Welcome To Cabaret: Table Talk at Ika 14/4/15



RIDICULOUS I KNOW, but I just couldn’t help it. As I looked around Laila Harré’s Ika restaurant last night, I kept thinking, Weimar 1931.

Perhaps it was the cause. In collaboration with the Coalition for Better Broadcasting, The Daily Blog, and her own (and husband Barry Gribben’s) latest venture, Harré had called together a panel discussion on the future of Campbell Live. Looking around the restaurant I momentarily entertained the gruesome thought that one well-placed bomb could have wiped out the cream of the Auckland Left (plus Bill Ralston and Fran O’Sullivan!)

Not that we’ve come to that – not yet. But, by 1931, the Weimar Republic was definitely faltering. So, no, not yet. But there is, indisputably, a worrying sense that the forces of the Right are manoeuvring, and with an ever-increasing disregard for appearances. To wit, the impending demise of Campbell Live.

The thing about a good puppet show is that you either can’t see, or are artfully distracted from seeing, the strings. It’s when the strings themselves become more interesting than the puppets they’re attached to, that it’s time to get worried.

And that time has come – which is why as I sat there in Ika (formerly the Neapolitan eatery Sarracino, formerly the chapel of Tongue’s the undertakers!) watching present and former MPs, trade unionists, left- and right-wing journalists, all shaking hands and exchanging gossip, the setting slowly morphed into the Kit-Kat Club from Bob Fosse’s classic movie, Cabaret.

And up there on the stage, playing the role made famous by Joel Grey was our emcee, Wallace Chapman. And the floor-show, Ika’s Cabaret Band, if you will, were (from right to left) Fran O’Sullivan, Bill Ralston, Simon Wilson and Phoebe Fletcher.

Together, they discussed and dissected the decision to hang the sword of Damocles above the marvellous Mr Campbell’s current-affairs half-hour. All good stuff, and the punters lapped it up (along with their whole gurnards and snappers, expertly seasoned, and kept warm with the most fashionable vegetables).

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

But outside in the dark, where the unseasonable weather was turning Mt Eden Road into an icy wind-tunnel, a very different New Zealand was settling in for a very different evening’s entertainment. Kicked off by the languid musings of TVNZ’s Mike Hoskings, and then flicking across to Ms Julie Christie’s X-Factor or The Batchelor, the Americans’ NCIS or CSI, or any of the fifty or so other channels beamed into their living rooms by Sky TV’s mighty satellite. Their thoughts and feelings so far from those of these left-wing luvvies that they might just as well have been living on another planet.

Hence the ominous analogy with the doomed Weimar Republic. In the nite-clubs of Berlin’s demi-monde the clever and artistic lamented what was happening in the streets outside. The running battles between the forces of the Left and the Right. The strategic re-positioning of big business as the economy tanked and politics turned sour. And, most of all, the looming presence of a man who seemed almost umbilically joined to all the little people living in all the little houses where democracy was fast becoming a dirty word.

“Wilkommen, Beinvenue, Welcome. Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret!”


  1. The disconnect in the community is irresistibly illustrated by the Campbell situation. There are stories which need to be told, should be told, but we are not interested. Unless the story is about us we do not care. I mean how many dollars are we to get for empathy?

    Outside in these streets it’s a dog eat dog world and the big dogs do not want any of that empathy, sympathy, old fashioned human touch stuff. Worse than that soft stuff though, John Campbell yaps at the big dogs about the way they want the world. That ain’t on so they’re intent on getting into Eden Terrace or wherever he puts his work together and taking him out.

    • If people don’t turn up to defend themselves, in a court of law, it is
      taken to mean they are guilty.


  2. Loved Cabaret set just as the nazis were rising and just before the looming political interference in stifling any opposition media in Germany have been well documented. Proven or not, the Mananews claim by Joe Trinder that Key said “I want that left-wing bastard gone” is dangerously and hauntingly similar to Goebbels’ and Hitler’s suppression of opposition media. Putin too has ways akin to The 1162 Archbishop of Canterbury of ‘ridding us of this turbulent priest” by radioactive tea, or bullets in the back. Campbell can be thankful that Weldon and Christie can get rid of Campbell with less blood and with less of a radioactive trail.


