Armstrong on gotcha politics

July 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

writes:

“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.

It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.

At its worst, gotcha politics can be an old-fashioned witch-hunt dressed up in modern-day notions of accountability. None of this new, of course.

What has changed is the extent and intensity of gotcha politics.

Even the Greens are not immune. Last Friday, that party joined others in stressing its campaign would focus on the issues, rather than the sideshows.

Was this the same Green Party whose co-leader Metiria Turei had spent much of the week demanding a prime ministerial apology for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs blunder regarding the granting of diplomatic immunity to a defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission charged with sexual assault?

No matter that various apologies had already been forthcoming. No matter that the State Sector Act and the Cabinet Manual set clear boundaries to prevent ministers interfering in operational matters – thereby begging the question of exactly what John Key was supposed to be apologising for. No matter that the Greens had politicised the whole affair to the point of jeopardising the prosecution of the Malaysian official.

Points well made. They have played politics fast and loose on this issue.

It is unfair to single out the Greens. Both National and Labour are just as guilty, if not more so. National’s being in Government makes it more likely to be a target of such attacks, however.

One reason “gotcha politics” is becoming more endemic is that Key has neutralised so many issues that Opposition parties are having to resort to personality-based attacks to make any kind of impact.

The other major factor is conflict-driven news media. The seemingly insatiable 24-hours-a-day appetite of internet news sites means quality has to be sacrificed for quantity when it comes to investigations and analysis.

In these circumstances, it is temptingly easier to manufacture the news through the media playing their own version of gotcha politics by trying to catch politicians out.

It seems clear Labour can’t win just by leadership preference or policies, so it is inevitable they will try H-Fee type issues.

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40 Responses to “Armstrong on gotcha politics”

  1. Manolo (14,018 comments) says:

    The lardy Luddite Turei takes the cake (pun intended) when comes to gotcha politics.
    The defender of the poor, dressed in designer clothes, always cries foul.

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  2. Yoza (1,903 comments) says:

    Metiria Turei’s pursuit of National’s leadership cabal to explain, publicly, the circumstances which allowed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to believe it was a good idea to aid and abet an alleged rapist’s flight from this country’s legal apparatus is hardly ‘gotcha politics’.

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  3. Yoza (1,903 comments) says:

    Manolo (13,358 comments) says:
    July 29th, 2014 at 7:21 am

    The lardy Luddite Turei takes the cake (pun intended) when comes to gotcha politics.

    Do you get it? See? Because Turei actually takes the cake and eats, because she’s a fatty!

    Well done Manolo! By golly, you are one clever man!

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  4. mjw (399 comments) says:

    I think the prime proponents of Gotcha politics in the last year have been the National party. There is a clear strategy to do ‘gotcha’ on the leader of the opposition, even if it relies on spreading rumours and innuendo, or making things up out of whole cloth. It is a particularly unedifying sight coming from the bully pulpit of government, with a huge lead in the polls. It reminds me of the PAP in Singapore – even down to the lawsuits! I wish National would actually focus on policy, rather than personality. Government is no place to act like a clever dick, doing dodgy deals with secret smiles.

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  5. ross001 (218 comments) says:

    This must be a different John Armstrong to the one that said David Cunliffe should resign because he couldn’t remember a bog standard letter he’d signed some 12 years ago…

    Poor old John, seems he has a bad case of alzheimer’s.

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  6. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    Of course, we are all well above that sort of thing here and would NEVER stoop so low.

    Right? ;-)

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  7. ross001 (218 comments) says:

    John Key said he would apologise to the complainant if he knew her name. Now that he knows her name he refuses to apologise. That isn’t an “operational matter”, it is the PM (once again) behaving like a prat.

    Armstrong has lost the plot and should be placed in a retirement home ASAP.

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  8. OneTrack (3,204 comments) says:

    mjw – “I think the prime proponents of Gotcha politics in the last year have been the National party.”

    Rubbish. Labour and Green have been playing gotcha as long as I can remember. National doesn’t need to call out Cunliffe on his stuff-ups. He does that all by himself. Even the ZlSM has given up trying to minimise them.

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  9. OneTrack (3,204 comments) says:

    ross001 – What the hell is Key supposed to apologise for? Being a man?

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  10. ShawnLH (5,608 comments) says:

    “pursuit of National’s leadership cabal”

    Yeah, just stick “cabal” in there to suggest hooded men standing in a candlelit circle doing in dark deeds.

    Well done Yowza! By golly, you are one clever man!

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  11. ross001 (218 comments) says:

    One Track, you should ask Key that question. He said he would apologise as soon as learnt the complainant’s identity. I presume he wanted to apologise over her shabby treatment…but now he’s sulking because she had the temerity to say he looked bored and disinterested.

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  12. Yoza (1,903 comments) says:

    ShawnLH (3,301 comments) says:
    July 29th, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Yeah, just stick “cabal” in there to suggest hooded men standing in a candlelit circle doing in dark deeds.

    Whatever these people get up to in the privacy of their own Hawaiian holiday mansions is their business.

