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Speaker: The Hollow Men: Initial Impressions

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  • David Haywood,

    Really enjoyed this review, Danyl -- very nice work! Seems like a good time to start a new discussion thread.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report

  • Neil Morrison,

    I can't see any contradiction in the views that Hagar tends to the conspiratorial and that a close up view of behind the scenes Labour would be any less edifying.

    So Hagar has shown that the comparison between politics and suasage making still holds. Big deal.

    We've come to an sorry state in NZ politics when Roger Douglas is considered "far right" - I generally reserve that for the National Front. As for all the accusations of racism, who is currently Labour's Minister for Foreign Affairs?

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report

  • Keith Ng,

    His senior advisor Peter Keenan confided in an email to Bryan Sinclair that he "hated the race based privilege line" and thought it "ludicrous when Maori are largely at the bottom of the heap". They had no illusions about the fundamentally racist character of their policies, and candidly referred to the voters they won from New Zealand First as "red necks".


    Did I say wow? Wow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report

  • Span .,

    Neil, use of the word "conspiratorial" tends to attract the mind to other words like "fruitcake" and "nutbar" and other nouns and adjectives that undermine the points the target is making.

    Danyl's post clearly states, repeatedly, that Hagar's evidence, which is surely how one assesses the worth of his argument, is from primary sources, not News of the World or whispers in the press gallery.

    As Hagar uses credible sources, and a great deal of direct quotation, it is difficult to argue that Hagar's conclusions are not credible.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 112 posts Report

  • Terence Wood,

    In the New Zealand Neil Morrison dreams of...

    the centre of New Zealand's politics would belong to Roger Douglas. His 'centrist' party would be the first in the developed world to have imposed a flat tax. Whether by design or 'unforseen' consequence, tax revenue would drop to a level where the government could no longer afford to play a major role in health or education (the two big ticket budget items). Markets in health - as in the States - prove to be an inefficient delivery mechanism leading to the middle-class paying more for less, while a portion of the working class goes without. Markets in education perpetuate inequality of opportunity. A no longer progressive taxation system exacerbates rising inequality. Which, in turn, leads to rising crime and a less happy, less healthy society.

    Neil: the reason why Roger Douglas is considered far right in New Zealand politics is because approximately 2.5% of New Zealanders (all of whom are conventionally described as rightwing) view the country described above as in any way desirable.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report

  • Neil Morrison,

    I used the term "conspiratorial" rather than the others you mention because I was being polite. Hagar also used a lot of facts with corngate - that didn't make his conclusions any less bizarre. He did the dedate on GE a diservice and I can't help but think he'll achieve the same sort of thing again.

    James, I don't support alot of what Douglas stands for, but I do make a distinction between conservative policies that are a legitimate part of political discourse and the far right.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report

  • Emma Hart,

    My Dad was a butcher, I've seen sausages made. I didn't eat sausages until I was in my twenties. I have, however, a total fascination for watching the political process played out. I'd be just as compelled to watch all this play out if it was Labour giving tours of its smallgoods plant instead of National. It's the primary source quotes that fascinate me, not anybody's 'dot drawing', sorry.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report

  • David Haywood,

    Danyl has just provided me with a slightly updated version of his review. It reveals a few more interesting quotes from the book. The updated version has now been posted to Guest Speaker.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report

  • Steven Price,

    Neil, I'm curious: which of Nicky's conclusions in "Seeds of Distrust" did you find "bizarre"? And have you actually read it?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 29 posts Report

  • Terence Wood,


    I'll answer on behalf of - erm - James. Roger Douglas's politics are correctly described as far right, because – as I said above – they are far to the right of New Zealand's political centre (held by fewer than 2.5% of the population at best).

    This does not mean that his views are akin to those of the National front, nor even the LibertariaNZ. Far right - like far left - is not a discrete point, simply another segment of the spectrum (or, more correctly, spectrums).

