(For reasons which have never been made clear to me) Chris Trotter is often sold as the voice of the New Zealand left – there’s a theory going around that this confirms the institutional right-wing bias of the New Zealand media, in that their principle advocate of left-wing values is a bewildered old crack-pot – so I’d just like to put it out there that Gordon Campbell is ‘New Zealand’s foremost left-wing commentator’.
June 1, 2012
March 24, 2012
Fran O’Sullivan tries to put a positive light on Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins’ (see attached chart) role in the ACC-Nick Smith fiasco:
Any Cabinet minister sitting in “The Crusher’s” shoes – particularly a politician with as strong an instinct for self-preservation as Collins has – would quickly have worked out the impact of Boag’s email was they were also likely to be dragged into the same mud-pool which subsequently swallowed Nick Smith.
The ACC Minister would quickly have reached the conclusion that all Boag’s email did was to compromise her.
Hence she sent it to the ACC.
And if she’d checked with Smith – the previous Minister – before she did so, National would still have one of its top performing Cabinet Ministers.
There’s a nice element of fate here. This government (and Labour before it) have a tendency to counter-attack when any member of the public steps forward to make a complaint, be it valid or not. The standard response from most Ministers to a criticism in the media is to anonymously leak material to the media to embarrass the complainant. (Paula Bennett is in trouble with the privacy commission because she was a new Minister when she tried this and didn’t realise media outlets would happily publish her smears without attribution.) It’s nice to see this practise blow-up in the government’s face.
March 20, 2012
Labour stalwart Brian Edwards says the party’s move to the political centre, which was further hinted at in new leader David Shearer’s speech last week, is driving him away from the party and into the arms of the Greens.
Writing on his blogsite, Dr Edwards, who was former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark’s media trainer, biographer and friend, said Labour’s philosophical and moral values “are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition”.
“I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party.”
Dr Edwards said Rogernomics and the influence of former British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “third way” on Ms Clark’s Government had moved Labour from its socialist roots.
In one of his first interviews, Shearer told Vernon Small that he was reading Phillip Gould’s The Unfinished Revolution, the unintentionally hilarious autobiography of Blair’s pollster and strategist.
(Unintentionally hilarious because it’s written in the language of high drama: the heroes – Gould, Mandelson, Blair – are resolute, bold, decisive, always taking courageous, principled stands against weak, ashen-faced leaders like Kinnock, over grave ethical and strategic issues like – and I’m not kidding here – how long to make the stem on the rose on the logo of the binders that delegates will carry around at the party conference. And it contains sentences like ‘We (Gould and Mandy) ran the best campaign ever by any political party in any modern election. But we still lost to the Conservatives by a huge margin.’)
Anyway, whenever UK Labour moved to the center on an issue like defense, taking a stand against the Soviet Union, say – the militant Communist organisations would denounce the Labour Party, and Gould et al would (rightly) see this as a victory, because the majority of the population hated communism. And I think that’s what Shearer and his advisors want to happen with some of these speeches: if the left denounce them it will give Shearer more attention and send a signal to the center that he’s been rejected by people they don’t like. So when he talks about welfare the idea will be to get Sue Bradford to kick up a huge fuss.
But I have a notion that people like Brian Edwards rather more than they liked the Soviet Union. It’s hard to know if he’s a signifier: does he represent a cohort of older traditional Labour voters moving towards the Greens, or is he an individual motivated by his personal relationship with the party?
There’s another sense in which this is ‘bad for Labour’. Gould, Blair and Mandelson were huge believers in using the mass media to influence the electorate. I’ve written before about how NZ Labour don’t have many champions in the media. National have a small army of political commentators out there who will advocate for the cause and endorse any inanity uttered by English and Key. The only commentator Labour had of any substance was Brian Edwards. (Tapu Misa – the Herald’s leading (only?) left-wing columnist – also seems cool towards Shearer.)
March 8, 2012
This is cute. John Armstrong, the Herald’s chief political courtier stands in awe of John Key’s mathematical analysis:
Shearer was the first to cop it. He asked Key if it was correct that under the provisions of just-introduced legislation covering the part-sale of state-owned enterprises like Genesis Energy, “half a dozen foreign investors” could legally purchase all the listed shares.
“No,” Key replied firmly before adding that no-one would be able to hold more than 10 per cent, that six times 10 was 60, and the Government was retaining 51 per cent.
It was the equivalent of the maths teacher handing a pupil the dunce’s hat and telling him to go and stand in the corner.
But . . . 49% of shares will be publicly listed, meaning half-a-dozen foreign investors could each buy 8.1%, and own all of the listed shares. Shearer was correct. Like, obviously, glaringly so. You’d think that with all the time Armstrong spends licking politicians’ fingers he’d have learned to count to ten.
February 23, 2012
At the end of a long day and I went to the Herald site to see if anything could lift me up. And there she was:
December 8, 2011
Labour leadership contender David Cunliffe says the party cannot risk a “false start” by choosing the wrong leader in the contest.
He’s taken aim at his rival David Shearer’s lack of experience, saying that while his opponent might be ready for the job later, he himself is “ready now”.
“I am ready now. I have a hard head and I can communicate. I’m experienced in Parliament, I’ve been a minister and sat on the front bench. I’m ready to go and I don’t think Labour can afford to have a false start.”
Changing leader again a year out from now wouldn’t be that big a deal (Key replaced Brash a year after the 05 election). So Labour can afford to have a false start. But this will probably only happen if Cunliffe is elected leader. Like he says, he’s ready to go. If he can’t move the polls in a year then it’s probably not going to happen. But if Shearer wins the leadership contest then they’ll probably have to stick with him on the hope that he’ll get better with experience.
