetish.
Then Simon Bridges gets elected (again, not my first choice but hey we have to live with it?) and since then you’ve done nothing but write National off as doomed as a result, and keep prodding on about how it should have been Judith blah blah blah… which undermines strongly what I thought previously was pretty unbiased right wing reporting.
Then today, you write about Bill English in such a disgusting manner that frankly I was shocked. Hey, Bill may not be your favourite, my favourite, or anyone’s favourite for that matter. The way you call him a ‘prick’ and how he did such and such to your family etc, frankly is the sort of thing you could pull straight out of a lefty comment on a Stuff opinion article.
Quite seriously, I scanned the article several times up and down, double checked the author, looked for any sign of sarcasm or of another source, but there wasn’t one. As a result, for the first time ever, I am seriously questioning myself as to where you stand and wondering whether you have ulterior motives in all your articles. I don’t know how to say it, but todays article has quite seriously caused me to take everything you write with a huge sprinkling of salt.
I think you’ll find the majority of your ‘silent’ and anonymous readership enjoys your reporting, and in a scale of left wing to right wing from a 1 to 10 (5 being centre), most of us would sit somewhere around a 7-8.
My advice for you, is If you want to keep being respected by this group as a good source of alternative reporting, then you need to stop being a 10 on the scale. Back off on your extreme views (both good and bad) of MPs on the right, and references to ‘inside information’ – this seriously damages your credibility and appeal to us. You risk being seen as extremist and irrational – which I suppose you don’t mind the extreme part, but it’s bad for your reputation once you start being irrational. It’s like a smartypants 10 year old girl who’s older brother didn’t get picked for his school sports team, and so she retorts to just picking holes in everything that the team does, attacks the captain in front of her friends, finds ‘inside’ conspiracies about members on the team and spreads them around like wildfire, and loses her shit in general.
Instead of focusing on the overall goal here, which is to hold the left to account and hopefully evict in Jacinda on in or before 2020. That’s my simple two cents. I’m not going to stop reading Whaleoil full stop as that’s just as bad as a lefty virtue signalling. But for your own sake, it could be a great idea to write to cover all bases on the right, not just a minority that you seem to have a personal non-professional link with. Regards, G.
Thanks G, for your email. Let me explain a few things to you.
I am not a sycophant to National or, indeed, any other party. Sycophancy is what has led to the situation National now find themselves in. A refusal to listen to alternate voices, or worse as in my case; a deliberate strategy on behalf of the leadership to marginalise and stop my voice being heard. A case in point is Bill English’s Chief of Staff, and John Key’s before that, ringing news radio stations and essentially blackmailing them into dropping me from their line up or the leader wouldn’t appear on their shows.
Then there is the long-standing campaign by Bill English against my father, out of spite… simply because he dared to speak against Bill and Michelle Boag and the terrible farce their leadership of the party was. Under the Bolger/Shipley government my father was on the board of ACC, deputy chair in fact, and was considered to be a good board member. Under John Key that government didn’t appoint him to a single board while other former presidents and lesser party operatives were appointed to multiple boards. I enquired as to why this was and was told simply that every time nominations came before the appointments committee Bill English would bring out his pen with a flourish and draw a line through my old man’s name. I know this because of my close personal friendships with numerous other ministers. This was highly ironic because if it wasn’t for my old man then National would never have won the 2008 election under John Key. It was my old man who brought him in as a candidate and even helped stitch up the selection in Helensville so he could win. John Key forgot who put him where he was and has continued to do so to this day.
The only time John Key showed any recognition was when, after five years of sponsors putting my old man’s name forward for a Queen’s Honour and five years of rejections despite letters of support from John Howard, George W Bush, senior Liberal politicians, senior Republican politicians and senior Conservative party politicians, they finally decided to award my father the ONZM. Of course, this was almost too late for my mother who had stood beside Dad for all his years of public service and international representation as she was dying from cancer. A special ceremony was arranged just days before Mum died to let her know of Dad’s award, held at the hospice and delivered by two caring cabinet ministers and friends. They had to get special and secret permission for this to occur and it was only because Mum had just days left to live that it was granted. I will never forget that insult to my family by John Key and Bill English.
Bill English always gets people to do his dirty work for him. The whispering campaigns in caucus against Maurice Williamson and Judith Collins are two of the nastiest underhanded things he instigated. Against Maurice Williamson for calling for the boil to be lanced after the 2002 debacle that English presided over and against Judith because she is way smarter than Bill. He is not the compassionate man he likes to portray himself as. He is as dirty, if not more dirty, than any other politician you care to mention.