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  13. ShawnLH (5,608 comments) says:

    Key has not apologized because he has no reason to do so. Moreover, the women in question decided to politicize the issue (or was that her intention all along?) and start an anti-Key campaign. At that point Key was right to change his mind and ignore her.

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  14. AG (1,830 comments) says:

    Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.

    It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.

    Yeah – this sort of “gotcha politics” is just the worst!!!!

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/07/cunliffe_meets_sex_offender_with_name_suppression.html
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/07/cunliffe_did_know_after_all.html
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/06/cunliffe_does_a_u-turn.html
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/06/cunliffe_wrote_on_behalf_of_liu_after_denying_he_knew_him_or_advocated_for_him.html

    And so on, ad infinitum.

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  15. berend (1,715 comments) says:

    Armstrong: Key has neutralised so many issues that Opposition parties are having to resort to personality-based attacks to make any kind of impact.

    Absolutely. And all the Nats support him, because what could be worse than Labour in government doing basically the same things?

    Heard anything about smaller government lately? Tax cuts? Nope, the Nats are just better at running the same size government as Labour. I wish they were as good at deficits though. The Nats have borrowed $300 million a week for the past 6 years, without a single outcry.

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  16. mjw (399 comments) says:

    While I would have like to see an apology from the PM, I can’t really blame him for not offering one, given the complainant had publicly criticised his reaction. It’s a bit heroic to expect an apology under those circumstances.

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  17. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    @ ShawnLH (3,304 comments) says:
    July 29th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    IF Key and those under his watch had not made mistakes, there would have been NOTHING to criticize them over.

    You, and to be fair, many others, keep insisting that the alleged victim constructed this whole issue to score ‘gotcha’ points against the government – however, in order for that to have any credence, you would have to prove how she could know that the matter was going to be mishandled by a government department. Without that mistake, the story has no bones.

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  18. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    mjw (222 comments) says:
    July 29th, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Except that the PM is meant to be the ‘bigger and better’ man. There is such a thing as leading by example, and rising above the pettiness. The PM is expected to do what is right for the country, ALL of the country, not just for his party.

    Take for example the issue of Gerry’s security free ride.

    Imagine this possible scenario:

    If by a stroke of luck John Minto was to make it to parliament after the election. He chooses two of his activist friends to be his aides. After a busy day protesting outside the Rugby Union headquarters in Wellington, because they want the name changed to the Aotearoa Rainbows, considering New Zealand All Blacks to be a pro colonisation and racist name, they head to the airport to catch a plane to Auckland, so they can protest about Macdonald’s using the racist white straws instead of multi-coloured ones.

    They get to the airport running late, and approach the security person requesting to be let through the back door. That person, remembers his aunty’s neighbours butcher’s son, once met Minto and said he was a misunderstood bloke, so the guard decides to let him through. Besides, Minto is an MP, and it was okay for that other MP.

    The pilot is informed there are three people on the plane without security clearance, but if he holds up the flight, he’s going to miss the first ten minutes of the final of Grey’s Anatomy, and besides, it was okay for MP Brownlee to get away with it, so he decides to ignore it.

    So there’s John, his two activist mates heading down the aisle of the plane, carrying their unchecked backpacks – would you be happy to be a fellow passenger on that flight?

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  19. Lance (2,704 comments) says:

    Yes Yoza
    You and your lefty mates should keep at this gotcha politics and personal insults as long as possible… it’s a winning strategy with the public. Mike Williams proved how effective his Neutron bomb was. Oh… and… Waitakere man just luvvvs apologizing for being a man.
    By thunder you will cruze to power with those tactics. It isn’t like the voting public want to hear what the left’s polices are.

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  20. doggone7 (818 comments) says:

    John Armstrong writes:“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.”

    Gotcha politics? NZ Herald? The same Herald that in recent weeks had a series of non-stories, made up stories about Cunliffe and $100 000 bottles of wine and $150 000 donations. Which were fiction. And firmly planted seeds in voters’ minds which are indelible.

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  21. ShawnLH (5,608 comments) says:

    “Except that the PM is meant to be the ‘bigger and better’ man.”

    Which he clearly is. Key had no reason to apologize.

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  22. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    ACT and the Maori party seem to me to be the only parties that do not seem to engage in the gotcha politics.

    The Greens do it in a very subversive way, by initially controlling and massing the message in the media. It’s a pity that our media is too thick, and/or compliant with, to see through this shite.

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  23. Psycho Milt (2,419 comments) says:

    Is this the same John Armstrong who recently wrote a piece saying David Cunliffe should resign because he couldn’t remember a form letter he signed 11 years ago? Had a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion to being opposed to ‘gotcha’ politics now Key is being made to look silly, maybe…

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  24. thePeoplesFlag (256 comments) says:

    I’m sorry, but anyone who can comment on this Armstrong pierce with a straight face must have had a humour bypass. Either that or they regard Armstrong as “one of us”.

    The casual hypocrisy of his opinion piece is cluelessly pompous. This is the same John Armstrong who who demanded Cunliffe resign over a pre-arranged ambush by his paper over an 11 year old letter and a whole pile of lies? What is the story? We all know Armstrong would gladly suck John Keys cock if he got a chance, but this is ridiculous.

