Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Lynley Hood in today's Herald has a rather useful piece of analysis on the failed Labour Government's tactics in the lead up to the 1990 General Election. Following sudden downturn in the polls Labour panicked and set about a dirty tricks campaign to try to emasculate National. Familiar?

Usefully for those of us on the right they have learned nothing. In a good example of institutional dimwittedness, many of the same players are still around the Cabinet table - older, greyer and presumably more arrogant and conceited.

The 1988 strategy
* To stop National being perceived as a viable alternative Government.

* To create a weak, destabilised and demoralised National caucus.

* To render a Winston Peters-Ruth Richardson combination impossible.

Seen elements of this somewhere recently?

Tactics were outlined in Cabinet papers for execution...

One page of negative comments about National "to be repeated constantly" ("negative - no policy alternatives, whingers"; "a divided party - couldn't govern"; "Promises - where's the money coming from?" "no team to govern") and two pages of negative comments about National MPs ("key lines to be repeated").

The recommended lines for National's "top tier" MPs were: "[Jim] Bolger - not up to being PM - a lame duck leader - weak, boring, timid, gutless - trying to 'sleepwalk to victory', repeat other Winston lines"; "ignore McKinnon - 'Don Who?' "; "discredit Richardson - inconsistent, expedient (for business comments) - naive, impractical (electorate); [Bill] Birch as 'shadow treasurer' "; "destroy Peters - no policies, lacking in substance - arrogant - flashy, superficial - a third party appeal, now fading fast, shrill".

Advice regarding "second tier" National MPs included, for Doug Graham, "ignore". There was also a category headed: "Nobble the 'wild cards' with some potential" "[Maurice] Williamson 'arrogant"'; "[Murray] McCully, 'selfish' ").

"Create a series of 'incidents' to exacerbate National's problems" (1. Aim at four by Christmas. 2. Develop an action plan, assigning Ministers to follow through specific aims in media strategies").

As Lynley asks,
"Call me naive, but I would have thought that the obvious lesson to learn from all this is that the strategy did not work. So why are they doing it again?"

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