The attacks on Todd Barclay show that. That was all orchestrated and run out of the leader’s office. Poor Todd Barclay didn’t know what hit him. He was actually a popular MP and doing a good job. But, the old guard wanted him rinsed and so they set about undermining him with false complaints to police, whispering campaigns and the enlistment of former staff of Bill English to undermine a good local MP.
There was no sarcasm or other sources in my post. It was my honest held belief that Bill English was a cancer on the National party and it has at last been cut out. Sure, he’s left behind some secondary lesions and, eventually, if the party want to survive, they too must be cut out.
I am not a member of the National party any longer. I’ll tell you why. Because Bill English, John Key and Peter Goodfellow ran a concerted campaign to try and pull my membership when I was a member. They concocted a disciplinary process after I objected to being banned from the conference despite being asked to be there by TV3 as a media commentator and, at the same time, being a member. The board, however, and the idiot president hadn’t read the rules and the issue had to be sent to the local electorate of which I was a member. That electorate was Pakuranga and they refused to accede to the wishes of the board, Goodfellow or Bill English. The funny part was Peter Goodfellow waiting at Wellington Airport for Maurice Williamson to arrive to tell him the deed had been done and looking shocked when Maurice told him that the electorate committee voted unanimously to retain my membership. Once that particular battle was won I left the party and it is unlikely I will ever return as a member of the National party or, indeed, any party.
My site is NOT a National party site, despite what Nicky Hager and various other media operatives would have you believe. One day I will tell the full story behind Dirty Politics and let me assure you that Bill English will not come out of that with his reputation intact. If you think I should unquestioningly support the blue team then you have another thing coming. I will not. They have strayed from the principles the party was founded on, and I have not. John Key stood in parliament and exclaimed, when in opposition, that Working for Families was communism by stealth. He was right then. However, upon gaining power he set about not unravelling the communism by stealth but, rather, proudly extending it. The sycophants lapped it up. John Key could do no wrong, John Key could walk on water, John Key is the man. You’d think his shit didn’t stink either from the abject sycophancy and cult of personality that surrounded what was ultimately a very vain, conceited and self-centred man.
For years I have stayed silent about what went on behind the scenes after Dirty Politics. As I remain and those traitorous cowards in National resign I will start telling the truth when they can no longer hide behind parliamentary privilege. There are many stories to tell and many MPs who will shudder in shame at their behaviour.
My overall goal is not what you suspect. I do not seek to hold one particular party to account. I seek to hold all politicians to account, irrespective of party, hue or colour of their team. Thanks for your two cents, I can refund you them if you like to send me your bank account number.
I won’t ever stop being true to myself or to my family. I value loyalty immensely and despise cowardice at the same level. My dear grandmother always said to me as a kid, “To thine own self be true.” Jessie was a wise woman and it is only in later years that I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom she imparted to my mother, and to my father, and also to me.
There is much more I could write, but that is sufficient for you to understand why I cannot and will not support any party that follows in the footsteps of John Key and Bill English, and, in retaining Paula Bennett, Simon Bridges showed that he is happy to continue with the deceit that is Murray McCully’s malign influence on the NZ National party.
National only have themselves to blame for losing the election. The fact that the party and the caucus refused to have a review of the campaign shows how pathetic they’ve become. Instead of blaming me, or Winston Peters, or any number of other reasons, they need to look inside themselves for the blame for the loss. I could so easily be inside the tent of National, but for the actions of senior people. But, now I’ve been outside for so long I am quite happy where I am. That may be uncomfortable for National supporters to hear, but so is the truth it seems.
My drivers are complex, and sadly there are far more people on the left and centre who are willing to understand them than people on the supposed right and in the National party. I cannot and will not countenance people who cut and run at the first sign of pressure. National showed abject cowardice under fire when Hager released his decidedly lop-sided book with the assistance of National party sources. The book ultimately failed, those who were the target are still around and still working, and the instigators of the book are slowly leaving parliament. Their roles will be revealed in due course, including the real reason John Key left parliament.
Once again, thanks for your ill-informed email, Hopefully, you are better informed now.
Another reader emailed:
I would like to say after reading your comment that I truly support you in your reasons for your unyielding support for your truth and how you see it.
I have been reading your blog for what seems like many years but cant even remember when I first started reading your blog.
Your blog plus many other people writing their truth on the web is empowering for many here who are watching and waiting for people to wake up to what is going on..