      Thanks for that link,very revealing.

      With the number of angry trolls out to play I’d say Mana just scored
      a thrust to the heart!

      If something has been cc’ed, surely that’s easy to track.

      These trolls are that stupid to realize that when their battalions go to war (amongst themselves mostly) they only add credence to the story.

      100 comments later….yawn…zzzzzz… their still saying the same thing??

      Beats me. Just don’t seem educated.


  3. Time for the rise of another Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill duo; a new Pete Seeger and a young Bob Dylan

  4. Is it the arrival of winter rains….or is it that Campbell is symbolic of a watershed….

    Can such things happen here …..or is it unthinkable….

    That sense of unease is put there for a reason…..and while we pontificate over the overt symptoms….what we are really expressing is a sense of powerlessness to overcome what is , more than just one individual and his caucus.

    It has more to do with what the far Right can conveniently brush off as ‘conspiracy theories’…

    Primarily because many if not most have never even heard of the Bilderbergers , the Club of Rome , the Mont Pelerin society….and furthermore so long as it does not affect their little corner of the world they are not interested.

    This is the same dynamic that the far Right uses to win elections, to jolly a population along…to dismiss and minimize any opposition..

    What we are are seeing and witnessing right now before our very eyes is a transformation of society into a conformist , compliant , obedient and almost servile deference to a very , very globalist (albeit Western) One World Government.

    Apparently these are the techniques relied on. Slow , steady …in fact there is a word for it….


    The media , banks , ability to pass independent legislation – key cornerstones of a sovereign nation – all are intermingled with the interests of foreign power blocs ….tied in together with free trade deals (TTPA ) , military alliances ( 5 eyes network – the club ) …border – less nations…a subjugated working populace….no real resistance…

    Permeating all with a sense of ‘correct ‘ values ‘ : responsibility , freedom of choice…aspiration…

    This was what Douglas preached but the catch phrases back then were ‘privatization , restructuring , downsizing ….as well as those of the above…

    Douglas of Labour and Ruth Richardson of National both were the ministers of Finance – and both were/ still are members on the Mount Pelerin society members board list .

    And the humble NZ media was a target to rid any critical thinking or chance of whistleblowing of a govt out of control.

    Such was Campbell Live.

    And we have seen this trend slowly develop over the years and finally blossom into fruition under this John Key. He is a man of precedents…and most if not all are precedents set against any notion of democracy or national sovereignty.

    And the reasons given…by him or his co-workers are of course never ones lamenting the increasing degradation of democracy….but rather the crude and dismissive ones of mere fiscal concerns…one can almost hear the whisper in the background of the neo liberals favorite buzzwords ‘responsibility ‘…

    Making total mockery of the countless NZ lives lost at Gallipoli and the Second World War…

    And even greater mockery of the latest attempts to change the very flag under which those people fought and died.

    And the reasons why so many died was in an epic struggle against totalitarianism – and the preservation of democracy.

    But even then , …that same ogre – ish type pervasiveness of ‘fiscal ‘ concerns, ‘ responsibility ‘ , ‘ getting some guts ‘ ‘ being on the right side ‘…is whispered from the shadows..only pausing long enough to give duplicitous ‘ honour ‘ to those fallen…for political expediency.

    We are headed towards a united western World Government – the very words George Bush Senior stated at the culmination of the first Gulf War.

    And we are witnessing the gradualisation of that very process right now.

    There is a set of lyrics from Fleetwood Macs song ‘ Dream’s ‘ which is eerily descriptive of this generation …

    ‘When the rain washes you clean you’ll know….Oh whoa whoa …..you’ll know ‘…..

    • Very , very, very well put Wild Katipo.
      What we are now witnessing in New Zealand is unprecedented and extremely alarming!

