National's autopsy will remain confidential until it is leaked to Tova O’Brien

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

- Benjamin Franklin


Following the Nakba that was National's 2020 general election campaign, the party board commissioned a review into what went wrong. That review has been completed and has been received by the board and... not many others. According to the party president, not even MPs are going to be guaranteed access to the content.

Which means we can all look forward to hearing all about the contents from Tova O'Brien, I suppose. 

On the one hand, you can understand the desire for secrecy. A lot went wrong in 2020 and not all of it was the fault of the party. Some of it inevitably was, however, since even in the best of years nobody is perfect. Another inevitability is that some of the criticism, if the review is fair, will be aimed at the people who commissioned the review.

What is completely unrealistic is to expect the thing to be kept under wraps. In the first place, there is an intense prurient interest in this kind of thing from politically interested members of the public. Secondly, members and volunteers who gave of their own free time to participate in the review will - quite rightly - expect to know what it says. Lastly, the human propensity for intrigue will ensure that internal rivals ensure that some or all of the criticisms of their opponents become known.

The bureaucracies of New Zealand's political parties are secretive in nature. Information is carefully hoarded in an often vain attempt to control the morale. How many financial members do our political parties have? What's the state of their finances? None of this is knowable to members let alone the general public.

So after the 2014 election, after enduring a catastrophe of its own. the Labour Party - for some reason - commissioned former leftwing British MP Bryan Gould to prepare a report on what went wrong. The report was duly completed and delivered to the Labour Party hierarchy with a strict understanding that it would be kept under wraps.

Which, naturally, meant Patrick Gower got his hands on it and so had the exclusive opportunity to frame its presentation in the media narrative. If you can't remember this then  suffice it to say that his framing was probably not how the Labour Party would have preferred it to have been framed. If I recall correctly the words "rotten to the core" may have featured.

Professionally run political parties do not do this for that reason. The idea that the Republican or Democratic parties would keep their election post-mortems secret in inconceivable. Bowing to reality, they just call them "Growth and Opportunity" reports and take their lumps in respect of them.

I understand the desire of the National hierarchy not to let others see how they have marked their own homework. Nothing could be more human. I just don't think it is at all realistic.

Let's see if I am wrong.

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