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Dear John

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Dear John,

Don’t worry; I’m not breaking up with you.  But I am concerned about the state of our relationship, enough to take time out of my day to put all my thoughts on paper.

Typically I don’t wade into political discussion.  I generally abhor those who push their views on the rest of the world and then openly judge others on their positions.  I believe politics is a very personal subject and one that no one else can really judge you on.  So whilst this letter has been made open and public, I do this purely in the hope to get my message across to you.  And, for the record, it makes me deeply uncomfortable doing it.  That is saying a lot, as I’m not known for being backward in coming forward with my opinions.

And whilst I’m clarifying, it’s important that I state for the record that I don’t fundamentally have any concerns with David Cunliffe.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with Labour, in fact they have many policies that – if one can just step aside from their own preconceived notions for a moment – can see are very closely aligned to Nationals.  BUT I worry immensely about their choice of playmates in order to run a government.  Any set up that requires Kim Dotcom’s funds and Hone Harawira at the centre, is one that every New Zealander should be concerned about. It’s the coalition that we should all lose sleep over.

So with that out of the way, let me get to the point: we need you to step up and be our leader.

We need to hear what you have to say and get on with it.

I’m not sure you’ll remember, but some time back I asked you how hard it is to work with the type of news media that exists today and you said, “the hardest part is that they twist everything you say and what was a cohesive response, becomes a sound bite misinterpreted”.

Enough of this media circus, we need you to tell us what’s going on.  I think the best way for you to do that is to use the very things that seem to have put you in hot water this week, to your advantage.  You have two very powerful weapons at your disposal.  Make the Internet work for you, not against you for once.   Use it to be heard uninterrupted.

And the second powerful thing is YOU.

I have met and heard you speak many times.  Every time I walk away feeling confident that you are the right guy for this job.  Unlike many politicians you are not from a staunch political background.  You have been a regular dude and you’ve done well with your life.  You are an inspirational and aspirational individual for New Zealander’s and that’s why we voted you in.  We need and want a genuine leader.  You have common sense, a positive attitude and a ‘get stuff done’ view of the world.  You’ve never seemed to be particularly ‘political’ in your approach to dealing with the opposition or the ‘dirtier’ aspects of running a government.  Until now.

Right now you’re being eaten alive by a media storm and I think maybe you need a reminder of one simple thing: that you are not a candidate in this election, you are the current leader.

Which means we expect you to lead.  I voted for you, not the National Party.  I chose you, for the same reason I know many around me did too.  We believe in your vision for this country.  We think your heart is the in right place.  We think you’re hard working, understand what an individual needs to do to succeed in life and you’re not afraid to make the hard calls. You don’t expect to always be liked and you’re willing to stand up and do your bit.  Quite frankly, and I’m a pretty ambitious person, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to do your job and I often comment on why on earth someone would want to do it.  I have absolutely no aspirations to go into politics, but I’m very grateful to those who do – because we need smart people for us to continue to be a wonderful place to live.

But John, we need you to do better.  Having once met Christian Cullen who told me that the hardest part of being an All Black is that everybody feels they can comment on your performance without invitation, I understand that it must be almost eyeball rolling stuff to hear someone else (once again) tell you this.  But I say this as an investor of yours.  Not because I’ve donated to your party, no, because I have a vested interest in your success.  I voted for you and put confidence in your ability to make it happen.  I know business is your foundation; so putting it into terms that both you and I appreciate makes sense to me.  I have investors who back me and I have KPI’s and expectations.  If I don’t meet those or things aren’t going in the direction we would have hoped, they are entitled to pull me up.  You are no different.

If I were to review your performance to date, I would say that the country has enjoyed a return to health in the last few years and our economy is looking to be back on track.  Personally I have enjoyed the benefits of this and have made ‘hay while the sun shines – I’ve been developing businesses, creating new jobs, developing industries and getting on with it.  I’ve enjoyed both government grants and private equity into my businesses.

Additionally, we live in a beautiful country with peace and harmony.  We look after each other and there are jobs for those willing to work.  I know it’s not perfect, we have many areas to work on and improve, but the vast majority of us can say we’ve got it pretty good. Comparatively speaking, of course.