    • Well said Chris and Wild Katipo.

      “That sense of unease is put there for a reason…..and while we pontificate over the overt symptoms….what we are really expressing is a sense of powerlessness to overcome what is , more than just one individual and his caucus.”

      How interesting when Bill Ralston said he talked with or heard Andrew Little (who he was not really a fanof) say something interesting about Campbellive as he said “programs come in many different forms”

      Well Andrew walk into NZ First caucus, Greens, and stitch up a memorandum of understanding to order how to legally take half of the public broadcasting asset back under your combined control NOW PLEASE.’


      We all need to save Free speech from the Goebbels like operators who will quash our right to be heard as any one on this planet expect as a human right.

    • I find it highly ironic that you write about how people didn’t die at Gallipoli for a globalised world when that is exactly what they fought for. The only reason NZ soldiers were in Asia Minor and France was because we were part of the British Empire and they were fighting to protect it.

  5. Totalitarianism looms. The dream of all fascists and communists alike.
    Know everything (5 eyes)
    Control everything (trade agreements, the media)
    Own everything (1%)
    Limit everything (quality of education, social debate and dissent)
    Create a common enemy (the war on terror)

  6. So eloquently put Chris.
    “…the floor-show, Ika’s Cabaret Band, ..” entertaining ” these left-wing luvvies”.
    Will all our debating, discussing, hand wringing make any difference when, now, the puppet strings are in full view? I think we’ll need to do more.
    I just don’t know what.

  7. What did you expect with Fran O Sullivan and Ralston in the mix , you will get nowhere with those two nasty lovers at the table, Key would be pleased.

  8. Thanks Chris . I have felt like I know what life was like in pre war Germany circa “Cabaret” for a few years now.

  9. The chatteratti in Mt Eden cafes are not the left. They continue to chatter among themselves whatever happens in the real world of class war outside.

    The left is the proletariat that by 1933 had suffered massive defeats at the hands of social democracy in Europe, those like Ebert who handed over Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht to the fascist killers, and the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union that allied its forces in Germany with Hitler in the Red Referendum.

    But the proletariat still posed such a threat that an armed fascist movement of the petty bourgeoisie was necessary to smash it.

    Today, the left in NZ are not the cafe chatteratti but the low paid youth fighting the same monopoly capitalist corporates that dominate the US, EU, Russia and China.

    Fortunately for the tiny proletariat in NZ, the many millions of precarious workers in these countries outnumber the fascist state forces and petty bourgeois paramilitaries many times over.

    There is no way that the ruling class can mobilise enough mercenaries to defeat the global proletariat.

    That is why the fascists can be stopped by mass workers movements that join hands across national borders and turn their guns on the 1% and its mercenaries.

    • An example from both the historic Left and Right.

      First …Che Guevara’s contempt for the urban ‘communists’ who argued to wait until ‘conditions are right ‘ …..he regarded them as useful stooges to conduct the more menial low – risk tasks ie: communications, messengers to the rural guerrillas where the REAL war was being waged , organizers of urban popular dissent , in other words…..

      Academic in approach


      Squeamish to get their hands dirty and non committal

      Tantamount to : being ineffectual.

      Second …..Adolf Hitlers Mien Kampf , – in one section he is quoted as saying ”We need men who are not afraid of when the chairs start flying” ….
      He was talking figuratively about those returned troopers who felt sold out by the Kaisers abdication and were passionate about a united Germany. Albeit on a right wing basis – as the bogeyman of communist Russia was real to those of western Europe.

      He goes further by being disgusted by the process of democracy in their parliament : ” this impotent rabble squabbling etc etc”…implying their basic pettiness and impotence.

      Again :

      Knocking the academics

      The chatterer’s

      Those preferring to pontificate and not get their hands dirty

      Tantamount to being : (in his view ) ineffectual.

      Irrespective of the final brutal outcome of both leaders…there is commonality in both – broadly speaking. In no way shape or form do we want those situations duplicated here.

