Accusations of Political Interference from the PM’s Office in the Change the Flag Project


John Key has made his position on the NZ flag perfectly clear


You may have heard of the stoush between an anonymous online blogger ‘JohnKeyMustGo‘ and National Party PR advisor/ChangetheFlag promoter Gwynn Compton.

Here’s what the NZ Herald had to say

Prime Minister John Key’s social media adviser registered the website – but the group says that does not undermine its claim to independence.  Gwynn Compton has locked down his own social media accounts after a stoush on Twitter between an anonymous user (JohnKeyMustGo) and the adviser resulted in the claims of bullying from the top.

In his spare time Mr Compton is involved with the Change the NZ Flag campaign, which aims to get New Zealanders behind the movement for a new flag…

Gwynn Compton works for Mr Key in his capacity as National Party leader and back in March he had tweeted in response to an anonymous Twitter user @JohnKeyMustGo: “You think you’re so clever. But you’re not that good at hiding your online fingerprints. Have a nice day :)”

The exchange was posted on Twitter today by blogger Giovanni Tiso, who also posting a screenshot of Mr Compton’s LinkedIn profile listing his role with Mr Key. Mr Tiso wrote “Who is this delightful fellow who claims to work for the PM and threatens to track down his critics on Twitter?”

It sparked a flurry of responses describing Mr Compton’s actions as “bullying” and “dirty politics”… read on

Many New Zealanders don’t want to change their flag, saying it ain’t broke so why fix it. However, John Key’s government is pushing ahead with his desire for New Zealand to be represented by a flag that is markedly different from Australia’s.

The publicity budget for selecting the new flag designs is around $6.7 million (nice work if you can get it) Two referendums (yes, two!) will cost at least a further $17.3 million . Overall the bill is likely to be $25.7 million whether the flag is changed or not.

You can appreciate the PM’s anxiety that this venture does not fall flat on its face, and he is not left with $25.7 million dollars worth of egg on his. This isn’t a great look after National managed to turn a $372 million surplus into a $570 million deficit in the space of just one year; add to that the Auckland housing market  reaching crisis point without so much as a flinch from the government.

What with alleged cyber stalking, hacking and threats it looks like Dirty Politics is still alive and well in New Zealand, and inexorably linked to the government of the day.

Here’s JohnKeyMustGo’s version of events, as related on his/her Facebook page.

On 31 Mar 2015, I commented in a National Party twitter feed. Nothing nasty, just a comment about the accuracy of one of their tweets. I thought their tweet was slightly misleading. I was confronted by Gwynn Compton, who first called me a troll and then when on to say. “You think you’re clever. But you’re not that good at hiding your online fingerprints. Have a nice day smile emoticon” As you can imagine I was quite taken back by this. It seemed to me to be the equivalent of saying, “We know where you live… have a nice day.” I didn’t think I deserved to be attacked and wondered who had attacked me. I had seen Mr Compton’s tweets before, he would quite often argue with left wing contributors to National and John Key’s tweets. So I thought I would see if I could find out who Gwynn Compton was. At the time it was a threat I took quite seriously.

The name was a little unique, so I did a quick google search and immediately found Mr Compton’s linkedin page, which described him as a Social Media Advisor in John Key’s office. At this point I got a little more concerned for my privacy, after all the man was in a powerful position and had access to a lot of information. Without letting him know that I knew who he was I tried to talk to him but he didn’t want to talk anymore. So I worried a little more and thought about what to do next.

It continued to worry me and on April 10th for the first time I posted information about the incident on my facebook page. I covered names on the screen grab and didn’t mention any names in the discussion that followed, just referred to Mr Compton as Senior Social Media Manager in John Key’s Office. However, someone else researched and mentioned his name in comments on that post, it wasn’t difficult to do.

At that point Mr Compton started talking to me again on twitter and there was a series of direct interactions and then a weird series of posts where he posted on his twitter page about things I had said and I did the same on mine. He denied everything. Mr Compton said, “There’s a very special irony in someone using an alias trying to “expose” someone tweeting their personal opinions under their real name” I replied “Which is more worrying? Speaking with a pseudonym to protect yourself or speaking as yourself to hide the people that pay you to speak?” He then started attacking me accusing me of being a tin foil hat wearer. Basically saying I was making it up. Mr Compton said, “You precious petal, your theory is so wildly wrong you should order this” and then posted a link to a tinfoil supplier.” And in reference to the “fingerprints” he had on me, Compton said, “All it took was a little detective work, some help from Google, and a little comparative analysis.”

I didn’t think he could have used that method to find information on me, I was confused but didn’t know if what he was saying was true. I knew there was something going on but didn’t have proof, so I did some more research.

April 15th another series of comments, out of context they are difficult to understand. Just semi-relevant digs at each other really. By the 16th I had had enough and needed to get away from it for a while and posted my symbolic “retirement” on twitter and facebook. But Ponygate pulled me back into social media on the 22nd.

