CTO-gate – Smoke Gets In Our Eyes

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THE QUESTION IS, can they pull it off? Can the National Party do to Jacinda Ardern what Labour tried, but failed, to do to John Key: destroy their opponents’ most powerful political asset? The other question is: If this is National’s intention, then how deep does the conspiracy go?

In this morning’s edition (27/9/18) of Politik, Richard Harman reveals that, on Monday night, PR maven and former National Party president, Michelle Boag, contacted Politik and asked for its e-mail address. Within 24 hours, Harman reports, copies of Derek Handley’s e-mail messages and text conversations with the Prime Minister and her hapless minister, Clare Curran, had arrived in the website’s e-mailbox.

Put these facts together with Winston Peters statement, made in the House of Representatives, that Boag is working for Handley, and a number of troubling questions present themselves.

The first and the most obvious: Is it Handley’s intention to do political harm to his “friend” – Jacinda Ardern?

It certainly looks as though damaging the Prime Minister’s reputation is exactly what he’s trying to do. Why else would he release his electronic communications with Jacinda while she is in America? It is difficult to imagine he could be unaware of the effect his release of the information would have on what was shaping-up as a triumphal progress through the UN auditoria and television studios of New York.

That Handley might be angry with Jacinda is understandable. The position of Chief Technology Officer had been given to him – only to be snatched away without warning following the fall of Clare Curran. It is entirely plausible that a person in his position would be feeling aggrieved and anxious to have people know the full story.

But why would Handley involve Boag in the process? Especially when he has his own PR adviser, Julie Landry, to handle the release of such material. Boag, in conformity with her long-standing policy, has refused to confirm or deny whether Handley is her client. It is, however, difficult – given her call to Politik – to form a more plausible conclusion.

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And it’s here that the questions begin to go dark. Especially for those with a conspiratorial turn of mind. Because immediately the suspicion arises that the whole Handley-for-CTO exercise may have been an elaborate set-up.

Clare Curran was not, when all is said and done, the most robust minister in Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet. If one was looking for a politician to weave a complicated plot around, Clare would be hard to go past.

What’s more, all those National Party MPs with cabinet experience are well aware of how useful it can be to have a private, back-channel means of communicating with friends and allies. Not every person who ministers meet, and not everything they need to talk to them about, is the sort of information they want all-and-sundry scrutinising in their official ministerial diaries. For people new to high office, the temptation to direct friends and allies past the official gatekeepers (and diary managers) is very strong. Entangling Curran in a web of unwise communications would not be all that difficult: indeed, with a bit of luck she would do it all by herself. National had only to ask the right questions and file the appropriate OIA requests.

And it’s right about there that the nagging doubt arises. Did our millennial Prime Minister; one of a generation for whom personal networking has become second-nature; people who live on and through their devices; fail to perceive the risks of continuing to work that way in an environment where every form of communication is recoverable – and may be used in evidence against her?

An old friend; someone of her generation; superbly qualified for a job that needs to be filled by someone sympathetic to her government’s aims and objectives; on his way back to settle permanently in New Zealand; gets in touch via her own party’s president. Why would she be suspicious? Where would the harm be in letting him have her private, private e-mail address?

Unless. Unless. Unless. No, the Nats just aren’t that clever – are they? Actually, some of them – Michelle Boag in particular – are extremely clever. Chess player from way back and as unforgiving as an executioner’s axe. More importantly, they have a target with only a fraction of the protection Key possessed. The “System” supplied the Prime Minister from Merrill Lynch with the sort of impenetrable political body armour the Prime Minister from the International Union of Socialist Youth can only dream about.

When Mike Williams flew across the Tasman in search of dirt on John Key, he could not be at all certain that, even if he found it, Key’s friends in the upper echelons of the mainstream news media would use it. Boag knows full well that National can rely upon a cabal of very senior political journalists and commentators to blow the smallest misstep by Jacinda Ardern into a full-blown decline-and-fall epic. She also knows that, contrary to Nietzsche’s claims, attacks which fail to kill politicians do not make them stronger – they make them weaker. The voters cannot see smoke without thinking of fire. Blow enough smoke in their eyes and they stop seeing clearly.

