Dom Post on Labour

The Dom-Post has a scathing article on , mainly arising from the internal polling story in the Herald on Sunday.

I was chatting to a journalist about this last night, and we were both surprised the story has gone on for so long, as one could mount a defence for different aspects of what happened.

I think the reason this story got resonance is the combination of issues. It wasn’t just doing polling under the name of a non registered company (which other parties have done in the past), but the fact they also told pollsters to use fake names, were doing it from Parliament, that lied about it, that the Labour President knew nothing about it, and the the Whip defended it and the Leader condemned it.

Again you can reasonably debate about whether or not it was legitimate to do from Parliament (and could well be so, depending on the questions), and whether the fake names of pollsters really matters. But it is having all the issues combined together which makes it really messy for Labour – and Rick Barker lying about it, which is what has really hurt them, and may explain why the story keeps going.

The other factor might just be a lack of much other political news, and nature abhors a vacuum.

The editorial says:

Some things are just plain wrong.

It is wrong for political pollsters to lie about who they represent and wrong for a politician to pretend no knowledge of activities he is orchestrating from his parliamentary office.

A politician who cannot see that he has outlasted his use-by date. The politician concerned is former Labour Cabinet minister Rick Barker. …

He suggested the volunteers use false names when making the calls, and, when questioned by a reporter about the operation, he said: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

It was only when the reporter revealed a thorough knowledge of the subterfuge that Mr Barker admitted its existence and his role in it.

That is not acceptable. Truth is not a negotiable commodity.

There is a golden rule amongst MPs. You may be evasive to journalists, even a bit deceptive. You can be unhelpful. You can stonewall. But you should never ever tell a blatant lie – as in something you know to be totally false.

To the credit of Labour Party president Andrew Little, he dissociated himself from the phoney operation and is seeking a meeting with party leader Phil Goff to discuss it.

The same cannot be said for senior Labour whip , who is fast building an unwanted reputation for himself as an apologist for indefensible behaviour on the part of his colleagues.

Ouch.

“I’m sure that half the people who try to sell us things on telemarketing aren’t giving us their real names,” he said by way of justification.

He could have added that noms de guerre are commonly employed in several other professions – prostitution and pole dancing being just two – but he and Mr Goff would be advised to consider what sort of company they and their colleagues wish to keep.

Defending the advice to use fake names for callers was a mistake. There is no need to not use people’s real christian names.

As I said on Sunday, there are legitimate reasons a political party wanting to conduct a poll itself (rather than pay an external company to do one) doesn’t want to use its own name – it does skew the responses and the results.  However it would have been smarter for Labour to have kept the company whose name they were using registered.

The subterfuge raises obvious questions about Mr Barker’s moral compass, but his conduct also hints at a deeper malaise within the Labour Party. It is a malaise composed, in equal parts, of arrogance, bitterness and sloth.

Wow, this is a tough editorial. I’m not sure “sloth” is an apt description, but won’t argue against arrogance or bitterness.

Labour’s MPs resemble grumpy, disinherited members of the landed gentry who have been turfed out of their comfy gentlemen’s club for not paying their subscriptions and are trying to fast talk their way back in past the doorman.

It is what they called in Canada, the “culture of entitlement” that the Canadian Liberal Party had.

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