Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Q + A: Sir Bob Harvey

Q + A
Episode 21
Sir Bob Harvey
Interviewed by CORIN DANN

SUSAN Sir Bob Harvey was behind the transformation of Norm Kirk, and one of New Zealand's most popular Prime Ministers. He also advised Bill Rowling, David Lange and Helen Clark, the latter as Labour Party President. Wild Westie a new book about his life has just been released and Sir Bob joins Corin now.

CORIN Sir Bob thank you very much for joining us. Reading your book I was surprised just how much of a role you have had in national politics, over the years, and the thing I wanted to ask you first was, what was it that drew you in? Was it the big personalities that were around, or was it the politics and the policy?

SIR BOB HARVEY – Former Labour Party President
I guess that I invented electioneering as it was and is now in New Zealand in 1969 with Norman Kirk. I saw a real role. Look I had a business and I wanted to grow that business and it was a very successful business. And what was missing was a political spin, if you like, in this country. Everything was forbidden. You weren't allowed to treat no music, no slogans, no nothing really, no billboards, no TV of course. And so I worked with a couple of pretty smart guys, Roger Donaldson, Dick Frizzell in the creation of what is the modern election campaign.

CORIN Was it the politics driving you though, the desire for a change?

BOB Well you had to believe in the client. You know I'd come from a socialist background of course and so I went and saw Norman Kirk down in the Commercial Hotel and said look I've got some great ideas, I've just been to America. I've got this great idea about a split screen technique, which was pretty new, I've got an idea about some music. I've got an idea about pulling it all together. And he heard that and said give this young guy a chance.

CORIN But did you recognise also that you needed the raw talent, did you see that?

BOB Of course. Look when you talk about raw talent, this guy's 6ft 2in, and about 30 stone. I mean is that raw talent? I could see that. I could see the potential of this phenomenal man in New Zealand politics.

CORIN And I guess why I asked that is because we're coming into an election campaign, there’s a lot of interest. Can anybody be made over? Can you sell any political party if you get the strategy right and the ads right? I mean Labour for example right now with a leader who is struggling. Could you turn that around with the right advertising campaign?

BOB Yes, yes you can. Yes you can.

CORIN Any ideas?

BOB I'm not, well I used to be in that business, and they haven't asked me lately. But the fact is David Lange is probably the most – the classic example of that. Bill Rowling was much loved in the party, and he was a terrific adorable man, but he hadn’t made it. Mike Moore and I went out to a garage in Mangere and there is a very large person, David Lange, who we'd seen walking up town, was a lawyer, and he was out there. And we spent an hour with David Lange who was about to go in and get his stomach stapled. Of which 50% died 10 days later. It was a serious operation in those days. And in the car back to Mike Moore's house, I said Mike he's it. He has got a brilliant brain, he has got enormous charisma and the party didn’t think that, I think they thought he was a bit of a clown to be honest. And he had those jokes, those running gags. But I saw and so did Mike Moore, the brilliance, the leadership, the statesmanship in Lange.

CORIN Do you see that – do you see that David Cunliffe because I mean he's a smart guy, he's really struggling at the moment. Do you think – what would your advice be to him?

BOB I don’t know if the party would take it, but I'd say look get your act together. They’ve got a great campaign and great agency running with Scissors who are smart, and it's a different world than the Lange and Kirk world of course. The whole climate is different, and you’ve got a very popular PM, and you’ve got a reasonable – well I think that we're bored. We've been knocked off with election campaigns, and the media is fierce.

CORIN So you’re a bit of a maverick

BOB Of course

CORIN So you’d throw the script out?

BOB America’s Cup - we had it and then someone came back and took it away from us. It's never over till it's over, and the campaign really hasn’t started. I haven't heard any music, I haven't seen any slogans, I haven't seen any – sounds a bit cheap by the way, but branding, and I haven't seen the enormity of the social media. You see that’s where I think it's at. And we're looking at polls that are done by phoning people at home. Who the hell is at home? Who's in the phone book? We're all on cellphones. No one has been rung on a cellphone and asked who we're gonna vote for isn't it.

CORIN Is this superficial though? I mean if you're saying it can be won if we spin it right?

BOB Yeah I'm saying that. Because that is the way popularity grows. If you come from behind. Yes this is the world of buying and selling. I mean the television studios, this is the very heart of selling us something, you sell it and there's a programme to look at next day, next hour. This is the world of elections.

CORIN Which is interesting because you're working in an ad agency and yet you were sort of associating yourself with socialism early on.

BOB I'm still a socialist.

CORIN You don’t see any conflict between those two?

BOB Why would I? This is what the book is about. This is like how there are terrific brains around. They're not often in here, but they're out there where you move opinions. And I think that is important in elections. I went and worked I remember with the Kennedy campaign in Los Angeles to get ideas on campaigning with Ted Kennedy. He didn’t stand finally but it was a terrific eye opener. I brought some of the world's best techniques together for Lange and for Mike Moore.

