The man who could save the Greens

Andrew Campbell

RELATED AUDIO: Rob Hosking on the Green's dilemma of being trusted to implement their own policies (Aug 10)

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Can the Greens reverse their fortunes before polling day?

Yes
9%
Yes, but they’ll have far fewer MPs
32%
No – they’re goneburgers
59%
Total votes: 298

The chattering classes have recently been abuzz about the recent return of Mike Munro to the Labour Party’s inner circle as a strategic advisor.

Munro served as press secretary for six years during the Clark-Cullen government. He is said to have attended a daily briefing with Clark to go over the previous day’s press, and how policies had been received by the media. He was regarded as an influential figure, and was highly regarded for his management of the press gallery.

Some say the world has changed since Munro’s last tour of duty (in the meantime, he’s been doing comms for Todd Corporation). Yet many of the politicians are the same, and when he looks around the media, he’ll see many familiar faces (Gower, Garner, Campbell, Young, Hosking, etc). And we’re all familiar how the mainstream media has been gripped by Jacindamania. Yes, he’s been helped by the fact Labour’s new leader has natural media smarts. But what a turnaround.

My question, late this week, was: Does the Green Party have a Mike Munro?

Political insiders were quick to respond with one name: Andrew Campbell – who variously served as the Greens’ political director, communications manager and chief-of-staff between 2011 and 2015; a period when the party lifted its election-day support from 2008’s 7% to 11%.

I gave Mr Campbell a call at NZ Rugby, where he’s now working as a communications manager.

In short, forget about a political comeback.

“I’m really enjoying my work here,” he said. He had no desire to return to politics, or indeed even to comment on recent events.

War gaming
Yet to regain support – or even survive – the Greens have to understand what went wrong with the Turei gambit, and have a comms plan for where to go from here.

One Green Party insider tells NBR the key problem was that the communications team did not “war game” what would happen after their co-leader confessed to beneficiary fraud at her party's July 16 AGM.

There was an effort to anticipate reaction from the media, and other parties but it was not carried out by election-hardened staffers, or in enough depth (Mr Campbell’s lieutenants left around the same time he did).

The insider thinks that while maintaining a relative silence publically, National did its own research, which it passed on to various media.

Another strand of the rumour mill holds that it was, in fact, Labour who tipped off Newshub to Ms Turei's electoral roll fraud (a reasonably minor matter but one that lent itself to broader suspicions about Turei's living arrangements, and established a scoff-law pattern).

Either way, Greens supporters will be disgusted.

But the insider says that is within the rules of the game and should have been expected. Before an admission of that magnitude, there should have been a “forensic level” of research, including establishing the names of all of Turei’s flatmates, then contacting them all, the insider says. By the time political operatives came snooping, or media calling, all the ducks should have been in a row.

Of course, they weren't, and it all went to heck as Turei’s story shifted, and neither she nor her party had answers to questions about her time as a student, culminating in a complete meltdown when RNZ put specific information to the co-leader that contradicted her story.

NBR would add that Ms Turei would have been in a much stronger position if she had paid back the money she defrauded during her time as a corporate lawyer. Or, at least, before she went public. 

So where to from here? A three-point PR plan
Mr Campbell did share that, as has already been well-covered, the party had three planks to its strategy while he was part of the team: to establish economic credibility, to be seen as trustworthy enough for government, and to be seen as strong on the environment.

Economic credibility and trustworthiness were established through a range of measures from the superficial (Green MPs dressing more conservatively) to the more involved (the relatively fiscally conservative memorandum of understanding with Labour).

Now those intertwined initiatives are shot to shreds. 

How can they be repaired? The Green insider had a three-point plan:

1. Lay low for a week
The first step should be to just lay low for a week; to merely manage seven days without further chaos, infighting or resignations.

2. Focus on Shaw
The next step should be to focus on leader James Shaw (not that there’s much choice with Shaw now the party’s sole leader until its next annual meeting, some time post-election). “He embodies economic credibility,” the insider says.

But on the issue of trustworthiness, Shaw has damaged his brand, and there just won't be a fast fix.

“The trust thing is deeper and the phone could be off the hook for a while,” the insider says.

3. Lower sights and focus on past Green voters
The nightmare scenario for the party is that the “hard Greens” stay at home on September 23 because they’re disillusioned by Turei’s resignation, while the “soft Greens” vote Labour.

Polls by Newshub and UMR indicate this has already happened to a degree. A National Party tracking poll is rumoured to have shown additional cratering after infighting over Graham and Clendon’s resignation, with the Greens on just 4%.

The insider says “It would now be a miracle to get 11%” (the Greens’ total in 2011 and 2014.).

Instead, the party should abandon its 15% goal and tightly target attention on people who have voted Green in the past in an attempt to hold the line above 5% to avoid electoral obliviation. 

Anatomy of a meltdown
New Zealand being such a small town, it quickly became known in media circles, then through social media, that the father of Ms Turei's child came from a successful and relatively well-off family. If you lived on the North Shore during the 1990s, you would have been aware of the grandmother as a public figure. It stretched credibility that her partner’s parents would let their grandchild live on the breadline.

