Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

The Melissa Lee Factor

May 14th, 2009

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Melissa Lee’s emergence as the poster child of the Key government is so apt, it makes the process of politics seem karmically ordained. It is rare indeed to find arrogance and ignorance combined so exquisitely in the one harsh and clanging package, and the P.R. crew down at National party head office must be thinking that polling day in Mt Albert just can’t come soon enough, to get her off the front pages. Talk about himbos leading bimbos. The image of Lee’s ministerial mentor Jonathan Coleman silently mouthing instructions for her to say “I don’t know” at last night’s election meeting, and then to have Lee dutifully repeating “I don’t know” to a questioner only seconds later, was an example of political post-modernism to treasure for the ages.

Think about it. The government can ram legislation through Parliament under urgency, they can ravage democracy in Auckland, they can fiddle while the recession burns its way through the country… and they can get away with it, largely thanks to the Prime Minister’s ingenuous ways and winning smile. Then along comes Lee to represent the ugliness beneath, and to blare it across the front pages of the mainstream media.

Last night, Lee’s stigmatizing of south Auckland as a criminal zone was bad enough. The thought that the fabulously expensive Waterview Connection roading project might be able to prevent the dark hordes from Otara descending on the decent tree-lined streets of Mt Albert was even worse, and an interesting example though, of a certain style of politics in action.

For want of a better term, you could it governance by pandering. The thought process involved : South Auckland = crims = Nimby Response is not all that different a process of calculation though, than the one involved in appointing Christine Rankin to the Families Commission. Rankin = sop to social conservatives = room for the government to be negative towards the S59 referendum. Quite deftly so far, the government has parcelled up and posted out its largesse.It has made some token concessions to the Maori Party, offered some gains to the Greens (while gutting the RMA and Emissions Trading Scheme) made some ideological running space for Rodney Hide and his cohorts- and now tossed some concessions to the social conservatives, to mollify them for their looming disappointment over the government’s likely stance on the anti-smacking referendum.

Essentially, this has meant that the public face of politics has been conducted at middle management level on non-essentials, while the team in the penthouse has got on in private with core business like the broadband rollout, the re-shaping of the public service, and the revisions to the tax structure. All of which are presented as virtual fait accompli and rammed home ASAP. By being non-ideological on the smaller things, the government’s larger agenda has largely escaped controversy.

The Rankin move is a bit of a risk though, beyond the obvious pandering involved. By contrast the centre-left, when in government, made few concessions to its own ideological extremists and sought to control them far more often than it indulged or tried to mollify them. Rankin, like Lee, will alienate more people than she excites – and her elevation must be particularly galling to Peter Dunne. The Families Commission after all, was his baby and Rankin has been criticized publicly by Dunne in the past. The conspicuous lack of special goodies and bonbons for Dunne during these past six months reflects the government’s apparent belief that – just as Jim Anderton was for Labour – Dunne is part of the family, and can be taken virtually for granted.

What to do with Lee for the next couple of weeks until polling day? Luckily the Budget on May 28 will take her out of the spotlight. Sometime in the next day or so, Lee will no doubt be taken to one side by the minders. This time, they may not simply be silently mouthing the instructions. In all likelihood, the message will be along the lines of “If you keep your mouth shut Melissa, you reduce the chances of putting your foot in it.”


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    1. 20 Responses to “The Melissa Lee Factor”

    2. By Tim Ellis on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      The image of Lee’s ministerial mentor Jonathan Coleman silently mouthing instructions for her to say “I don’t know” at last night’s election meeting, and then to have Lee dutifully repeating “I don’t know” to a questioner only seconds later, was an example of political post-modernism to treasure for the ages.

      Nice story Gordon, but I don’t believe it’s true. I was seated a couple of rows behind Coleman. He was chattering away to some other National Party people during what was a lively debate. If he had been mouthing anything to Lee, I would have seen him do it. He didn’t. Coleman was far too far back in the audience for Lee to have lip-read anything anyway.

    3. By K on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      Yes nice point – “By being non-ideological on the smaller things, the government’s larger agenda has largely escaped controversy” – although I’d say that highlighting the non-controversial while so much else goes on behind the scenes is precisely ideological – in the sense of masking the real agenda.

      So no the $50 million feelgood cycleway does not make up for the Auckland coup, nor for the gutting of democratic participation in the RMA, nor for the higher tax burden on low income earners…

      Who knows how much the Waterview Wall/motorway will end up costing – the government seems to have demanded an acceptable price tag from the transport agency so they can get the road building machine moving, leaving the next goverment to pick up the inevitable cost blowouts.

    4. By Cookie on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      It’s nice to see the mask beginning to slip, as it was always fated to do, from the National team… I do love this defence from Key over Lee’s South Auckland comment – “It was a regrettable statement, probably one made in the heat of a by-election campaign,”

      Effectively he’s excusing her vile (and, let’s face it, if not racist then sailing in that direction) comment as an excited utterance. Often what comes out of our mouths at those moments is our true beliefs, our real nature. If that’s Melissa Lee’s ‘truth’ then it’s a very ugly one.