CORIN So your message to David Cunliffe is not give up hope, that he can get through.

BOB Of course not. I mean it's just starting. There's things there, and of course you’ve got Dotcom lurking in the wings, and you’ve got all those other issues that can move things, a sea-change can happen overnight.

CORIN Does he need to throw the script out though, because he's getting advice from all over the place. Does he need to do something unpredictable that really grabs people's attention?

BOB Well of course. I mean the secret is being free, the secret is loosening up, the secret is talking to people, talking not at people, but with people. This community, New Zealand is a very passionate, isolated, and very complex country and if you get that right, like Lange got certainly Kirk got, that’s what my book is about, and Clark. You can't underestimate. Helen didn’t have terrific charisma, but my God she had great management skills. She was a phenomena, and working with her as President of course was a different world. When I went from the world of Kirk and Lange where the party controlled the money the finances and the branding, I found a different world.

CORIN You found it tough didn’t you as President?

BOB I found it tough as President because my role working with the remarkable Rob Allen who was the Secretary at the time, was to bring the money together, and we brought about $2.3 million.

CORIN And you were outspoken because you got in trouble for raising this idea that the CIA knocked off Norm Kirk. You still believe that don’t you?

BOB Yeah I do. Well no I don’t actually – I'm not saying that – I'm not saying the CIA knocked off Norm Kirk. I say Kirk I felt was removed, and I put a whole lot of dots together which thought in those times he was so outspoken about dealing with China, dealing with Russia, at a time of the oil crisis, and suddenly this robust man with enormous energy, starts to deteriorate within six months. He is going downhill, he's getting seizures, I'm thinking what goes. So if you put a whole lot of those things together on the table, we didn’t do enough work about the loss of a phenomenal Prime Minister.

CORIN Sir Bob Harvey, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Digital Evolution: Scoop Independent News Launches "Operation Chrysalis"

From today Scoop is beginning a process of public consultation with the political, business and civil society groups it has served for the past 15 and a half years.

"It is hoped that in time - with new leadership and increased community engagement - the chrysalis will incubate a new kind of Scoop, one which can sustainably continue Scoop's Mission 'to be an agent of positive change'", says Scoop Founder, Editor and Publisher Alastair Thompson.

"As big publishing shrivels, public participation in contributing and spreading news has grown. Scoop has evolved with this wave by providing an independent platform, committed to upholding democracy, providing a voice to all, and providing the public easy access to information about decisions which affect them." More>>

 

Parliament Adjourns:

Greens: CAA Airport Door Report Conflicts With Brownlee’s Claims

The heavily redacted report into the incident shows conflicting versions of events as told by Gerry Brownlee and the Christchurch airport security staff. The report disputes Brownlee’s claim that he was allowed through, and states that he instead pushed his way through. More>>

ALSO:

TAIC: Final Report On Grounding Of MV Rena

Factors that directly contributed to the grounding included the crew:
- not following standard good practice for planning and executing the voyage
- not following standard good practice for navigation watchkeeping
- not following standard good practice when taking over control of the ship. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell:
On The Pakistan Schoolchildren Killings

The slaughter of the children in Pakistan is incomprehensibly awful. On the side, it has thrown a spotlight onto something that’s become a pop cultural meme. Fans of the Homeland TV series will be well aware of the collusion between sections of the Pakistan military/security establishment on one hand and sections of the Taliban of the other… More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf Satire:
The Politician’s Song

am a perfect picture of the modern politic-i-an:
I don’t precisely have a plan so much as an ambition;
‘Say what will sound most pleasant to the public’ is my main dictum:
And when in doubt attack someone who already is a victim More>>

ALSO:

Flight: Review Into Phillip Smith’s Escape Submitted To Government

The review follows an earlier operational review by the Department of Corrections and interim measures put in place by the Department shortly after prisoner Smith’s escape, and will inform the Government Inquiry currently underway. More>>

ALSO:

Intelligence: Inspector-General Accepts Apology For Leak Of Report

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, has accepted an unreserved apology from Hon Phil Goff MP for disclosing some of the contents of her recent Report into the Release of Information by the NZSIS in July and August 2011 to media prior to its publication. The Inspector-General will not take the matter any further. More>>

ALSO:

Drink: Alcohol Advertising Report Released

The report of the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship has been released today, with Ministers noting that further work will be required on the feasibility and impact of the proposals. More>>

ALSO:

Other Report:

Leaked Cabinet Papers: Treasury Calls For Health Cuts

Leaked Cabinet papers that show that Government has been advised to cut the health budget by around $200 million is ringing alarm bells throughout the nursing and midwifery community. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news