It didn’t help when Turei admitted she enrolled one electorate (using her estranged partner’s address) while voting in another. Nor did it that she stood for the McGillicuddy Serious Party. A great student jape – but also, given it involved forking over a candidate deposit ($300 today) and a bit of effort, not one that someone would likely indulge in if they were genuinely struggling to feed their child.

There was also a photo broadly circulated on social media that seemed to contradict Ms Turei’s story.

The soft Labour votes that initially went to the Greens fell away. Many like an underdog story. Few like someone who fibs or exaggerates.

Ms Turei could have continued to fight against the talkback vitriol, or indeed feed off it, but it was attacks closer to home that did her in.

First, new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern let it be known that she did not want Ms Turei in cabinet (though was diplomatic enough not to say so until the Greens made a public announcement that their co-leader would not seek a ministerial position).

Then Green MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon withdrew from the list.

And the fatal blow came when RNZ put written questions to Turei, asking for her response to evidence of apparent substantial support from her child’s grandparents. She could have simply said “no” (if that was the case) without breaching any family privacy. Instead, she refused to answer.

Her supporters continued to argue she was been punished for being brave enough to tell the truth about her past offending, forced on her by circumstances and a bad system. But by refusing to answer RNZ’s questions, she gave the appearance of lying by omission. That made her position untenable, even before the Newshub poll. Within hours, she resigned as Green co-leader.


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39 Comments & Questions

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What a load of nonsense.
It is about time the so called comms expert went home and cut the lawns and we were offered up some real time Politicians in their natural form and not aload of PR bull....
Where are the genuine policy makers we are supposed to trust to govern the country.
Have not seen a real onerecently
Lets get real and have the press and other so called communication specialists outlets offer up some real face to face.

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The Greens have only themselves to blame. They should have managed it as it was something they initiated themselves. What a complete shambles. It creates no confidence in anyone when you go around "shooting yourself in the foot". There are enough others in the political world who will gladly do that for you. This was a massive mistake which will take years to rectify the damage. However the upside is Winston, TOP and Labour are all the happier for it:)

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Metiria Turei is what the true face of welfare 'poverty' really is in this country.

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Well I must say that whenever I see these beneficiary's lined up outside a food-bank or some other type of handout establishment, the females all look to be a least 30-40kgs overweight, and smoking, all while text messaging on mobile phones.
So I suppose the poverty here is a little bit different than say in an African country where a female may have to walk up to 20 odd ks a day just to fetch a pot of water.

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Just a rubbish comment Ivan, If you want to see poverty in NZ, offer to go out and volunteer with a variety of groups. Or is it more comfortable not being exposed to the poverty in NZ?

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Really? I suppose my eyes are deceiving me are they. No doubt the same people all go home to Sky TV as well. Maybe it's people like you that need to open their eyes to stop being sucked-in by them.

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Ah, the old canard, "We don't have real poverty in New Zealand. I've been to Africa/Asia, I've seen real poverty (through the window of a taxi). These whippersnappers are just lazy and don't know how lucky they are!"

I can tell you as someone who actually took a few years out from a corporate career to work in poverty alleviation in Third World slums (and has also seen the NZ scene) that they are much more comparable than you hold so in your stereotypical view, and that many issues that exist both on the causal and effectual side of poverty are common to both New Zealand and Third World poverty.

No, don't leap straight to "we don't have starving kids with vultures waiting for them to die", because most Third World poverty is indeed not of famines, but of societal causes like we have here.

I'd suggest turning off Leighton and getting out there to dig deeper for a little while, rather than parroting views that are not steeped in the realities of poverty and its causes and effects.

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For your information I live in a area that's regarded as a poverty stricken area, and I see it everyday. But more importantly I hear a lot of what some of them have to say. Here's just one thing that I heard recently after one of them just finished throwing their TAB ticket away after it came nowhere " Oh well off to the food bank now for some supplies". So don't bother spouting to me your, over-educated views about, I've been everywhere man, nonsense with me because I live among it, and have done all my life, so I'm up on all the crap. Hey I'm the first to admit there's real poverty out there, but there's also a hell of a lot cashing in on it as well.

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If you have been immersed in poverty you'd at least hope you had some understanding of what part gambling plays in impoverished communities around the world.

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My father told us kids that we all had to get out and fend for ourselves after he gambled the family home away.
Does that count as understanding the effects of gambling?

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Apologies for my slightly snarky earlier reply, btw. My point was, gambling is also rife in the slums of the Third World, and in both cases it's often a last resort hail mary (literally, in Catholic Third World countries). In fact, I think we'd all be pretty aware that gambling is often more of a problem in impoverished communities around the world than in wealthy communities where people have had better examples and have more life skills.

In the slums I worked in, we also - when working on things like getting them up and running with small businesses - had to spend time teaching basic concepts such as "saving". We had to find imagery that helped them understand even what the idea of saving was, because they'd never had anything to save.

There's so much the slums I worked in have in common with poverty we have here in NZ it's just not funny.

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Hey you won't see me laughing. I'm just trying to point out that everyone isn't genuine, there's plenty of piss-takers out there. I know I live among them.

