Pete George is well known around the blogosphere, and has his own blog for a while now. And he's got a very interesting post up this morning that merits a look; under the headline Labour's Mallardy, Parliament's malady he opines:
Attack politics has been practised for a long time, by different parties. It happens to be that the current gutter politician-in-chief seems to be Trevor Mallard. It may or may not be a deliberate whole of Labour strategy, David Shearer has spoken against it, but he seems to have been ignored by some within Labour.
Over the last few months there seems to have been a concerted Mallard led campaign to mudsling with unsubstantiated accusations. The most prominent examples are:
It is claimed that “holding government to account” is an essential task of the opposition. It is. But there is a clear difference between holding to account and speculative and potentially destructive political attacks.
- Accusations in the house and outside the house by both Mallard and Andrew Little that have led to pending threats of defamation proceedings by Judith Collins. There has been no evidence produced to support the claims, and what is publicly known tends to suggest Mallard and Little have little if anything to back the claims made by them and by associated mouthpieces on The Standard.
- Accusations of hotel room rate impropriety against John Banks that seemed obviously a beat up (it took media and Banks nearly a day to wake up to this).
- “Fresh allegations made against Banks” – by Trevor Mallard, who “is asking” speculative questions, again. Hoping the media will do his dirty work for him again?
The opposition should examine Government policies , actions and MPs, that’s an essential part of our democratic system.
We agree; there's a considerable difference between "holding the government to account", and using resources paid for by the taxpayer to speculate, to use innuendo, and to make completely false accusations, usually under the cover of parliamentary privilege.
Pete George continues:
When MPs and their operators wage campaigns that appear to be aimed at trying to bring down our government, and are at least aimed at destroying the careers of democratically elected politicians using questionable and dirty tactics, it goes far beyond “holding to account”. I think it amounts to blatant subversion, and a direct threat to reasonable democratic process.
Political mudslinging is also a major turnoff for a lot of the population outside the political bubbles, and I believe is a significant factor in increasing levels of public apathy towards politics and parliament. Politicians as a group are generally not respected – for good reason.
Most MPs go into parliament with the aim of doing good for the country. Most give it their best shot. Some MPs give the whole group a gutter level reputation through the use of gutter tactics. And little seems to be done about it, although some do talk about the ideals they think they should follow – see Richard Prosser’s comments.
It may be no coincidence that Labour continue to struggle to recover from their 2008 defeat. Some in Labour blamed their 2011 defeat on the media, declaring that if only the media had properly conveyed Labour’s “brilliant” policy messages properly the million who didn’t vote would have flocked to the booths to tick Labour. They refuse to accept that the electorate are thoroughly ticked off with Labour and with gutter politics.
Is this post an attack on Trevor Mallard? No, it’s holding him to account. The media and David Shearer don’t seem to want to do it. Are the media likely to bite the hand that feeds it scandals? Maybe not. Is Shearer likely to cut off the festering sore that keeps preventing a Labour recovery? It doesn’t look like it – I don’t know whether that is due to impotence or hypocrisy.
But I do know that much of the voting public has had a gutsful. It’s a political disgrace.
George raises a very valid point here. As the tide turned against Labour in the run-up to the 2008 election, the smears and innuendo started. This of course culminated in the failed H-Fee smear, after Mike Williams' hurried trip to Melbourne came up short.
Labour didn't learn, and the public handed them their worst electoral result in 50-plus years in 2011. Trevor Mallard was Labour's chief strategist for the last election, and was right at the centre of much of the mud-slinging. He was far from the only guilty party however; there was Phil Goff's involvement in the Neelam Choudary/Richard Worth "honey-trap", outgoing Dunedin MP Pete Hodgson did his share, and even David Cunliffe got into the act during the election campaign when he infamously referred to John Key as "the greasy little fella in the blue suit" at a speech at the Avondale markets.
David Shearer has promised an end to "gotcha politics", but the message does not yet seem to have reached Mr Mallard. Or perhaps it has, and he's not taking a blind bit of notice.Either way, it's telling that Mallard was not prepared to repeat the "Kim Dotcom got John Banks a hotel discount" allegation outside the House; perhaps he thinks that one current defamation action against him is one too many.
Tervor Mallard is one of Labour's most senior MP's. He’s been an MP now since 1984, apart from an election-induced hiatus between 1990 and 1993. He seems to have become Labour’s chief muck-thrower, but you can’t help but wonder if so much muck has stuck to him that he can’t smell the difference between smears and genuine accountability any more.
Perhaps if David Shearer is to make a mark as Labour leader, he needs to convince Trevor Mallard to find gainful employment elsewhere. Then we might really see an end to "gotcha politics" from the Labour Party, and they could get back to holding the John Key-led government to account on the matters that REALLY matter to New Zealanders.