Wellington Scoop

A good guide to bad politics

by Ian Apperley
As we head toward the general election, we’ve yet to see the Wellington candidates come to the fore. Wellington seems to be missing from the agenda so far; however we can be sure that as we approach the magical date it will warm up.

Given that, I’ll be following the issues as they come up, if they do come up, and to start with I thought I’d write a primer on some of the behaviours that poor politicians employ. It’s Bad Politics Bingo, which could be turned into a drinking game, but that is unpopular these days.

See if you can spot these behaviours over the next few weeks.

Gaslighting is when a politician feigns ignorance of something they have done or said. “That didn’t happen!” or “You imagined it!” are classic lines you see in this case. Conveniently forgetting things that they may have done falls into this category.

Most commonly appears when incumbent politicians are questioned on their record over the term. It surprises me that some elected members can find their way home with the chronic memory loss they suffer at times. Perhaps they have a card around their neck with their home address on it.

Blanket Statements and Generalisations
A sure sign of a poorly prepared politician is one who makes blanket statements with little evidence or thought. “There is no housing crisis in Wellington” and “The Wellington economy is fine” are be splendid examples of this.

Playing the player and not the ball
New Zealand politicians unlike their international counterparts often have a soft underbelly and a glass jaw. This manifests itself when they are criticised. Rather than staying on topic and tackling the issue of criticism they will attack each other or the deliverer of the critique.

Changing the subject
When put under pressure, like mice, politicians can escape through very small holes, roughly the size of their head. This evasion of an issue often manifests in a strong attempt to change the subject that they are being debated on. It’s a classic sign that something is sensitive when evasion tactics kick in.

Name Calling
We’ve seen this occurring in a few of the national debates and no doubt will see it locally as well. When all you have left is name calling then you’ve lost the debate completely.

Smear Campaigns
Rumours and allegations rumble around just below the surface in Wellington political circles every day. If I had a dollar for all the gossip that gets emailed to me I’d be around $25 richer now. Who can forget the Dirty Politics of the last elections? Hopefully we don’t see a rerun of that particularly nastiness but there is always a chance.

A favourite of more than one Cabinet member, condescension is political suicide. Talking down to someone in a tone as if they were an idiot is a major vote turn off. It smacks of arrogance and gives the impression that the politician is living in some kind of special fantasy land.

Lack of Empathy
A politician who no longer cares is a poor politician indeed. A politician who cannot display empathy is a politician who does not care and should be avoided at all costs. Understanding the impact of your words and actions on others is a mandatory quality for all politicians. Otherwise we might as well vote in robots.

Goes without saying.

Promising things to buy votes. We are already seeing examples of this and they come in various forms. Usually, what is promised is undeliverable even if the politician gets into power.

No one likes your face
People vote mostly on a politician’s face. Sad but true. “Do I trust this face?” says the subconscious and a decision is made. A bad politician has an untrustworthy face, this is not their fault, though some clever photography could help. Or a mask.

So, what’s next?

I’m keen on covering the various candidates in a comparable way to the local body elections. We have a few newbies in the race and it is by no means a sewn-up election yet even though pundits assume that the usual suspects will slot back into their seats.

I also want to look at what major parties are planning for Wellington in their policy, because we often get missed in deference of high population areas or high voting areas. In the last few terms we’ve seen Auckland grow significantly and government start to drift North.

I want to keep an eye on the Labour-led Wellington City Council and how they might choose to exploit the media to further the goals of the party. They have a large media machine.

What do different government scenarios look like for Wellington post the election? What if Winston Peters makes Prime Minister in a Frankenstein patchwork of parties? What if National wins again?

I also suspect that voter turnout will hit a new low. Anecdotal polling on my part, very anecdotal, shows two trends. There are a lot of swing voters out there who will vote on the day, based on how they feel. There are a lot of people who are simply not interested.


  1. Jenny, 23. July 2017, 14:20

    Gaslighting isn’t a case of poor memory. It’s when a person distorts reality to their own advantage, like Donald Trump accusing someone he has bullied of bullying him.

    The term arose from a 1934 play “Gas Light” and the 1944 film adaptation as “Gaslight.” The movie stars Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman playing a married couple, Paula and Gregory. Throughout the film, Gregory manipulates Paula to make her feel as if she has gone mad. He leads her to believe she’s stealing things without realizing it and hearing noises that aren’t really there. Paula begins to question her reality.

    Politicians accusing others of appalling behaviour when they have done the same or worse is a mild version of this.

  2. Henry Filth, 23. July 2017, 23:58

    Could the Council bribe Qatar Airways to tag onto the Doha-Canberra flight?

  3. Ian Apperley, 24. July 2017, 9:00

    Thanks Jenny,
    You have given me new knowledge!

  4. Wendy, 28. July 2017, 22:30

    For those interested, Inner City Wellington has a “Meet the Central Electoral Candidates evening” on 15th August, 6:00pm to 8:00pm, at CQ Hotel, 223 Cuba Street. Confirmed as attending: Green Party, Labour, National, Opportunities Party. The invitation has been extended to all parties.
    Cost: ICW financial members – No charge
    Non-financial members – Koha at the door (to cover AV costs)