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  25. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    Key’s mistake is that he said he would apologise in the first place. He had no reason to apologise, if anything it should be MFAT that should apologise for how it dealt with the communications with Malaysia.

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  26. itstricky (1,875 comments) says:

    The defender of the poor, dressed in designer clothes, always cries foul.

    That’s doubly funny in itself, given that abusing someone for the clothes they wear rather than the words they speak is ‘gotcha’ politics at its best. Well done Manolo, you’ve outdone yourself this time. Only thing that would make it better would be if you could slip a reference to ‘Stone Agers’ in there.

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  27. SW (241 comments) says:

    DPF – you havin a laugh?

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  28. itstricky (1,875 comments) says:

    You and your lefty mates should keep at this gotcha politics and personal insults as long as possible

    Quite right Lance. I wish Labour’s Judith Collins hadn’t launched into that fashion distribe against an opposition leader. Quite personal and unbecoming. Those red munching commies are always quick on the trigger with personal insults. Incidentally, can anyone tell me why Collins was wearing a turquoise blue number that day?

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  29. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    Andrew Geddis said:

    Yeah – this sort of “gotcha politics” is just the worst!!!!

    Actually, Andrew, I would say that your thinly veiled attempt at bipartisan politics, using a university institution to hide behind, is actually much worse. Any thinking person is quite able to see you’re a rabid left sycophant.

    Possibly even worse than you though is Graeme Edgeler, who tries to come across as some intellectually superior authority to hide his sycophancy.

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  30. itstricky (1,875 comments) says:

    ACT and the Maori party seem to me to be the only parties that do not seem to engage in the gotcha politics.

    Quite. Possibly because they’re too small to make any enemies whatsoever?

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  31. itstricky (1,875 comments) says:

    ctually, Andrew, I would say that your thinly veiled attempt at bipartisan politics, using a university institution to hide behind

    How is he hiding behind a university in this post? He’s right on the money. DPF posts this sort of stuff daily. I call this place ‘another day, another Cunny bash and no National policies’ now. Hence the equally on the money comment from SPC “you’re ‘aving a laff’

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  32. tom hunter (5,056 comments) says:

    Pffft – John Armstrong said this.

    Irony is dead.

    And no, I still won’t be buying your shitty newspaper either Mr Armstrong. The free local rag provides all the fire starting material I need.

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  33. trout (944 comments) says:

    The lefties are out in force this morning spitting bile – there must have been another poll and I missed it. I think ‘gotcha’ politics is great – provides an insight into the way pollies think and behave – also is an entertaining distraction – pass the popcorn.

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  34. minus (217 comments) says:

    ross001 – John Key said he would apologise to the complainant if he knew her name. Now that he knows her name he refuses to apologise. That isn’t an “operational matter”, it is the PM (once again) behaving like a prat.

    Between Key saying he would apologise and then declining to, the young woman went on TV3 with Greens backing, and also widely spread an essay she had written about New Zealand rape culture, although she had been attacked by a Malaysian.
    Key is surely allowed to change his view, like us all, as other circumstances change. He has also apparently received legal advice too on the matter, which is subject to investigation.

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  35. dime (10,086 comments) says:

    loving watching the resident lefties get all nasty cause they know the election is gone.

    if Cunliffe ever wonders why people hate him, he should have a listen to the soundbite this morning on zb news @ 8am. he was whining about ACT/National. The tone is unbelievable. Dime can be arrogant an patronizing, but this guy is at jedi master level.

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  36. Yvette (2,842 comments) says:

    Cunliffe is talking krap now when he says they can still form a Government after the Election.
    What they actually hope to do is hit a point where Electorate members about equal the Party Vote so no Labour list members are left post Election, as the Electorate seats / List seats split in Labour is roughly the divide in Labour factions, which thwarts any progress among them.

    The whole Parliamentary term has been spent by Labour in internal change – three different leaders and the ridiculous American-style “primary” after the change in voting for leaders – and now the Election is becoming the same battlefield over internal matters, rather than anything else that should matter – like being a Party that offers anything to the voter.

    Three years they have being sorting themselves out, with no success – so why would anyone vote for them to run the country?
    “Gotcha politics” are kind of irrelevant when Labour isn’t really participating – but rather just playing with themselves :-)

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  37. Fentex (1,014 comments) says:

    Points well made.

    I think Danyl at Dim post has a more accurate take on Armstrong (who he describes as a ‘risible courtier’) and this opinion piece. Armstrong’s hypocrisy makes the point.

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  38. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Armstrong is talking about political parties using “gotcha politics”, not newspapers, not independent commentators, not himself. So the cries of hypocrisy and “DPF said this” just show how facile some of you are. He’s not saying you can’t criticise.

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  39. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    I think the prime proponents of Gotcha politics in the last year have been the National party

    Examples please.

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  40. itstricky (1,875 comments) says:

    Examples please.

    Judith Collins. Jacket.

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