Conspiracy Corner – Simon Lusk

Every Thursday, about 8:15am, Matthew talks with Ethan and Zac on 95bFM’s “Breakfast Show” about conspiracy theories.

You’ve probably heard the stories. He’s a boogeyman who grinds up the bones of unfaithful National Ministers and uses them to make his bread. He’s a shadowy figure who may or may not have been a disciple of John Ultimate. Gossip has it that those who have hunted with him in the South Island claim he wishes to hunt “the other white meat”.

Yes, he is Simon Lusk and he may be the greatest threat to democracy this island nation has seen.

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Or he isn’t.

If you believe the rantings of Martyn Bradbury, then Simon Lusk and his associates Cam Slater and Judith Collins are Machiavellian geniuses who, between bouts of mutual moustache-twiddling, have been engaged in a programme to deliver the New Zealand electoral cycle to the Far Right. However, if you believe the National Business Review, then Simon Lusk is a storm in a teacup; a National Party outsider who wants something he is not going to get. Whatever the case, there’s at least two conspiracies to think about.

The first is Lusk and his agenda for the New Zealand National party. In a leaked memo, Lusk had the following to say about politics in New Zealand and the role of a future National (right wing) government:

This is part of a long term plan to move the political centre to the right. This means reducing the size of government, weakening the power of those who believe in big government, and investing for at least 20 years to ensure that these changes are permanent.

and:

This National Government has been a disappointment to fiscal conservatives. The wet wing of the National Party control the senior ranks of the party, and cannot be easily replaced without losing an election.

Lusk argues for several things in his memo: he wants politics to become a professional activity, associated with constant fund-raising and particular attention being paid to the will of business (at the expense, it seems, of the people). He wants to seed the civil service with right-wing, business friendly personnel so as to control the political landscape and move politics from the Centre to the Right.

Effectively, Lusk wants New Zealand to resemble that bastion of democracy and even-handedness that is the US. As one of the other leaked documents states:

This document outlines an organisation for United States citizens to build a firm, reliable, long term ally in New Zealand. The organisation will support politicians and aspiring politicians in New Zealand with the medium term aim of having an enduring centre right majority, with a pro United States outlook on the world stage.

The documents are littered with references to “fiscal conservatives” that Lusk can hook readers of the memo up with, and the document itself reads like a conspiracy to depose the current guard of the National Party (the “wetbacks” as Lusk calls them) with a US-friendly far-right cohort with more money than a sense of ethical duty to the non–business members of the wider New Zealand community.1

Luckily for us (well,for those of us who would prefer not to live in a nation where corporations lobby for the reduction of welfare whilst asking for handouts themselves), Michael Woodhouse, whip of the National party, along with the Prime Minister, found Lusk’s rather negative message a trifle… well, negative and disturbing, and MPs and the wider party were asked to not associate themselves with Lusk and his services.

Which brings us to the second (and counter) conspiracy: someone within the National Party decided to leak the information about Lusk (and the Prime Ministers distaste for him) to the media to both crush support for Lusk and to show that despite evidence to the contrary, National at the very least believes in the concept of a properly representative democracy (even if they have trouble showing that via the traditional means of running Parliament in such a way that it resembles a democracy).

The last time someone in National leaked something of this ilk (he says, knowing someone will say “Hold on, what about…”) it was Don Brash’s e-mails to Nicky Hager.2 Was it the same person? Certainly, you could imagine that there’s a certain National Party MP who thinks their party is heading in a direction, a direction which might not look all that good when the histories get round to being written. A little leak here, a little leak there and perhaps the party can get back to some kind of principled conservatism…

Anyway, whatever the case, there are a number of National Party members who disagree with the kind of political direction people like Simon Lusk desire and are willing to bring such discussions to light. One can only hope that this is the end of Lusk’s (admittedly) limited influence over National and that if someone else takes up the mantle of twisting New Zealand politics into the parody that is the American political system, someone will be happy to leak again.

Like we did last summer.

Sorry, twist. No, that makes no sense at all.

Notes

  1. I suppose I should point out, in all fairness and with a certain amount of fear, that Lusk wanted input on the development of local body politics as well…
  2. Yes, I know Don Brash thinks the leak came from without the National Party, but that just seems unlikely.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

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