And that is all the National Opposition needs.

 

28 COMMENTS

    • Oh my you wish!

      Explain to us how National gets access to Labours private communications. It could be:

      – the intelligence institution spying on Labour, many will be Key appointees, the so called deep state effect and forwarding it to National,

      – it can be someone in the Parliaments IT with admin privileges accessing labour computers and forwarding the info to National, or

      – Handley, that was a trojan horse right from the start.

      – Labour staffer leaking to National, but such a person would not have access to the communications (they will not have the IT access) therefore the very unlikely the source.

      Chris is correct, the whole story smells like a dead rat.

      It would be good to have the leaks forensically traced as this is not an isolated incident.

  1. Literally nobody cares about this beltway bullshit. The National party would be better off targeting petrol prices or something.

    • #MeToo has tasted Bill Cosbys blood. They’ve got there scalp and National Startagests will be praying no one utters the word “rape” again.

      The problem with this “bury Jacinda” strategy – beyond that Bill English raised enough to match it and got cheaper rates on top of that – is less apparent but arguably more serious. Millionaire corporates are used to getting their way. If they are bankrolling a candidate, it may very well be where and what they want it to be. The result is an array of inefficient, off-message and useless advertising.

  2. Yes yes all very plausible Mr Trotter. But then…. the succinct description on of National as an opposition which barks at every car comes to mind. Who is Derek Handley ? Indeed a very public expose of the man at the centre of all this needs to be available and a very public comparison with the appointment of Ian Fletcher needs to be promoted ad nauseum.

  3. Can they damage Ardern ? Probably not. Bridges has been crying wolf at every passing puppy, and yelling like Key in Parliament, and it’s all starting to wear a bit thin now.

    The depth of any National conspiracy as shown detailed by eg Nicky Hager, suggests a bunch of shallow little shysters, but still capable of being bad and totally without conscience.

    The biggest argument against the Derek Handley event being a National set-up from the start, is Handley himself, who appears to be a high achiever, and recognised as such at international level; one clever woman may not be enough to hide from him the one-eyed parochialism dominating NZ politics, and the degree of compromise, dishonesty and dumbing down needed to have any sort of working relationship with them. The dynamics alone could be majorly dispiriting.

    • Kind of puts the whole patriarchy into perspective really. One rule for them, another for Labour. Just got to learn how o punch back really and take no shit from no one.

  4. Some very strategic moves been played behind the scenes, unfortunately Jacinda & Curran are mere babes in the woods, fortunately they have Winston there to keep an eye on things. He has experienced these things b4.

  5. Off the reservation yet again Chris.
    Never put down to malice that which can be put down to stupidity.
    Your theory is both Orwellian and Roswellian in that it is both dysfunctional and as believable as alien probing.

  6. Can they do it?
    They certainly are doing their best to undermine a legitimately elected government with behaviour just stopping short of a coup d’état.
    National have their cronies popping up everywhere, willing to waste NZ taxpayers’ money on trivial legal challenges to the government’s authority to make decisions based on the needs of the many, rather than the needs of a few.
    It appears the National Party doesn’t realise that most of us expect a government to actually GOVERN, not just sit back and watch the next performance of the circus of the wealthy and privileged.

  7. No, nobody cares .. Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett look pathetic. Normally, the first Question (and supplementary questions) asked during Parliament’s ‘question time’ are the most important, at least to public interest.

    Winston Peters summed it up pretty well yesterday when he referred to Paula Bennett as a “twit” – the Speaker DID NOT even require him to withdraw and apologize!

    Both Simon’s and Paula’s questions/assertions have been so ridiculous that any thinking person watching (including greedy baby boomers) could not vote National at the next general election, not with these two clowns at the helm.

    Bridges comes across totally incompetent, while Bennett frankly seems nothing short of nutty. If these are the types of questions deemed important by National; either Labour are doing a fantastic job or National have completely lost touch with reality.

    It’s sad that New Zealand has such a misguided, weak and incompetent opposition – very embarrassing considering the large number of Nats sitting in opposition .. perhaps they should give some of their questions to Act .. ???