      However there are principles to be found even here…

      Passion – whereby people are motivated to take action. They are inspired…and gladly get in behind an impassioned cause and direction. Think of the French revolution , indeed….the Vietnam war was not all lost by a lack of bombs and bullets – but by prolonged, sustained and passionate protest.

      It utilized the arts, music, politicians , media ,unions …and vigorous protests demonstrating large dissension against that war.

      And yes…it was backed up by academics.

      And even the chattering class…as it popularized the movement into common everyday speech.

      And then finally – which should in fact be at the head of the list – a willingness to get ones hands dirty , to be involved in a physical sense ….and it is at this point….that a movement starts to become effectual.

      Is it really any wonder that an old time style campaigner like Winston Peters totally obliterated Nationals attempt at holding Northland?

      And while there are many mitigating factors …a newbie candidate, a false promise of bridges – then retracting that promise -Winston’s surprise announcement , Little’s hint to voters….

      The fact remains…Peters is an old time style campaigner who is passionate , he is physically present on his soapbox – he was not afraid to do the miles in that bus – in short , people – he is a DOER.

      As most great leaders (or perceived ones ) down through history are. There are principles behind every major movement that formed the foundation of that movement.

      Even IMP is an example . For a long time we could see Key was genuinely starting to sweat. He spoke publicly about it . And he knew that IMP was close to tipping the balance . They had become dangerous.

      It is these sorts of principles that need to be kept in mind if we really want to see a reversal of the neo totalitarian trend we are seeing today in NZ.

      It is then that we will no longer be the chattering class behind the safety of computers , the academics ruminating in lecture halls , those too indolent to get their hands dirty , and most certainly ….ineffectual laughing stocks by the political Right.

  10. Very interesting piece of writing, Chris. I felt a nasty little chill at the back of my head as I read it. As a nation, the only time I can remember when we have been so divided was in 1981. Then, as now, public opinion was split pretty much 50/50, at least when the tour began. Although John Key’s government is still enormously popular, the divide is there between those who passionately support Key, and those who are worried and deeply distrustful of the direction his government is taking the country in. To me, it seems as if it is the same fault line as in 1981.
    Those who supported the tour were mostly males, (but included many rural women) mostly white, generally conservative voters, happy with the status quo, respectful of authority don’t-rock-the-boat types. Also in there are your rednecks and bigots and the wilfully ignorant. Those who opposed the tour were made up of academics, urban women voters, church leaders, artists, educators and social sector workers, labour voters.
    Those who opposed the tour were called names like rent-a-crowd, losers, tree-huggers, communists, sport haters, left wing loonies and many more. Ironically the police at the Hamilton game had to protect the pitch invaders from the enraged crowd.
    Today, Key’s supporters are drawn mainly from the same group as those that supported the tour. So they aren’t bothered by what the authorities get up to (spying on our friends, dirty politics) because they like “strong” leadership that calls the shots. They don’t see the incremental erosion of privacy and freedom and workers rights as worrying because traditionally they trust authority and won’t rock the boat.
    But they will get riled up when protests become visible and the government is challenged on prime time TV. Those who criticise the government are “left-wing conspiracy theorists”, “traitors”, “loony left”, “making stuff up”, “stirrers” and so on. Protestors are still rent-a-crowd. Even if they are academics, educators, religious leaders, artists and so on.
    The fault line is opening up again. I fear that things will become worse before they get better. As you say, we are noticing the strings.
    It is worth recalling Gandhi’s remark; “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

  11. Cambell Live is an elitist show hosted by a white liberal elitist for white liberal elites to drool over. I love the show but Im aware he pitches to liberal elite wine drinking suburbanites. The beer drinking masses want tuis fish and chips and seven sharp, end result cambell live dosnt pay its way and has to go for something pitched at a lower level. Is this a threat to democracy, will the world end, will John Key open Gulags and Lagers – no all that will happen is an unpopular show will get canned and no one outside elitist suburbia will notice.

Comments are closed.