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PPTA Book Letter to PM (Two)

Dear Prime Minister

As promised yesterday, we are gifting another book to you, this time for the second day of Christmas.

The book we have chosen is the famous renaissance political treatise, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. As well as serving as a useful resource for discussions about principle and probity in political life, this book seemed particularly apt given that I have had occasion in the last week to refer to your good self as a prince, though admittedly not in quite the flattering terms Machiavelli uses. I described you as the prince of “talk down” by which I was alluding to your practice of making big announcements that are certain to provoke a public outcry then following up with assurances that the concerns are overstated and that the policy change is completely benign. This “keep them guessing strategy” might well have won the approval of Machiavelli but he was advising absolute rulers. In a democracy, there is surely a risk that the public will weary of such tactics.

We regret that we were unable to source a new copy of the book and have had to resort to purchasing a second-hand copy, which, we think, might have once belonged to Don Brash. Certainly, we think there is evidence that Dr Brash may have followed the advice given on page 54:

“Everyone realises how praiseworthy it is for a prince to honour his word and to be straightforward rather than crafty in his dealings; none the less contemporary experience shows that princes who have achieved great things have been those who have given their word lightly, who must have known how to trick men (sic) with their cunning, and who, in the end, must have overcome those abiding by honest principles.”

You will note the advice was not terribly successful. The fact that the public responded to the contempt implicit in this approach by bundling the ACT Party out of parliament en masse is a cause for optimism: that the more extreme of their policies is now being ushered in the back door by virtue of the gerrymandered Epsom electorate surely risks the public wrath? As Machiavelli says:

“Any prince who has come to depend entirely on promises and has taken no other precautions ensures his own ruin; friendship which is brought with money and not with greatness and nobility of mind is paid for but it does not last and yields nothing.” (page 52)

I hope you find this book enlightening. I will be sending the third book on Monday.

Yours sincerely

Robin Duff

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