    Nevertheless, the simple fact that his beliefs are far removed from what most New Zealanders want (including those with right of centre views, which is why they had to be Trojan-horsed in the last election), means that they can accurately be described as far-right.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Span wrote:
    As Hagar uses credible sources, and a great deal of direct quotation, it is difficult to argue that Hagar's conclusions are not credible.

    LOL... I'd suggest you put on a pair of rubber gloves and flick through one of Ann Coulter's tomes one time - or if you're feeling particularly masochistic, read Deborah Lipstadt's patient demolition of David Irving's outright deceptive mis-use of 'credible sources' and 'direct quotation' in the service of Holocaust denial.

    Now before the usual suspect start foaming, whatever I think of Hagar (and that's not much) I'm NOT putting him on the same level as David Irving. Just that there's no direct corelation between the number of quotation marks and citations ina text and whether the conclusions are credible, especially when (like Coulter) you've got a political barrow to push.

    Span, I don't think you're someone who's ever been shy about expressing an opinion. Could you put your hand on your heart and say you never disagreed with any policy, disliked any of your colleagues, or found the leadership and strategic direction a distasteful compromise of what you considered fundamental principles? Because I wouldn't; and I don't think anyone in the Labour Party can either if they have the slightest grain of self-respect or intellectual honesty.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report

  • Terence Wood,


    In four words I can tell you what is false about Irving's book: The. Holocaust. Took. Place.

    Can you do anything similar with the following charges?

    1. Don Brash was aware that the EB were – effectively – campaigning on his behalf. And mislead the public about this.

    2. The Brash led National Party received substantial support from people whose views on economic policy are generally in line with those of the Act Party. Their support related to the fact that Brash intended to impose economic policies of this sort after winning the election. Brash et. al. were aware that this wouldn’t rub with the electorate. So they deceived the electorate.

    3. Brash received electioneering advice from prominent members of the US conservative establishment.

    4. Certain members of New Zealand’s media were much closer to the National Party than they let on.

    The thing with Coulter’s ‘evidence’ is that it’s not – it’s opinion.
    The thing with Irving’s ‘evidence’ is that it’s not – it’s fiction.

    The thing with Hagar’s evidence – that no one seems to be disputing – is that it’s genuine National Party documents.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report

  • Kent Parker,

    The book seems to illustrate the following:

    Brash was a naive inexperienced politician who needed coaching. The emails exist because of this need for coaching. Because he was in the early stages of a learning process he did not 'own' the ideas and policies he expressed. All his major speeches and platforms were manipulated from often conflicting sources and were not unified in the middle by a coherent personal assessment.

    The book makes literal what was evident from the Brash persona.

    To further what you said Terence about the far right. If the far right agenda is implemented then its bye bye democracy. Democracy depends for its existence on elected governing bodies, both national and local. Business is by nature undemocratic. Leaders become leaders by outperforming their peers and can do so by doing things that are very unpopular. A Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch cannot be voted out of their positions.

    There should always be a balance between government and business and the present model of government providing human service industries in health, education, justice etc. and business providing other goods and services seems to be working.

    A large business ends up imitating a government department with all its inefficiencies, and at the end of the day there is not much difference, except the people at the top of government tend not to walk away with such big pay cheques.

    Hawkes Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report

  • Kent Parker,

    Oh, btw, it is interesting how the spelling of 'Hager' has migrated towards 'Hagar' (the Horrible).

    Hawkes Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report

  • Span .,

    Darling Craig,
    Actually there have been plenty of times that I've been shy of sharing my opinions, but this hasn't been an affliction I've suffered from on my blog, which would be your experience of me.

    Anyhoo, yes of course I've disagreed with my party (which is not Labour, but the Alliance, for those readers not familiar with my politics). Sometimes, like during the 2002 split with Anderton, I've even done so quite publicly.

    But the last bit part of your question I do struggle with:

    _ or found the leadership and strategic direction a distasteful compromise of what you considered fundamental principles?_

    Not much, really. And when that leadership or strategic direction has been decided by legitimate democratic processes within an organisation, and you are on the minority side of that decision, then democracy says you accept that or you find other opportunities to express your principles.