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Just so we're clear. Do you deny that there is any poverty in NZ?

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I'll answer your question when you first define what you mean by poverty. Otherwise you're just trying it on, mate.

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You're the one who put poverty in quotation marks as part of your welfare 'poverty' comment above - so back it up.

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I'm still waiting for your definition. Stop playing politics and get on with it.

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He's correct though. Your use of 'poverty' in quotes is up there for everyone to see. Are you simply of the mind that relative poverty doesn't have any ill effects in society and poverty should only apply to kids in Africa?

Because that's a wee tad backwards and not at all supported by reality.

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plenty of mental and emotional poverty for sure. Material poverty I would suggest is largely induced by the former

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Tim - do you know what the benefit is for invalids in NZ? Do you know how much sole income superannuitants have to live off net of rent in the five main centres?

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I know plenty of sole income super-annuitants Tom, and they are doing just fine on the $390 a week that they get in the hand. Of course they had the sense to buy their own homes, and not piss it all up the wall in some pub, like the lot that you support.
Craw back under the rock you came from Tom. No doubt a traditional Labour supporter, as is your right living in a democracy.

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Lol "buy their own homes" - at 5 - 10% of current prices. Economics 101 #changeiscoming

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Ah...so they lived at the right time to benefit from NZ's strong history through the 20th century of public-private housebuilding partnerships, state housing, cheap Housing Corp finance etc. that all contributed to making houses affordable. Lucky for them they didn't have to do it all on their own two feet, but had the helping hands of society to give them a hand up.

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Cry me a river. Try doing something my generation had to do... learn how to save.

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Fact is, the younger generations are saving at a higher rate to that your generation did:

https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2017/03/07/no-boomers-its-not-like-it...

They're just having to do more on their own two feet, without the same supports you guys received.

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I know plenty of young people, and I don't see any of them saving for anything, just moaning. When I say that I worked in a factory from the age of 15-20 to save for things, they just say, oh I couldn't do that. Work in a factory not me.

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THere's hardly any factories left. They've been all shipped to Asian countries, because past politicians of your generation have bought into the free market theory that doesnt exist.

Comparing one generation to the next is difficult, however what we do know is house prices are at 9-10 times wages (average). No either we have too lowly wages or too higher house prices.

Housing is one of lifes essentials, and pricing out nurses, teachers and police from your community cant be a good thing; unless people like yourself are prepared to top their wages. User pays anyone.

The problem is some oldies retireed at 60, had cheap housing, free education and health. If the government of their day saved enough to pay for them, we wouldnt have the problems we have today. Allowing for health care and super, this now represents some 15% of governments for no return. When the youth are paying for everything on low wages or with a large student loan, who do you think should be paying for your generations costs?

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Shaw too is tarnished by supporting the fraudster and saying it was ok.
The only credible members left on principle

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And you're a Green supporter or simply someone stirring?

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The man who can save the Greens is Gareth. They should adopt all his policies and merge with TOP. Gareth's policies, which are fully researched, are readily adoptable by the Greens. Gareth may need to stand down as leader of TOP in favour of a female, but he has no personal political ambitions anyway.

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Gareth Morgan has appalling policies, the old-people tax being somewhere near the top of that pile. All the parties call their policies "fully researched". It falls into the same weasel-word category as calling things "organic" or "cleansing" or that it "removes toxins".

It's a pity because I quite enjoy him as a political character.

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Old people don't need a huge amount of assets. For years we had estate duty.

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There's a thought.

If the Greens looking at the backdoor, they need to consider all options. TOP policies are designed to grap attention, and its working.

When going into negotiations, you start with room to move. This is what is required in minority parties.

The timing of this party is perfect, and National cant and wont say anything about them, as they may need them.

The ideal scenario would be for National or Labour requiring both Winston & Gareth to govern. This will put a cat amongst the pigeons, who are otherwise lapdog to multi national lobbyists and the establishment.

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i read a piece from the Greens in our local paper where the candidate listed her two top priorities as nuclear disarmament and global warming, this sums up the lack of relevance to a community who are struggling to pay bills and worry about health, crime and jobs.
I frankly cant stand their smug altruism and lack of respect for working kiwis

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Hey Mike, kick their greenhorn arses into Touch and save the doterrel instead.

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Good thing no one listens to you old white keyboard warriors - and most of you guys are aging out anyways. Pro green pro centre left is the future - good luck standing in the way of progress (Apple/ Tesla / Google etc).... Matira is gone ( she was useless anyways) - will take a month tops to regain parity footing (just in time for voting). And with the smell of victory about Jacinta - no wonder all you salty old dudes are running scared #changeiscoming

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Its the working class the Greens maligned with the ridiculous idea to give the unemployed more to do less no questions asked, the Greens are irrelevant to those who earn their keep

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Green technology is coming and the one thing about it, is that it has nothing to do with party's like the Greens. It's because of necessity. So take your abuse and your anger back to the Labour party where you came from.

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Pivot to the new Green Reality
Disruptions,
Technological innovations
Crypto currencies
Electric & driverless cars etc

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The bias in this comment moderation is a joke. Clearly unsupported ad hominem attacks are fine if they are coming from on side...

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