Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the debt of gratitude that National owes to Aaron Gilmore

May 10th, 2013

Comes the time, comes the man. Aaron Gilmore has become the poster child for everything that is loathsome about politicians and the political process. However, it might be time for a sense of proportion to creep into the Gilmore saga. It would be nice to think Gilmore had established a new benchmark. I’d certainly be in favour of everyone in Parliament losing their job if and when they display an obnoxious sense of entitlement as they threaten the livelihoods of workers and beneficiaries. But that isn’t going to happen. On the contrary, some of Gilmore’s colleagues (e.g. Simon Bridges) are being praised for their apparent disregard for the needs of those on the minimum wage, and for the public’s civil rights to protest about risks to the environment. Gilmore, it should be remembered, was already the lowliest of National’s backbenchers He had little or no power to inflict damage on the public, beyond being lobby fodder for the government.

In fact, you could argue that Gilmore has already done sterling service to his party and its leader John Key over the past fortnight – far more than he could ever have accomplished as a backbench MP. Almost singlehandedly, his antics have distracted the media and the public from this week’s Mighty River Power debacle. His gifts as a flak catcher didn’t stop there. The Gilmore saga also usefully diverted attention from the brain spasm that induced John Key to publicly describe Wellington as a dying city beyond the government’s powers to resuscitate – a comment that sounded much like the same smart aleck arrogance and irresponsibility that Gilmore displayed at Hanmer Springs.

In fact, Gilmore has usefully enabled Key to look like a pillar of rectitude – a man who is trying his darndest to rid National of its wayward back bencher but gosh, is being prevented by the vagaries of MMP from doing so. Key has depicted himself as a virtual prisoner prevented by Parliamentary red tape from doing what he, and the public, would like to do to Gilmore. For similar reasons, the entire National parliamentary caucus should be passing a vote of thanks to their errant colleague – if only because on a compared-to-Gilmore basis almost all of them can look a lot better, and can go to local electorate meetings with a sigh and a “What can we do?” bearing of long suffering. When National MPs are carrying such a burden, for any aggrieved party member to raise the MRP fiasco would seem like very bad form.

Oh, but in the meantime of course, John Key will be happy to accept Gilmore’s vote to further his own legislative agenda – and if not him, his eventual replacement, whatever. That’s the element of pantomine in this whole business. Gilmore knows he can’t be sacked – and he isn’t about to altruistically walk away from a backbencher income worth at least $150,000 in base salary and perks. Key knows he can’t sack Gilmore. The crunch question for Key would be – will you decline to accept a vote cast by Gilmore on any of your upcoming legislation, given that reliance on such a tarnished MP will taint any laws passed with his help, and thereby lower the status of Parliament in the eyes of the public? I think we know the answer to that one.

That’s the point. The Gilmore saga – in all its shock horror, revelation aspects – is mainly about the striking of poses. It is a matter of impression management, and little more. Probably, it rather suits National to keep him around as a distraction, as a useful contrast and for his ongoing support on cliffhanger votes, and – no doubt – it suits him to keep his salary. A win/win for those concerned.

MRP fallout
Incredible to watch the attempt to shift the political blame for the Mighty River Power fiasco from those responsible – i.e., the government that could never offer a credible economic rationale for the float – onto those watching from the sidelines. Labour and the Greens it seems, had the temerity to offer not only criticism, but a real political alternative that addresses the needs of the 97% of New Zealanders unable or unwilling to take part in sharemarket speculation over an asset they own. Shame on them.

To listen to the critics of NZ Power, the Opposition was obliged to suspend democratic debate entirely, lest any alternative proposal or critical debate should prevent this turkey from hobbling over the finish line. Well, lest the contrary arguments vanish entirely down the memory hole: there is no sane economic rationale for the asset sales programme. The fate of the Tiwai Point smelter is still hanging over this float, with many possible consequences for pricing and profit taking. (In the past week, multimillion dollar backdated employment costs have also just been added to the smelter’s liabilities.) There are residual obligations on water rights. There are three other energy companies being lined up in this process, in a market already containing such options in Contact Energy etc etc.

Even with all those liabilities, the wonder is that a $2.50 share price was still achieved. Yet the political fallout from this wildly unpopular gambit is being heaped on the parties that consistently opposed the plan. Only in New Zealand could such gullibility pass itself off as the hard nosed wisdom of the market.


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    1. 10 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the debt of gratitude that National owes to Aaron Gilmore”

    2. By Duncan Stuart on May 10, 2013 | Reply

      Good comments Gordon. The sudden “holier than thou” stance of the Nats (“you’ve let me down, you let the Party down…blather)is a bit rich given we’ve had so many questionable brain fades etc from the same people. Gilmore’s sins are pretty average by comparison and talk of him stepping down is an over-reaction.

      If I was Gilmore, and I’m glad I’m not in his sorry shoes, I’d guts it out, turn up every day and throw myself into local constituency matters. I’d show contrition, act with some humility and …and I’d vote with my conscience.

      As from this week the Party has shown how it won’t stand by their own man. They needn’t expect Aaron’s vote. As Goodfellow so pompously oput it: actions have consequences.