    I think that is the key difference here. (uh oh pun alert!)

    I haven't read The Hollow Men yet (and I'm a slow reader so it'll be a while before I have). But the indications from the media reports, and Danyl's review, indicate that the decisions about strategic direction, and policies, were not being made within the democratic structures of the National Party at all.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 112 posts Report

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Yeah, spelling it Hagar throughout the entry does mar it somewhat...

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Yeah, spelling it Hagar throughout the entry does mar it somewhat...

    Clearly I read too many Viking comics in my youth!

    Thanks guys (apologies to Mr Hager) - I'll ask David to change it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report

  • Alex Coleman,

    I think this is unlikely. I also doubt that the "six principled conservatives" -- who Mr Hagar claims collaborated with him -- have or had any seniority in the party. If senior Nats wanted to leak documents, they would do so to one of the gallery journalists with whom they work with every day and develop close relationships. Mr Hagar is an enemy of National and its ideology. His book is a disaster for the party.

    I'm not too sure about this. Wouldn't one of the primary concerns of the leakers be that they don't get caught?

    Gallery journo's have close relationships with MP's from all parties, and with other journo's. They will be protective of their source and of their scoop but publishing this stuff could well mean you no longer have access to senior Nat' figures for some time to come. Regaining that access would come at a price the leakers would not find career enhancing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report

  • Gary Rawnsley,

    I sense that, for the Nats, the devil will be in the details: you can bet the Labour and NZ First research units will be trawling every last word of the book for evidence of dishonesty and hypocrisy. I have found a gem in the footnotes.

    The Dom Post lead story yesterday related to a National postcard being paid for with Parliamentary funds - exactly the kind of "mis-spending" that National has crucified Labour for these past few months. National is spinning that this was an "honest mistake", and that the invoice was eventually forwarded from the Parliamentary office to the Party.

    But the footnotes in the book expose that National's understanding of the Parliamentary spending rules was exactly the same as Labour's - i.e. that everything except explicit soliciting of votes and/or money was okay. Brash aide Bryan Sinclair writes of the postcard to National racing spokesperson Lindsay Tisch:

    We [Parliamentary office] could produce our own flyer outlining our racing policy, seeing as HQ won't fund the postcard. As long was we don't put 'vote, donate or support' on it, and we don't use Party Vote logos, it's a valid constituency communication.

    A "valid constituency communication"? God, the 'pay it back' campaign was even more audaciously hypocritical than I thought...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report

  • Kent Parker,

    Correction, Danyl, you got the 'Hagar' spelling from reading Sir Humph too much, which is probably not a good think for anybody, least of all the SH bloggers.

    Hawkes Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report

  • Neil Morrison,

    Steven, all of Hager's conclusions.

    Terence, we'll just have to disagree over what constitutes "far" but in this discusion it is being used to mean "beyong the pale" and I don't think dismising Douglas' views that way is very constructive.

    For the record, I thought National overstepped the mark on race relations but there was a need to put an end to some of the silliness beong done in the name of the Treaty - something Labour realised aswell.

    On economics, I'm completely underwhelmed by National having close ties with business. That's as much an issue as Labour's ties to uniuons.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report

  • Nick Kearney,

    There is no way a book could be written in the same vein about the Labour Party. That is because they are too organised and too smart to be duped like this. I can objectively say this as an Act member.

    And I want to refer to the quote below from Danyl's review:

    It was these extremist views that suddenly saw National's campaign coffers bulge once Dr Brash became leader. The ACT party had previously been the darling of New Zealand's super-rich far right, but despite running the most expensive campaigns out of all of our parties, it had never been able to make its policies appeal to more than a tiny minority of New Zealanders.

    Neither, it quickly transpired, could National. While the far right were paying the bills, polling companies and market research quickly determined that a party that ran on a platform of free-market economic reform could never hope to succeed in the election.