I much enjoy your truth and the many others who have left there imprint here and those who comment..
You and all those who help on your blog shine a light on every day issues around the world..
Look forward to your book.
And another writes:
I have read the letter sent to you by a no doubt liberal voter and your reply. In my 80 years on this planet, I have always thought that corruption exists in all forms of Government and as my old pappy used to say, “Trust everyone, just do not trust the devil inside them”. I believe every word that you wrote .
I have never trusted a politician , they are so slimy, they only care for themselves. There are exceptions of course, Judith Collins being one. She is not only attractive but very smart and would make a great PM. I feel that even she was set up by those in the high echelon of National.
Next election if I am still on this earth, my vote will still go to National, but the party vote will go to the Conservative party if they still are in the run . It may be a wasted vote, but one must perform a god given right.
Keep up the good work Cam, love reading the comments and letters keeps my mind ticking over and helps me pass the time while I am waiting for God. Take care and all the very best to you and yours. Cheers,
The truth will prevail…..not always in our lifetime.
I respect a healthy debate and was pleased that G.’s letter was published in full.
Attacks on public figures can be nasty and the public (like me) don’t know the whole story. The constant negative posts about Bill English had a tone of revenge and intense dislike. I stopped reading them.
However, I now see a bigger picture from Cam’s viewpoint. It is not pretty, and I most likely would want everyone to know the truth if they were my parents who had been treated so dismally.
Dirty politics indeed! If only someone would write the full story.
One day Rosie I will. People will be shocked.
One of the problems I see in the MSM and on the left is what appears to be a requirement to stick to a certain script without any room for personal opinion and differences.
I enjoy the fact that on the right side of the spectrum this attitude seems less prevalent.
I remember a right wing politician saying ( and apologise for my memory letting me down as to who) you only needed to agree with them on about 7 of 10 issues to vote for them. If you agreed on 10 out of 10 you were probably crazy! The point being that total agreement is often fanatical, unhealthy and dangerous.
We all bring a wealth of personal experience to our overall views which contributes to what we think in both positive and negative ways.
I respect Cam for explaining his views (something one rarely sees from other commentators) in a manner which I thought respected the original e-mail.
To understand each other better and not always agree is a strength I often see in the comments here but rarely on left wing forums (where I include the MSM)
Roget had some insights that I liked:
Thank you for publishing this. Another healthy insight.
I’m impressed at the amount of background knowledge you bring to your informative and often highly challenging posts. You call it as you see it and as a reader, I can take it or leave it as I wish. The fact that if I hold a view, you give me a pretty much open door to express it publicly right here, is an added bonus.
Having observed your comments for a number of years now, I’ve learned that when you express an opinion strongly you do so with the facts neatly filed away and eventually at the appropriate time, you release them.
It would be great if those who choose to respond in the comments should at least try to bring a similarly well informed view to the table though our natural tribalism often precludes that as we fall back to our default position.
The problem with politicians is that they have convenient memories, whereas I remember everything…
I was tickled pink with this comment from Tess:
The most amazing thing my mum in-law told us recently, is that having been recently introduced to *WO* it has completely changed her life….along with every other resident in her Retirement Village! It’s something they all now look forward to on a daily basis, and dominates the conversation whenever they get together. Somebody must be doing something right!!
Hah, and Winston thinks he can talk to oldies!
The difference is the ability to disagree or challenge views here, as long as we are respectful we can and do offer differing opinions. That is why many of us enjoy the engagement. Where else can you criticise or rebuke politely without censorship? As I recently learnt, certainly not a local National MP’s Facebook page. 😔
It was nearly my full time job last election to highlight NZF’s inadequacy, and Winston’s obvious intention to saddle-up with Ms Ardern. And I was never denied the opportunity, never censored, never belittled.
If you don’t agree, push back. 🙃
Too right there KGB. Debate the issues and topics, no problem.
Gazza realises I know more than I am letting on… but giving readers a peek behind the curtains:
Cam, I like that someone like G writes you these emails etc as it then pushes you to impart some pearls of wisdom and a little sneak into your reasoning as to why you do what you do. Even if you have enlightened us in the past it once again puts it front and centre once again and maybe catches up those of us that may have missed it before. Slowly slowly catchee monkey…
I love my audience. They are smart, honest and often brutal with their frankness. There are times when I think I should just chuck it in and then there are comments and emails like these that tell me to bury those negative thoughts and keep hammering away.
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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.