On that note, Brian Edwards – the communications maestro behind, uh, Phil Goff – has announced that Shearer’s lack of media savvy makes him unelectable. The ability to answer questions without saying anything meaningful is held in high regard by media elites like Edwards, but I’m not sure it’s actually that attractive to voters.
November 16, 2011
There’s a meme running around that the ‘teapot tape’ story is a side-show, a distraction from real issues, ect, and that the media is chasing it instead of focusing on substantive stories about policy. But the tea-pot tape saga keys into a huge range of really substantive issues: the Prime Minister’s integrity; media ethics; surveillance (apparently it’s okay for the state to break the law when spying on people, but accidental surveillance of political leaders during public appearances is a ‘slippery slope’ to youth suicide, somehow). It’s about political management of the media, and the farce that is the ACT Party, and National’s endorsement of said farce.
The reason journalists love ‘scandals’ like this is because it lets them turn all of these important but not-very-newsworthy issues into lead stories. And that’s a by-product of the extensive stage-management of political campaigns: it’s boring for the reporters covering it, so whenever a crack appears, journalism floods in.
September 28, 2011
I went to Te Radar’s Eating the Dog at Downstage last night, and, as is customary when you get free tickets to something and it turns out to be good, I recommend you go and see it. The show is a stand-up comedy routine in which the material is drawn from New Zealand history, and watching it I was reminded of Bill Bryson’s latest book which is a history of domestic homes.
See, some people see history as the words and deeds of great men, and Marx teaches us that it’s the operation of economic forces and clashes of classes, but Bryson points out that history is mostly just billions of discreet human moments and lives, which generally aren’t all that tragic or dramatic, but are often absurd and comic. That’s roughly the approach Te Radar takes to New Zealand history
Meanwhile, Trotter blogged a few days back about the wonders of compulsory unionism. Funnily enough, I’ve just started reading Margaret Pope’s book about her time in the Lange-Douglas government. On, I think, the second page she explains that as an educated, urban liberal female in the 1970s, she voted for the National Party because of her intense dislike for Labour’s policy of compulsory unionism. I guess Trotter would reply that Labour could do without the support of urban liberals (their current core demographic), because they’d be a ‘workers party’.
This perpetual fantasy about a ‘workers party’ (see, also, some of the Mana Party rhetoric) is based on the same misconception as the religious parties that occasionally flare up: people look at census results and think, ‘Look at all the people who identify as Christians/earn low incomes! If we get their vote we’ll be in government!’
But it’s not the 1930s. We’re an individualistic, post-industrial nation. People don’t see themselves as ‘Christian’ or ‘working class’ in a political sense. We’re no longer ‘labourers’ – we’re human capital, or, to put it another way: our poor aren’t poor, they just haven’t made their first million yet.
Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a place in politics for improving the lot of ‘workers’ – just that unions are no longer the way to go about it. We have a political party (Labour) who are supposed to advocate for these sorts of policies – and they did get us that fourth week of compulsory holidays – but on the whole they’re pretty quiet on this front. Back in government they talked about compulsory redundancy, which would be tax-free, but they had better things to spend their time on, like regulating light-bulbs and shower-heads.
My theory is that Labour are reluctant to pass too much ‘pro-worker’ industrial legislation because that undermines the power of the unions, who fund and support Labour. There’s no point in paying a union fee if there’s a political party who will act directly on your behalf.
The new Fairfax poll has the Greens on 10% and Russel Norman registering as preferred Prime Minister for the first time, albeit with 1.7%. We keep hearing about how the media will only focus on trivialities and so the public are ‘switched off’ to politics, but the Greens’ radical strategy of releasing policy and talking about things they think are important seems to be playing out pretty well.
In the same poll National is at 54.3% and Labour 28.1%, proving that if you offer people a small bag of cat-shit and a large bag of dog shit, they’ll generally, reluctantly, take the smaller bag. And then the people trying to give away the dog-shit will cry, ‘Don’t you know that small bag is full of cat-shit? Wake up!’ And people like John Armstrong will write ecstatic columns about how New Zealanders love bags of fragrant, wonderful cat-shit. You get my point.
September 23, 2011
John Drinnan laments the dearth of political satire on New Zealand TV. I don’t really watch TV, so I don’t feel his pain – but here’s my pitch for a show if anyone wants to sell it to New Zealand On Air and make it.
The show is a satire of Breakfast TV. It’s called ‘Today, Today!’ It is basically like New Zealand breakfast TV, but billed as a satire. (The inspiration is The Larry Sanders Show, which parodied late night talk shows in the early 90s.) There are two components to each episode: the segments of the show within the show, which are skit based, topical and feature interviews and news bulletins, and parody general events, politics, the media and product placement. And the backstage stories which are character based and observational, with arcs that continue through the season, and comment on/satirise the real nature of the TV hosts, commentators, and their celebrity guests as opposed to their portrayal in the televised segments.
I don’t know if TVNZ would want to make something like this, but I want to watch it. So if anyone out there in the industry wants an idea to pitch, take this one with my blessing.
September 19, 2011
The fake pilot who attempted to access a restricted area at Auckland International Airport carried out the stunt for a television show, it has been reported.
TV3 news site 3News.co.nz said it understood the imposter was from the comedy programme Wannaben, which features former Pulp Sport host Ben Boyce. Earlier reports on the site had suggested it was Boyce.
Wannaben appears on TV3 on Saturday nights.
Look, we’ve got a bunch of hobgoblin radicals called the Ecumenical Liberation Army who go around taking home movies of themselves robbing banks. Now, maybe they’ll take movies of themselves kidnapping heiresses, hijacking 747s, bombing bridges, assassinating ambassadors. We’d open each week’s segment with their authentic footage, hire a couple of writers to write a story behind that footage, and we’ve got ourselves a series.
- Faye Dunaway in Paddy Chayefsky’s Network