    5. By Paul Robeson on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      Who is Tim Ellis?

      Apparently your a liar Gordon. I wondered if Tim, for his next, Penn and Teller BS act will turn his skill on the budget for the projected motorway.

    6. By dw on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      Yes, Tim has a habit of blindly accepting and excusing everything NACTIONAL does in the name of returning NZ to the basket case state it was in during the 90’s a-la Shipley et al. Great, roll on 12 percent unemployment, depression at every turn, petty minded anti-intellectualism and small mindedness.
      BTW, please keep up the great work Gordon, you’re one of only a few journos left who can actually research and write a cogent well researched story.

    7. By Paul Robeson on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      And turning up on blogs trying to limit the damage of a excoriating piece of writing by questioning the journalist’s credibility.

    8. By millsy on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      At lease with Birch, Shipley and Richardson they were up-front about screwing the people over. This lot are going to do it sneakily.

    9. By VCD on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      Nationals ‘Oh silly me!’ Sarah Palin defense – really is admitting you are stupid really better than admitting you were trying to use fear to gain votes?

      As for Ms Rank-in( bare legs and shiny bits are excitement enough for some Gordon) I am pretty sure her misplacement is just Key & Co amusing themselves at our expense.
      Ram on National- we will be distracted watching Rankin’s very disturbing skirtline.

      I do miss Mr Finklestein.

    10. By PG on May 14, 2009 | Reply

      Its all so clear now. Our suspicions have been confirmed. Melissa is verbally well endowed, perhaps too well, but her foot size is disproportionately large compared to her mouth/brain size

    11. By Jum on May 15, 2009 | Reply

      I agree.

      As for Tim Ellis, the modern equivalent of the Jester in Edgar Allen Poe’s story, is he being paid to trawl the blogs looking to soften the anti-democratic flogging that NAct is perpetrating on NZers? Unlike me who does it unpaid because I knew the moment National got into government they would take away our rights and our assets. I just didn’t realise how fast they would do it.

      Thanks to Labour, Greens and Maori for trying to help South Auckland even down to Franklin under Paul Hutchison Nat MP, by trying to slow the 1st bill down that takes away local council/ratepayers’ rights. Or even halt the theft of our assets by NAct to privatise and sell off.

      If I could get to Wellington, I’d be cheering Labour/Greens/Maori from outside. I hope others can do it for me. Thanks.

    12. By stuart munro on May 15, 2009 | Reply

      What we need Jum, is a private members bill making anyone privatising a state asset personally liable if it subsequently proves to have been ‘sold’ under value.
      Privatisation is sometimes appropriate, but those in the 90s realised on average 20% of the real value. You can find American textbooks which use them as an example of how not to privatise.
      We need to firmly discourage the idea that kleptocracy is something you can get away with.

    13. By Chris on May 15, 2009 | Reply

      Did they interview John Fay and Whatshisname Richwhite for the textbooks?

    14. By stuart munro on May 16, 2009 | Reply

      @ Chris, they didn’t quote them. They made a particular example of selling off transmission frequencies, some of which were hocked for as little as a dollar because they were believed to be useless. Subsequently these frequencies became important for cell phone and wireless internet use, so that speculators were able to make enormous profits. Selling a public asset for so little does not even return the transaction cost – it would have been better to do nothing even if we believed in privatisation and excused the fundamental ignorance of possible value behind the decision.

    15. By Pietrad on May 18, 2009 | Reply

      My only wish is for Melissa Lee’s case of ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease to become more widespread – especially amongst her associates currently trying to ‘rush us off our feet’ and overwhelm us with their outrageous proposals and undemocratic methods.
      Let us not permit their devastating actions.

    16. By Jo on Jun 3, 2009 | Reply

      Without Prejudice:

      Dear Friends,

      I would like to invite all of you to support a meeting that I am organising its also a opportunity to meet and have a cuppa with Melissa Lee our Buddy MP and National candidate for the up coming Mt. Albert by election on the 13th. of June 2009. Now I have met many people who are under the impression that National is a party for the rich and businesses but this is not true I would not be inviting you to meet a person or back a candidate or MP if this was true. Daily I bump into many Pacific Islanders in Avondale and Sandringham who tell me that they have always been labour supporters that labour gives them a home and money since they are unemployed. I said to them that Labour does not give this to them from their pocket and that National will continue to support the needy and do even better they immediately look at me in Orr and say o.k. in that case we will vote for National. I say to them here is an MP in Melissa Lee who is willing to help whom one can approach at her office at 779, New North Road, Mt. Albert and get their problems solved. We need to communicate this message to all and see for ourselves what National can do whether it be Education, Health, Law and order or even getting compensated fairly if our houses are being taken up by the Motorway.

