Thomas Cranmer

Lawyer and writer. Nom du plume for @philipcrumpX.

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Some background to Thursday’s story as it seems interesting. I’ve been approached by a number of MSM journalists over the last twelve months enquiring about doing a similar story – all have been very good to deal with and have respected my wishes that the focus remains on my stories and not me. Most recently, after the TVNZ paid content story, an editor reached out to me with a similar proposal and we agreed that we would wait a few months before doing anything.

Late on Wednesday, I received a message from BusinessDesk saying, “I have figured out your identity and am going to write a little news story about it for BusinessDesk (the man behind the popular blog and some of the recent high-profile stories being a well-known City lawyer).” I contacted two senior journalists whose opinions I value to check whether it would be appropriate for BusinessDesk to run a story without my consent. They both considered it sufficiently newsworthy that it could be run. On that basis, I responded to the BusinessDesk reporter and confirmed that I would speak with him.

We had an amicable discussion on Thursday morning when I confirmed basic details and provided some quotes. Daniel has previously worked at the FT in London covering many of the deals that I have worked on so we know each other by reputation but have never spoken.

Views within media seem to vary about whether it should have been run. One editor expressed surprise when I gave them a download telling me “we don’t really have a culture of that type of doxx-ing in NZ”. Another journalist messaged to say it was “a bad sign of gatekeeping from journalists”. I will leave it to the journalists to have that discussion. For my part, I’m very relaxed about a story on my bio – much of it was known or guessable. But what I would say is that there possibly needs to be as much or more scrutiny of the ultimate ownership and control of our major news providers if small, independent writers are considered fair game.

More importantly, I do very strongly take issue with the criticism of my Three Waters analysis in the article and in particular the line that, “This has become a widely held misinterpretation of the legislation among its critics.”

The background on this point is that I have written extensively on the strength of Te Mana o Te Wai statements in Three Waters on my Substack. It has been described in government papers as a “robust mechanism”. I last wrote about this in April and on the day of my article I (as Cranmer) received an email from the editor of BusinessDesk stating, “This legislation says no more than ‘have regard to’ and for the entities to give a response. The status of TMOTW statements is repeatedly overstated by critics of the Treaty as aspects of these reforms. Hard not to see it as dog whistling.”

Ignoring the baseless jab at my motivations, I explained my analysis of the legislation as well as the Cabinet papers, Hansard and my discussions with people directly involved in government negotiations. I explained that I was happy to have my analysis challenged (although I believe that it is the preferred view) but not for my motives to be impugned. I suggested that BusinessDesk publish their own analysis along with evidence and expert corroboration and I would be happy to engage. That was agreeable to BusinessDesk and I have been waiting for something to appear. Of course, months later nothing has appeared.

After the article was published, I spoke to the editor of BusinessDesk on Friday night and we had a long amicable discussion about our differing views on TMOTW. He confirmed that it was him, rather than the reporter, who had added the offending sentence to the story. I pointed out that there was no indication given to me that any of my written views would be criticised in his article and that I was not given any opportunity to respond or provide a specific quote on the point. My view is that this is a complex issue and that there is some ambiguity on the point. Lawyers will disagree on the strength of these statements but we should fully articulate the arguments for public debate.

My suggestion to BusinessDesk on Friday was that the offending sentence be removed and that I would not draw attention to it. If not, I would need to set out my full analysis on the issue as well as the email correspondence between Cranmer and BusinessDesk over the last few months on this point. My preference was for the former but BusinessDesk is not willing to remove the sentence so I will take the latter option and set out the analysis, etc on my Substack in the coming days.

I emphasised to BusinessDesk that I don’t consider this a personal disagreement, merely a differing view on interpretation. Lawyers have these discussions every day. But in my view, it was not appropriate to impugn my motives and dismiss my professional analysis as a “misinterpretation” without warning or a right of reply, nor without explaining in technical detail why it is a misinterpretation.

The article also criticised my views on co-governance. Again, I am happy to have the debate, but the article omitted to mention that one of the majors in my BA is Maori Studies. When I reminded BusinessDesk that I had specifically mentioned this on my Thursday call with them, BusinessDesk acknowledged the omission and updated the article.

A large part of the motivation for starting my Substack and X has been to encourage public debate about contentious topics that are of high public interest. My view of the BusinessDesk article is that it is less about “doxxing” and more about shutting down legitimate debate on highly important political matters.

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