And no matter which way you typically lean politically, we all appreciate that the equation for a healthy country = sustainable businesses & industries thriving = more (well paying) jobs = money in people’s pockets = fuelling our economy = our ability to put back into the country, to help the disadvantaged, progress our education and improve our healthcare and prosperity.  And for the last few years the political polls have reflected this summation as people have seen and enjoyed the upside and, as a result, you’ve earned their trust.

But right now, people aren’t sure what to think, who to trust or what to believe. The alternative looks pretty bleak.  It’s worrisome.  They know they shouldn’t believe everything they’re told, but it looks as though there is a case to answer.

This election was yours to lose and right now, it’s not looking too good.  The front page of the NZ Herald yesterday was the final straw for me.  It was the image of a very unhappy John being presented in perfect illustration of the point they wanted to make, “the other side of our affable PM”.

The thing is that the media in NZ are very good at bleeding a story dry.  They’ve sniffed out a rat and like a dog with a bone; they’re going to hold on to it for as long as they can.  What an opportunity you’ve given them to sell newspapers and airtime!  They’re going to attract unprecedented eyeballs to their coverage and, let’s be honest; they’re not likely to change tactics any time soon.  They don’t really care about the truth.  This is just what they do.  You know you can’t rely on the media as your vehicle to tell your side of the story.  Watering down this story will not work for them.

You have a better way to tell your story and you haven’t been using it.

I want to hear from you, without media interpretation (or spin doctors).  I want you to front up on camera, without a bullying interviewer aiming for a spectacle, or anything fancy.  This doesn’t need an agency to run it.  I want a straight-to-camera explanation that I can download off your website or from your Facebook page explaining everything that has happened.  We know there’s some truth, and there are some lies, and there will be some casualties, but you’re the leader, it’s time to just tell us the truth.  And what you’re going to do about it.  You have to earn back our trust and faith in the system.

And there in lies the word that is so critical right now.  Trust.  We’ve trusted you to have our best interests at heart and I fundamentally think that you have.  I get that the world is not black and white, that there are varying shades of grey – but I don’t think a Lance Armstrong excuse of ‘but everyone else is doing it’ is going to cut it right now.  You might have to cut loose a few who are a bit too dirty for all our likings.  We need a totally free from any corruption Minister of Justice.  I know that might be hard to fathom when it can feel like you’ve got some slim pickings in the first place – and I understand that’s because the rest of us won’t stand up and participate.  But we’re certainly not going to while this type of political environment exists.

We, as a nation, need you to be our leader and stand up and take charge.  You can’t trust that the traditional media outlets to tell us the truth, so talk to your people directly.  You have the power to do so.

BUT, if you do this, what you’ll need to do is hang about.  You’ll need your good people to help you respond to what will happen on social media as a result.  The haters and the trolls will inundate you.  And that’s okay it’s what they do.  Don’t get into massive fights with them, respond professionally and move on.  But if you sift through all of that, you’ll find people who genuinely want to hear what you’ve got to say – from your mouth.  Who will then stand up for you and with you.  You’ll get your messages out there.

Once you’ve dealt with this mess right now, I know I want to then hear more about your policies.  The simple things – like what’s your stance on health care, education, taxes, and the environment.  What are your “key” pillars?  You might have seen those political surveys going around online that people are filling out to find out what party they mostly align to.  Those things have made most of us realise how little we really know.  I feel grossly mis-(and under)-informed, so please help me out with that.  I don’t want to listen to political commentators, or media spin, or a grudge holder and most certainly not from an emotionally and ethically corrupt blogger (let’s be honest, he’s not a very nice person).  I want to hear from YOU.  Unabridged.

Enough investing in TVC’s to tell your story, that’s not how we’re listening nowadays.   Save yourself the coin.  The days of putting ads on telly to spread a message are on their way out; we don’t watch telly any more (we bet you fast forward through ads too).  To get to the people who you care about, you need to act more appropriately for the world they live in today.  I jumped onto your Facebook page this morning and saw a PR approach to it – pumping out party messages as thought it’s a one-way communication tool.  No engagement, no discussion, just another brochure.   You can do better.

I want to hear from you. About the issues that matter.  You have the platform to speak openly and be heard.  So use it.

This is the right time; you need to act RIGHT NOW.  The opportunity to change the conversation is right this second.

I look forward to watching.