Student leader ‘revolted’ by politics – that’s what dirty politics does.

Sam Johnson is a fellow about whom it’s rather difficult to find any bad press – founder of Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army; 2012 Young New Zealander of the Year; ranked number 22 on the Readers Digest top 100 trusted people list; endorsed by John Key when he successfully stood for the Ricccarton-Wigram Community Board in 2010; approached by Lianne Dalziel to be her running mate in the last Christchurch mayoralty race; founding Trustee of the Ministry of Awesome…

And he features on Stuff this morning in an article that begins:

Student Volunteer Army kingpin Sam Johnson says the underhand tricks exposed by Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics have left him revolted by politics.

Johnson is quoted as saying:

The whole thing is revolting. There’s obviously dirty tricks and games played on every side but I just think we’re coming up to an election and we are promoting all these campaigns to get young people to vote… the whole thing needs to get itself cleaned up.

That’s on all sides. This is not restricted to Whale Oil or Simon Lusk. It’s everywhere. It’s quite disheartening. I think we need values-driven politics.

Even before this book, I’ve been put off all sorts of politics. The council debacle was enough to put me off. I’ve seen friends go in and spat out the other side.

You can see why someone like Johnson would receive a brief taste of politics, even only at local body level, and recoil in disgust. And that’s a great pity. Politics, whether it’s local body or at a national level, is supposed to be about public service (“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, if we’re going to really descend into the cliches…). Surely people like Sam Johnson are exactly the type of people we eventually want to attract into politics?

Yet who in their right mind would want to be a politician in this day and age, knowing that everything you say and do, and everything you’ve said and done, will be picked over with a fine-tooothed comb and used to try and destroy you?

Sam Johnson featured briefly in Dirty Politics. Simon Lusk saw him as a client, and was unimpressed by a Green Party MP making favourable comments about the Student Army. Lusk asked Slater:

“Cam, can you bash this c… [the Green MP]. I’ll write it… Sam is a client. He will pay off long term.”

Johnson describes Lusk as just one of his ten to 20 mentors during his Community Board campaign. I’m sure Johnson threw up in his mouth a little to discover that Lusk thought him a long-term cash machine, existing purely to further Lusk and Slater’s ambitions.

Lusk has written:

There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turn out, and drives away the independents. Voting then becomes more partisan.

Add to that, it also drives away people like Sam Johnson.



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