May 3rd I posted information about the Compton story on Facebook again not using names. Within a few hours my post had disappeared, it had been deleted. This is the first time this had ever happened to any of my posts since I started the page a year and a half ago. I was a bit annoyed to say the least and continue to post about the story and about having had my facebook account attacked. More posts were interfered with, they were made impossible to share and Facebook informed me they had found malware. I found and cleaned that malware out of my computer, again this is the first time that has ever happened to me. This may have been a coincidence, I have no way of knowing. I started posting that story on Twitter. I read Mr Compton comments about this, denying it had anything to do with him.

So I did some more research. I watched how Mr Compton tweeted, what he said and when. It confirmed a pattern I had seen before. It seemed that Mr Compton, National Party and John Key’s tweets were very related. And it confirmed the sorts of subject Mr Compton like to talk about. I actually think he had calmed down a bit from the posts I had seen before. But they did seem very targeted. He argued in National Party and John Key threads with people that opposed the National line. He generated and shared a lot of tweets about the change of flag. One series of posts were quite well researched tweets about the lack of money the RSA have and questioned if they should be spending money on campaigning to keep the New Zealand flag. It was researched spin about changing of the flag. So I looked into the relationship between Mr Compton and the change flag campaign. I found that Gwynn Compton, John Key’s Senior Social Media Advisor registered the domain name on April 1st 2015. Change the Flag says it is “an independent, non-political, design-neutral society”, yet John Key’s Senior Social Media Advisor, is registering the domain name and organising their meetings. What else is he doing. I don’t know but the site does have some design similarity to Compton’s National party and John Key social media posts and I remember a tweet from Gwynn Compton last month saying, something like, “It’s times like this I wish I had learnt coding” which is the language for building websites like this. The website went live at the end of April.

I have also looked for online evidence that Mr Compton is a big flag change advocate, which he says he is. I can’t find a lot, if anything, from before the time he started working at John Key’s office in April 2014. It seems odd for someone who now is continually tweeting pro flag change information and works in his “spare time” for change the flag.

Admin aside: That was a good observation. At the time of Teapot tapes fiasco during the 2011 election Compton appeared to have no affection for either John Key, or changing the NZ flag. This screenshot is from his blog the Compton Compere  where he compared Key to an “awkward Uncle who tries to chat up your girlfriend” and appeared to be a staunch advocate for the right to privacy and condemned News of the World tactics. Ironic, isn’t it.

compton compere

Key is the “awkward Uncle who tries to chat up your girlfriend”


By the way his spare time is often office time and he often comments how busy he is at work. Even Compton’s blogs which he seems to have stopped since taking up the role in John Key’s Office have no sign of any pro flag stories. The word flag isn’t even mentioned. Now the site shows him as one of the top social media contributors on their leaderboard, “Top 20 Most Earned Social Capital”

Mr Compton’s wordpress blog has the comment. “I’m Gwynn Compton and I write. I write a lot of things, mostly for other people who are kind enough to pay me for it.” I think there is little doubt he is a professional social media writer.

So we have John Key’s Senior Social Media Advisor, posting National’s, John Key’s and other National MP posts. Which is all good, that seems to be his job. There is evidence to say that is the case. We also have proof he then logs in undercover, as himself and tweets spin in those tweet threads, arguing with people that have an opposite opinion and in my case threatening me with an invasion of my privacy.

We have Mr Compton, during office hours, tweeting researched pro flag change stories. Even to the point where he attacks those like the RSA who don’t want change. We also have him as registerer of the domain name an organisation that says it is “an independent, non-political, design-neutral society” yet the major part of its personnel makeup is a John Key’s office staffer and National Party candidate from the last election. There has to be at least a question of a conflict of interest for John Key’s office but it is likely to be something more.

I think it is difficult not to come to the conclusion there is more than just a casual relationship between the different roles Mr Compton performs. The way he uses his position as Social Media Advisor is a glimpse into the duplicity of John Key’s office. Compton separates his personal self from his role in the office with a switch of logins. Is he Gwynn Compton the person or Gwynn Compton the office. Hang on, we have been here before. Who is he when he attacks the RSA, his online smiles are saved for The National Party, while he attacks with his other face. And while he is talking about change of flag he is not in the office, although he is. It’s dirty and confusing.

My role in this is as an individual with an opinion. Like all other New Zealanders I have the freedom to say what I think, within reason. I exercise that right with a pseudonym like many others online and many others who write or create art work. It allows me to speak with a freedom not only for myself but for others that don’t have a voice. My Facebook page is quite popular, it has over 10,000 followers and we discuss politics and other things. At the last election I had a reach of over 220,000 people talking and being engaged in politics. I don’t think John Key’s Office or a person working in John Key’s or whatever the facade is, should be threaten me or my right to speak.

The reality is I don’t do these “investigations” I create mostly politically provocative images, that hopefully make people laugh and more importantly think. I shouldn’t feel threatened for doing that. I shouldn’t have to be trying to protect myself from the staff of the Prime Minister of this Country.

In most situations like this many organisations would have an enquiry into the actions of their staff and issue a formal apology. I wonder if that is going to happen in this case.” source