Home > The Body Politic > David Farrar stirs the bullshit pot

David Farrar stirs the bullshit pot


Wait come back - you forgot your bullshit


Reported today (19 Feb) in the NZ Herald,

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is facing criticism for hiring a sixth “spin doctor” six months out from the official start of the local body elections.


Blogger David Farrar has questioned whether ratepayers are funding Mr Brown’s re-election campaign.

In a post on his Kiwiblog site titled “Len’s gaggle of spin doctors”, Mr Farrar said Mr Brown’s hiring of Dan Lambert took his tally of spin doctors to six – more than the entire parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour has five parliamentary press secretaries and a part-time speech writer for 34 MPs. Prime Minister John Key has four press secretaries and one media assistant.

See: Mayor heavy on ‘spin doctors

The Herald story, written by Bernard Orsman, seemed so unlikely that I searched out Kiwiblog to see if Farrar’s comments were accurately reported.

Indeed they were.

Len’s gaggle of spin doctors

February 16th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Len Brown has just hired his sixth spin doctor. That’s six spin doctors, all funded by the ratepayer, working in Len’s private office. That isn’t six spin doctors for the entire Auckland Council. That is six spin doctors just for Len.

Started this month is Dan Lambert as Len’s propaganda manager. He comes from the United Kingdom.

Dan joins Glyn Jones who was the chief spin doctor, and who is now called Media Communications Manager.

Len also has a senior press secretary, a communications advisor, former Clark spin doctor David Lewis as a media consultant and a speech writer on top of that.

Len has more spin doctors than the entire Parliamentary Labour Party (they have five). The previous Mayor of Auckland had just one – Cameron Brewer.

Should Auckland ratepayers be funding Len’s reelection campaign?

Talking of the election, isn’t it time also for C&R and their friends in Auckland to get their shit together and select a Mayoral candidate. Otherwise Len and his six spin doctors will have too easy a time of it.


Now, despite the fact that Farrar is a National Party supporter/member and has worked for successive National governments – one might still expect him to report such issues with perhaps a measure of balance.

Because the way he tells it, leaves a whole lot out of the picture.

Especially when Cameron Brewer in the same NZ Herald article said “nobody would be able to match Mr Brown’s army of spin doctors, advisers and consultants“.

Mr Brewer has also worked as a former spin doctor to ex-Auckland City Mayor John Banks, ex-Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, and very ex-Act leader Rodney Hide.

Farrar mis-represented the issue by omission.

Brewer mis-represented the issue with an outright lie.

If citizens really want to look at where their tax-dollars are going to, I would refer the reader’s attention to an article written by  NBR’s Matt Nippert, in August 2010,  about the Prime Minister’s Office. (This article is now behind a paywall, but an excerpt can be found on Bryce Edward’s “Liberation” blog.)

Entitled ‘Panic station: policy quashing on the ninth floor of the Beehive’, Matt Nippert wrote,

“…the ninth floor of the Beehive contains the most spinners and advisers in New Zealand history. Whereas Helen Clark employed six communications staff in her office, currently seven staff in the PMO are listed as having communications roles.  And whereas Miss Clark’s chief of staff Heather Simpson managed two political advisers, Mr Eagleson has five reporting to him along with Mr de Joux as a deputy.”

Secondary Source: National’s ‘panic pants’ spin-doctors

In September 2010, Bryce Edwards, political lecturer at University of Otago, wrote,

The PMO has about 25 highly-professional staff working in it. Under Helen Clark’s rule, Heather Simpson (pictured on the right) was of course the head of the unit, and thus the second in command of the Labour Government. Simpson’s replacement is Wayne Eagleson, who like Heather Simpson is highly aversive to both media scrutiny and political risk.

In his unit of about 25, he has people working for him such as Kevin Taylor (Chief Press Secretary), Phil de Joux (Deputy Chief of Staff, former head of the National Party research unit), Sarah Boyle (Senior Adviser; apparently a “guru of the Official Information Act”), Stephen Woodhouse (Senior Private Secretary), Grant Johnston (Chief Policy Adviser; former Treasury policy wonk and partner of columnist Joanne Black), Jason Ede (Senior Adviser), Nicola Willis (Senior Advisor), Lesley Hamilton (Press Secretary), and Paula Oliver (Press Secretary). Some of these ‘shadowy people’ we already know something of, but generally their immense power is unexamined.

Source: IBID

Currently, according to the Prime Minister’s own website, just one group numbered over a dozen,

Policy Advisory Group

The Policy Advisory Group was formally established in 1990 within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). Prior to that time, policy advisory services were provided through the forerunners of DPMC.

The Group consists of a director and 13 policy advisors, with a range of skills and experience including legal, business, economic and social policy.  The mix of skills changes from time to time, with changes in staff.

The role of the Policy Advisory Group is to support the Prime Minister as leader of the Government…

… From time to time Advisors lead policy projects specially commissioned by the Prime Minister to “cut through” on issues of significance.


And there’s more here about the Department of Prime Minister’s Office: About DPMC.

But of course, none of this merit’s Mr Farrar’s attention. The Prime Minister may have 25 (or more, by now) spin-doctors – but the owner of Kiwiblog prefers instead to focus on the mayor of Auckland with his supposed six advisors.

This was not always the case.  Once upon a time, Mr Farrar was very concerned about the numbers of communication staff working for the government and it’s various Departments,


kiwiblog - $47 million a year on Govt “spin doctors”



But that was under a Labour government.



= fs =

  1. 19 February 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I know a good way to spend some of that wasted money!

  2. MQC
    19 February 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Excellent points Frank. Then there are the defacto publicists, those hired by the National Party and attached to the various state depts like Treasury and the Reserve Bank.

  3. 19 February 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Indeed, MQC. Plus we haven’t even looked at right wing lobbyings like Unwin & Saunders who occassionally do “freebies”, as when Mark Unsworth trashed Dr Mike Joy about our poor environmental record;


  4. Theodore
    19 February 2013 at 10:41 pm

    I like some of Farrar’s blogs, but this time he went into Whaleoil territory. In other words, lala land.

  5. nznative
    19 February 2013 at 11:57 pm

    I found Farrars blog to be like a sewer and have not been there for 5 or so years so maybe things have improved but I doubt it.

    The thing which disturbed and annoyed me about Farrars one sided cesspit was its name kiwiblog, it was and is a disgrace to kiwis or New Zealanders. I always thought it belonged to another time and another place ( 1930’s and Germany ), Farrar would be Goebbels …

    • 20 February 2013 at 9:54 am

      NZNative – perhaps I should have called my blog “New Zealand Blog”, as a counter? 😉

  6. 20 February 2013 at 8:55 am

    Good work Frank. Certainly some people want to run a smear campaign against Brown. Problem is that Councillor Brewer has no suggestions about running the city, he prefers to moan and complain about anything positive.

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