      We have made several requests for assistance in the community over the past three years but could achieve very little after writing a lot of letters, having a lot of meetings and making forty seven action requests with Auckland City and the government. Some of the problems are so severe that they do not get done contractors are paid without work being done and I have had to question department heads on why this was done on several occasions, one basic problem was having a regular permanent community constable why is it when Avondale which used to have a 24/7 police station that we have to always request/beg for a community constable its our right as tax payers, believe you me it not easy even to meet or get my phone call returned it was very difficult till I met Melissa Lee she took her phone on a couple of requests and got the job done immediately. I saw her on another occasion where a lady in a state house was having a problem Melissa did not say to her write to me or come over to my office – out came her black berry and on to the minster for housing.

      We have also had a tough job to stop dumping of garbage, the place being trashed by drunks who also blast music till the early hours of the morning disturbing the peace in the neighbourhood at open spaces and reserves we had a meeting with the police and Auckland City eighteen months ago and singed a petition amongst our neighbours addressed this at a public forum with the Avondale community board, this matter was supposed to be forwarded to Auckland city council a year ago but nothing has transpired we did not even get a response to our request or a reply to our emails to from the board chairman. On the other hand Waitakere which took up this matter at the same time got an Alcohol Ban six months ago in all public places where drinking of alcohol in public places was causing a nuisance. In Mt. Albert or Avondale there seems to be a conflict of interest as to why our concerns are not being heard and Alcohol is not being banned in public places where youth are encouraged to create a nuisance and disturb the neighbourhood. I am following this up with the press and Melissa Lee and hope to have a solution to this problem check out whether there is really a conflict of interest here!!! hopefully before the Super City comes into being.

      I believe we live in a good suburb Avondale which has potential that has not been exploited a nice neighbourhood, a business park, a polluted estuary ” The Whau” a bird sanctuary, access to the motorway without any traffic signal to town and only a couple of suburbs from town a great electorate Mt. Albert that offers so much by way of shopping malls, markets, shops etc all we need is someone to support us in our concerns and problems and to exploit the potential of this great place which has been neglected for years. Believe you me I only know Melissa Lee for a couple of months and after a couple of emails I got to meet her and then my family and myself decided to support her campaign its been so exciting and fascinating its been the greatest campaign we have been involved with since I was fifteen years old with the Swatantra Party in Bandra, Mumbai, India where I was actively involved in politics from a young age. All this time to us an MP was more of a ceremonial title and we could get little or nothing done but with Melissa she is a person to get the job done a person who has been knocking on doors and listening to concerns of people day in and day out of course the press which always wants the lime light has not been kind to her but then Melissa does have time nor works for the press and to her the people perception is more important. She is human and can make mistakes which need not be blown out of proportion the important thing is the bigger picture we have majour problems and they need to be fixed.

      I assure you that Melissa is the right candidate and if she is not able to sort your problems then I will be responsible for following this up and making sure it gets done but I can guaranty you that this will not be required. She is spontaneous has direct contact with the government and will not settle for a NO if the request is within reason. Mt. Albert needs change and a Change for the better now.

      Hence I would request all of you to come over to Avondale College on Monday the 8th. of June at 7.00 PM for an hour to listen to Melissa Lee and have a cup of coffee, tea and some refreshments provided by our local businesses and friends. Its also a nice time to meet one another introduce yourselves and your businesses and help one another where required. Please feel free to bring all your friends and neighbours along.

      Thank You for your time,

      Keith and Jo

    17. By VCD on Jun 3, 2009 | Reply

      Without much prejudice.
      With nassumptions of your motives.

      I kindly and with much regret thank you “Jo & Keith” for your invite but regrettably must politely decline .
      But wishing Miss lee the best results possible under the circumstances of her horrendous campaign, which well supported by our dear wee smiley banktator.
      Thanks for the humour!

    18. By Martha Mitchell on Jun 3, 2009 | Reply

      @VCD I don’t think National sense of humor is that good!
      They are genuinely campaigning for Nat’s failLee.

    19. By Martin on Jun 12, 2009 | Reply

      Melissa Lee WAS right.
      she just mis indentified the criminals as the Green Laeder said recently.

      Millsy we are got shafted then and it’s happening again.

      time to turn off the Rugby test and find out what is going on.

    20. By VCD on Jun 13, 2009 | Reply

      When people stop watching Rugby and figure out the agenda- what then?

      Follow the advise to switch back to Labour in 2 1/2 years when every public service is corporatised and we can’t afford to buy them back this time.
      Will govt control, (in direct opposition to the interests & will of the people), end the 200+yr class war?
      It is frightening to me that the mainstream (corporate) media do not feel the slightest responsibility for their part in the spread of lies and the suppression of needed information- preventing any notion of informed consent within the middle and lower class voting population.
      Rugby is bliss.

    21. By katalog www on Mar 27, 2011 | Reply

      willy-nilly look at our cobweb directory

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