    • The sad fact Zack is that National despite it’s large number of members in Parliament are by and large all a bit thick.The lack of intellect and life experience displayed by these drongos beggars belief at times.Ppersonally I watch Parliament with my cringe reflex on repeat.

  8. The whole thing is strange and weird and keeps getting stranger and weirder.

    Firstly Handley was the driver in cc his CV and conversations about jobs to Jacinda Ardern, with his CV not the other way around.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/107341529/jilted-cto-candidate-derek-handley-disappointed-by-lack-of-explanation-from-government

    To my mind this is pretty inappropriate from Handley and falls into the strange category. Maybe fine in US or Hong Kong, but nepotism is supposedly still frowned on here.

    It then raises the point, is it a good idea to have the government role with a person who has difficulty understanding complexity of appropriateness? Are they going to be firing off txts and tweets inappropriate networking opportunities while officially representing the government?

    Then he had citizenship issues, that the government solved for him.

    Then, Handley is far from being “superbly qualified for a job” has no real qualifications for the job. He has never been a CTO before, nor does he have any technical qualifications in IT or certifications in that area. His degrees are in Bachelor of building science, architecture, design and environmental science, with post grad is commerce, finance, management and entrepreneurship.

    If the job was for some sort of entrepreneurship then he would be a fit, but it is confusing and pretty much an insult and sends the wrong message to NZ business to hire a government CTO and make him fit the role, suggesting that anyone who can start a successful company and be on multiple boards and networking opportunities and can then somehow morph by magic into a government CTO. Probably explains why government It is so appalling.

    The NZ public sector management folly is perfectly described in this:

    https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/is-there-public-service-in-our-public-service

    When it comes to real tech, Handley being on boards like Sky TV for 5 years clearly did not pay off for them because Sky TV are about to be obsolete by better technology.

    Or sustainability advisory board of Air NZ, again more of a ‘touchy feely’ mock role, than actually making the airline more sustainable.

    In typical NZ style, those neoliberals at public service management and our own big corporations have zero idea what’s going on, and just get excited about anybody who makes money from tech, flits in an out of exciting sounding opportunities overseas, or says they work with Richard Branson on their CV.

    This describes the sad state of management in NZ as well as the sad state of government IT when business in NZ can’t even understand the basics, and they feel they can just have some tech gloss instead of tech substance and a name alone or a few ideas is going to work out.

    The Warehouse recently had to part ways with one of it’s recent executive hires, also low on technical qualifications fit but high on self hype, who reportedly went about arrogantly insulting people and now reportedly 4 lawsuits ensues..

    It was right they did not proceed with the CTO role with Handley as it was never going to be a good fit. They needed to employ him into a different networking/entrepreneurship type role, not a technical role.

    It has not worked out well for anybody and shows glaring problems with government recruitment and public service appointments, a neoliberal approach as pointed out by the Brian Eastern link problems stemming from the 1980’s .

    • To Savenz
      Thanks for that analysis. It puts this mini saga in perspective.
      Handley is upset that after being offered a $400,000 salaried sweet job for which he has dubious qualifications, it was withdrawn because he was no longer needed, or maybe he wasn’t the right person. He got a big redundancy even before starting the job. (We should be so lucky).
      Only the opposition (love that word) consider it a hanging offense but who else in New Zealand cares?

      Or is it a clever ploy by the coalition to give BB&B (Boag, Bennet & Bridges) something trivial to squawk about ( sweat the small stuff) and further showcase their incompetence?
      I can imagine Sir Winston engineering this but not St Jacinda.

  9. A plot so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel….and with ‘ friends’ like the importuning and aggrieved Handly guy who needs enemies. Do not invite him to dinner Jacinda.

  10. front page huge photo of Handley
    front page huge photo of Whaitiri

    Of course public will look.

    Memo to Labour – POLICIES, POLICIES, POLICIES!

