The Labour Party's spin doctors are doing a cracking job

by Bill Ralston / 23 April, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Labour Party spin doctors

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends The Queen's Dinner at Buckingham Palace. Photo/Getty Images

Perhaps Labour's PR outfit should next turn their talents to Washington, where Donald Trump is turning the White House into a cesspit.

Looking at the relative tranquillity of our Government and then glancing across the Pacific at the train wreck of the US Presidency can cause a warm and cosy feeling. Except for the most politically rabid in New Zealand, most of us would feel – to use an old overworked John Key expression – “relaxed” about how things are going here.

Of course, that could be because after a horrible month of public relations disasters for the Labour-New Zealand First-Green Government, the tsunami of bad news has washed over us, leaving a sense of eerie calm.

And that may be because Labour has reportedly brought in a private firm of spin doctors to exert some control over the information flow from the top of the Beehive. GJ Thompson was, until recently, filling in as Jacinda Ardern’s chief of staff before he returned to the privately run lobbying and public relations company Thompson Lewis. David Lewis, a chief press secretary in Helen Clark’s Government, is also a director of that company. Thompson Lewis is now said to be exercising its considerable crisis management skills for the Ardern Government to some effect.

Those who find it strange that a private consultancy company outside the Beehive should be setting the course for the Labour part of the Government’s communications may reflect on the 1980s Labour Government’s privatisation of a number of state-owned enterprises. Why not privatise the state’s communications these days?

Perhaps the pair should next turn their talents to Washington, where Donald Trump appears to be turning the White House into a cesspit. With Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer, now a target in the cross hairs of investigators, the New Yorker declares: “We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.” Fired former FBI director James Comey publishes a book likening Trump to a mob boss. Trump responds to all the attacks with a mounting fury of Twitter invective – for instance, calling Comey an “untruthful slime ball”.

Personally, I do not care if the Russians applied their cunning computer abilities to get Trump elected. I do not even worry if the allegations in the Steele dossier – that Moscow prostitutes urinated on each other while Trump watched – are true. I should point out that Trump denies that because he is a “germophobe” and says he did not spend the whole night in the hotel room used.

There again, I should point out that Comey said in a recent television interview, “Well, should I say that, as I understand the activity, sir, it doesn’t require an overnight stay? And given that it was allegedly the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton, I would imagine you could be at a safe distance from the activity.”

Ah, if only we could have that kind of political discourse in New Zealand. Instead, we seem to abide by Marquess of Queensberry rules. Before whisking off to Europe, Ardern declares a moratorium on new exploration of offshore oil and gas fields and is greeted with widespread public delight that we are in the forefront of saving the planet. Most of us would have missed the grumble from her opponents that interest in new exploration had waned and it was possible no oil companies would have been interested in new permits anyway.

That is the fine art of spin-doctoring. Before anyone from the right calls foul on Thompson Lewis with its Labour connections, I should point out Wayne Eagleson, the chief of staff to two National prime ministers, has also joined the firm, making it somewhat more blessedly ecumenical in nature.

This article was first published in the April 28, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Hop to it: The best Kiwi beers for summer
99461 2018-12-14 00:00:00Z Dining

Hop to it: The best Kiwi beers for summer

by Michael Donaldson

Here's what to crack open on a hot day, from our very own Kiwi brewers.

Read more
Te Atatu's new cafe The Sugar Grill celebrates local history and family
100443 2018-12-13 16:46:27Z Auckland Eats

Te Atatu's new cafe The Sugar Grill celebrates loc…

by Jean Teng

Nickson Clark's new cafe The Sugar Grill is a project 19 years in the making.

Read more
Time Magazine’s Person of the Year recognises the global assault on journalism
100431 2018-12-13 11:36:23Z World

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year recognises the …

by Peter Greste

Time Magazine has just announced its “Person of the Year” for 2018, and for once, it isn’t one person.

Read more
The devastating effect of discarded Christmas plastic
100417 2018-12-13 09:31:47Z Planet

The devastating effect of discarded Christmas plas…

by The Listener

Over the European holiday season, the Mediterranean Sea’s plastic load rockets by a whopping 40%, as people buy then simply ditch plastics like lilos.

Read more
The worst humanitarian crisis in the world that no one knows about
100384 2018-12-13 00:00:00Z World

The worst humanitarian crisis in the world that no…

by Todd Pitock

A country rarely in the media spotlight, here's why we can't ignore Chad.

Read more
Trump's stolen slogan and the campaign advisor who did his bidding
100401 2018-12-13 00:00:00Z World

Trump's stolen slogan and the campaign advisor who…

by Emma Land

If you thought Donald Trump came up with the slogan "Make America Great Again," you’d be mistaken.

Read more
Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty on how life became stranger than fiction
100261 2018-12-13 00:00:00Z Profiles

Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty on how life …

by Diana Wichtel

When Liane Moriarty was summoned to meet Nicole Kidman in a Sydney cafe, the Hollywood star made it clear she was serious about optioning the book.

Read more
Dear Oliver: A son's poignant tribute to his mother
93895 2018-12-13 00:00:00Z Books

Dear Oliver: A son's poignant tribute to his mothe…

by Peter Wells

A reminder that nothing can really prepare us for the death of a beloved parent.

Read more