    3. By Jum on May 10, 2013 | Reply

      Change ‘Mark Sanford’ to ‘John Key’ and you will see just what a ‘little America’ New Zealand has become.

      (Last paragraph)”Furthermore, the polls showed, those same voters felt that Mr. Sanford’s (Key’s) opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch (David Shearer), did not have the lying experience necessary to serve in Congress (New Zealand politics).

    4. By Paul on May 10, 2013 | Reply

      Gilmore is undoubtedly an unlikeable chap. Probably a bully, certainly a big noter. That he typifies his colleagues is sad, that we as a country elect so many of these types (Key is one – though less horrid at least in public, Joyce, English, Tolley, Parata) says as much about us as them. I often wonder why in a country once so famous and admired for our egalitarianism and giving a bloke a fair go these people are often seen as someone to admire, certainly to give Knighthoods too and the people who continue to make the country function giving of their time, their compassion, their lives are often seen as losers and nobodies.

    5. By Elyse on May 11, 2013 | Reply


      Well said!
      Even the Muldoon era pales in comparison to the Key grab fest. Muldoon was obvious in his sneering nastiness. Key is more adept at the fake smile and fooling a lot of people.
      Yes, kiwis elected these types and continue to think Key is a “nice guy” in the same way Americans elected Bush because they thought he’d be a fun drinking buddy. They are aspirationals and Key knows how to milk them.

      I often wonder what the reaction would be if Helen Clark had flown off to her house in Hawaii every Christmas holiday surrounded by a small army of taxpayer-funded body guards. The attitude seems to be that it’s ok for him because he made a bunch of money on Wall Street, will show us kiwis how to get “ruch”, screw the little guy, etc etc whereas Helen was a mere career public servant who actually cared about her country.

    6. By Jim on May 11, 2013 | Reply

      The contempt John Key has for those who do not agree with his party and plans for NZ (particularly anyone who might support Labour or Green), are shown very clearly in this report from Stuff:
      “Key said experienced investors would understand that the reduction would take place before the float, potentially leading to a cheaper purchase price. However, many of the mum-and-dad types “who might have gone in with $2500″ would be likely to be put off. “Unfortunately, the kind of people who are probably, frankly, Labour and Green supporters, and will be less sophisticated as investors will get frightened off,” he said.”

    7. By Joe Blow on May 11, 2013 | Reply

      Don’t you mean that “Aaron Gilmore has become the poster child for everything that is loathsome about…” the National Party?

      He’s the National Party’s prospect. He represents the National Party’s vision for the future as he was one of their youngest and “brightest” rising stars. An ex-investment banker straight from Key’s ilk.

      After he initially got in Parliament in 2008 and when he got back in after Lockwood left I seriously thought about running for Parliament on both occasions as it seemed to me that if the likes of Aaron Gilmore could be a Member of Parliament anyone could. He does represent a disturbing aspect of the MMP list system.

      I chortled and danced a little jig when he didn’t get back into Parliament after the special votes were counted last election (the Greens gaining another seat). The pressure to run for Parliament was lifted!

      I am relieved that the pressure has now once again been expunged…

    8. By Mick on May 11, 2013 | Reply

      John Key may be right about Wellington.

      Here are a few ideas for a bolder, more creative, more progressive Wellington that may appeal to the PM and Cabinet:

      1. Lease Wellington holus bolus to Warner Brothers and Peter Jackson (subject to a Kiwi-clause that guarantees every New Zealander the right to appear as an unpaid Extra at least once in their lifetime).

      2. Mine it. Open cast the Wellington landmass and deep drill the harbour. Control gates on Transmission Gully together with Naval patrols in Cook Strait should allow for the easy monitoring and elimination of any protest action.

      3. Bulldoze all earthquake-prone structures. Transport the small number of buildings that remain to Auckland to help alleviate the housing shortage in those parts. Cover the resulting rubble in asphalt and use this facility as a car park for tourists arriving from Auckland on their way to our 100% Pure Mainland.

      4. Turn Wellington into a giant Casino and Foreign Exchange Trading Centre. Establish the “New Zealand National University of Financial Endeavour” on the same site offering the world’s very first conjoint degree in croupiering and Forex Trading.

      5. List Wellington on the NZX and let the invisible hand of the market work its magic on all of our behalf (but especially the mums and dads).

    9. By Delia on May 12, 2013 | Reply

      Yeah, some good ideas, John. I mean Mick.

    10. By Rob Mason on May 13, 2013 | Reply

      Well wrong again as usual Gordon.
      Gilmore has walked.
      As far as the mighty river saga, the green taliban with labour are trying to save us peasants $300 a year but downgrading the value of the company by about $1000 per peasant.
      Typical left economics.
      But its ok , I am starting my second business next year, but not in NZ , in Laos, at least they are truthful, they have the hammer and sickle flying, so you know what to expect.

    11. By lyndon on May 14, 2013 | Reply

      by about $1000 per peasant

      So… Four billion dollars then? Thanks for the fact check!

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