    No longer allow media biased interviewers to continue to question on ridiculous subjects when policies are not being talked about. Two ministers to front up on interviews, one to answer the crap questions once. The main minister to talk about their policies and progress and the advantages of Labour being in Parliament and do not be sidetracked. Otherwise these corrupt interviewers are wasting taxpayers’ time and money to achieve nothing worth watching. Demand attention to what’s really important to the public – housing, education, health, transport, rising incomes. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

  11. The answer is No.
    Jacinda may not be leading the revolution against neoliberalism that we would hope for, but she’s doing a great job on the world stage as our ambassador with no small help from Clark and Neve. She seems quite good on her feat in interviews, esp when relaxed and not trying to use emphasis with her intonation out of place to sound authoritative like aunty Helen. Trivial petty criticism is going to do the opposition more harm than good. They should keep their powder dry in the hope of a real problem arising .
    D J S

  12. I’m drunk. Let me get that out of the way first. By way of an explanation for the following. I’m all for full disclosure after all.
    I. Loath. National.
    Bugger. Now, I’ve run out of fullstops.
    F.U.C.K. N.A.T.I.O.N.A.L.
    Found some more.
    Lets be clear. National are a cadre of toxic Smirfs looking for their withered, over wanked genitals.
    They’re the sludge in the shower plug. Nothing, coming out of the creepy, money fetishist National Party camp should surprise anyone for their base depravity. Hair-Tug humiliation of a low paid waitress anybody? Anybody? Remember? Lest we fucking forget.
    Boag? Who, has a name like Boag? What’s more? They choose to keep it. Boag. Say it often enough and it sounds like it should be accompanied by violent vomiting with the shits.
    Here’s the thing for me, right?
    Jacinda Adern argued that drugs, per se, are a medical health issue, not, as our mighty Trumpinator would argue, a criminal justice issue.
    That, in itself, says to me that Ms Jucinda Adern is more worthy of being our Prime Minister that any one before her in recent times.
    So.
    F.U.C.K. N.A.T.I.O.N.A.L.
    You’re losers. You lose. You’re gone.

  13. One flaw in your argument Chris. Handley for all his achievements is not CTO material. He is a successful entrepreneur in the digital marketing space – this is nowhere close to being technical in nature.
    It’s likely the excreable Boag approached him and in her nasty tribal way is warping this event to suit her beloved National party. Very distasteful but that’s how she operates.

  14. I used to respect Trotter’s views. Met him once or twice but now I don’t read his stuff any more. Not sure why. I’m a lefty and I thought he still was.
    Has he changed or have I?

  15. I think that Handley may have decided to release his text messages, because he felt that Jacinda and her colleagues were not telling the whole truth. And it may perhaps rather be a situation of Michelle Boag jumping at the opportunity and having chased Derek Handley down, to talk him into working with her.

    Even though he may be rather peed off re the CTO job having been withdrawn from him, I doubt that Handley would want to go after Jacinda for her scalp.

    The Nats and their loyal advocate Boag simply jumped at the opportunity, and exploited Handley and his vulnerable position after being turned down for that job.

    Handley may have thought that he could talk with Jacinda about details about that CTO job via her private email and phone, he is not a public servant or bureaucrat, so would not have thought much about using Jacinda’s personal contact means.

    But Jacinda had to be careful, hence she stopped responding to the last messages, being aware it would not be appropriate to continue going down that way and discussing any job for Handley that way.

    The stupidity of Claire Curran was gob-smacking, it did not take the Nats (Melissa Lee and others) much effort to take her apart in the end.

    So perhaps less of a premeditated conspiracy, just opportunism. Keep Simon Burn the Bridges in his job, he is useless, and helps this government survive such crap. Keep Bennett in her job, and the same applies. The Nats have a poor leadership team, it is showing, do not give them any ideas about doing more and more smartly, Chris.

  16. If it was a conspiracy wiyh Boag involved, it was clumsily executed, but delivered with outstanding results.

    Conspiracy? Depends on what you call a conspiracy. National is targetting Ardern, make no mistake. But it’ s standard political strategy, just as Trotter pointed out Labour targetted Key on numerous occassions.

    There will be dirty tricks involved and unfortunately media clients such as Duncan Garner, Hosking, Leighton smith, etc, will be lining up to do the smearing. The question is what Labour’s strategy will be to counter this strategy. Perhaps look at how winston Peters deals with national’s dirty tricks?

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