    I think a lot of you are overlooking a couple of key things (pun intended!): National got 40% (approx.) It almost did succeed in the election and that is precisely why Hager, and the left in general, have jumped all over this book. I actually think National could have succeeded if Brash hadn't backed down so much. Second, money does not necessarliy equate to electoral support. As Danyl pointed out, Act had some major money when it was first launched and only ever got to 11% at its absolute peak. That slipped to 7% (ish) on election night 1996.

    Finally, it is simply not true (as alleged in comments above) that 2.5% support liberal market policies. National policy was Act policy and 40% supported it. Therefore 40% agree with it. I won't go into why Act only got 2%. That might be for a book!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 73 posts Report

  • Steven Price,

    Interesting that you disagree with "all" of Nicky's corngate conclusions, Neil. Because documents released by the government after the book bear almost all of them out. I see that you don't say that you've read the book, so perhaps you're not familiar with them. Admittedly, the book would have been better if it had talked of a "suspected contamination" rather than a definite one. But the main point remains: the government was being told that there was evidence of contamination that couldn't be ruled out; it didn't order further tests; it didn't tell the public except in a very vague and sneaky press release; and it invented a regime that defined small amounts of contamination as non-existent. It subsequently tried to pretend that this was to do with the scientific limits of testing, but it wasn't. I'd be happy to show you documents from officials that explicitly describe this regime as one that "tolerates" small amounts of contamination, and later documents admitting that this approach was illegal, and changing it. And before you get upset with me for using the word "contamination", let me clarify: having spoken to lots of scientists about this, I'm not inclined to think that the cornseed was dangerous: just illegal. That was Nicky's point in "Seeds of Distrust."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 29 posts Report

  • stephen walker,


    an excellent effort. certainly better than Ray Miller's in the SST. i would just take issue with one of your assumptions. you say:

    _"Brash has a reputation as an 'honest gentleman' of New Zealand politics, or at least he did until last week."_

    This "honest don" thing seems to me to be one of those urban legends spawned simply by people repeating it often enough so that it becomes "accepted wisdom". to me, it's simply PR/manufactured image/spin, with no basis in reality. how has this one-tool, reserve bank fixit man, with his finger on the interest-rate trigger, become "honest don"?

    the clear evidence i see to the contrary is from Brash's own 1998 speech in london:

    "But, when I feel like criticising the reformers for not explaining their intentions in advance of making dramatic changes, I recall a conversation which I had with a group of elderly gentlemen in late 1984 shortly after the then-Labour Government introduced a tax surcharge on the taxpayer-funded retirement income scheme – which effectively means-tested that scheme, despite the Labour Party’s strong commitment not to means-test the scheme prior to the 1984 election. My friends were indignant at the Government’s deceit. I asked them whether they were confident that the original retirement scheme, without some form of means test, was economically sustainable in the long term. No, they thought it was probably not sustainable without some form of means test, and indeed its continuation without a means test would almost certainly, in their opinion, create major strains on the economy. I then asked whether they thought a political party could become Government if, before the election, they pledged to introduce a means test for the scheme. Not a chance, they agreed with alacrity.

    "Then I asked them whether they were suggesting that the Labour Party had had a moral obligation to lie. They did not like that conclusion, and neither did I, but I am reminded of the conversation whenever it is suggested that Governments should not undertake reforms until a majority of the population support those reforms."

    seems pretty clear to me that he is not worried about being very expedient with the truth. in other words, honesty is not up there on the priority list, so the "honest don" tag is just a cooked up image he never earned or deserved. and in light of Hager's revelations, the whole thing makes the media hacks who repeated it so long look silly and biased. imho!


    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 646 posts Report

  • Terence Wood,


    No - something like 2% (give or take a percent or two) voted for ACT at the last election.

    As appears to be well documented in the book, the circa 40% vote that National got was only achieved by them being deceptive about what their economic policies actually were.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report

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