Politics isn’t theatre

Politics is serious stuff, especially in an election campaign when we get to decide, sort of, who will run the country for the next three years.

Several months ago some journalists openly dreaded a boring election between the two main contenders, Bill English and Andrew Little. All they had to over-embellish headlines was the old troubadour, Winston Peters.

Then Little changed everything when he stood aside, allowing Jacinda Ardern to take over. The media had already played a party in Ardern’s promotion to deputy earlier this year, and this was headlines on a plate for them.

The media was besotted, as were a lot of potential Labour supporters who had had a drought of hope for nine years. So we had ‘Jacindamania’, the ‘Jacinda effect’.

Journos were fizzing at the bung in anticipation of last Thursday’s first leaders debate.  This turned out to be a useful opener, but there was media disappointment at the lack of excitement.

Bryce Edwards summed it up:

Last night’s leaders debate on TVNZ1 was lacklustre. A lot of people will tell you that the debate was quality – it was calm, it was respectful, and it focused on policy. But, actually it was boring and we didn’t learn anything new. Yes, of course they put forward their different policy generalities and attempts to show that they have vision and values. But it was all terribly bland and vague.

Woe is Bryce. A boring debate! Most people find most politics boring most of the time.

We did learn something important and new – two leading politicians could have a respectful debate.

Media would have loved attacks and abuse and mayhem, but here’s an important thing – elections aren’t for the entertainment of journos and pundits. Or they shouldn’t be.

Barry Soper:  The Soap Box: Politics is missing the theatre

Politics is these days missing the theatre, although in fairness Winston Peters is still performing and looks set to be playing the starring role after the vote in three weeks time.

He’ll undoubtedly put on another performance this week while the big players will continue what so far has been a fairly mundane affair…

Woe is Soper – despite continually giving the old Thespian Peters a nationwide soapbox the campaign is still lacking sufficient drama!

And it’s fair to say the current aspirants don’t put in the same election campaign hard slog that former contenders did. Long gone are the daily Town Hall meetings around regional New Zealand, along with the theatre that accompanied them…

Soper is yearning for the past, much like Peters. The world has moved on to much more wide ranging and far reaching forms of communication.

Last week, officially the first of the campaign, saw Jacinda Ardern essentially at schools and tertiary institutions where she was mobbed by students wanting selfies while Bill English also hit learning institutions but at least did venture into a shopping mall for a walkabout among the great unwashed which can be high risk, given they’re expected to shake the hand of any random who approaches them.

But these are essentially the fill-in events while they prepare and perform for their spin doctors away from the cameras for the main event, the television debate. There’s another one of those tonight and another one on Thursday.

Actually there is going to be a town-hall type debate in Christchurch tomorrow night – where opposing leaders contest, rather than an old fashioned one party PR exercise that Soper seems to prefer,

You’d have to wonder what they can say that hasn’t already been said but with the political tumult of the past several weeks, the only thing that’s predictable about this campaign is the unpredictable.

Many voters want to be able to actually assess the capabilities and policies of the politicians, and these debates are the best way most have of doing that.

They aren’t looking for the best actor – to the contrary, they want to most credible and most capable leader. There are far more important things to do in running a country than supplying drama and headlines.

In trying to decide who to vote for I try hard to see past the headlines, past the theatre, past the noise and nonsense, so I can judge policy details and especially competence.

9 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  September 4, 2017

    I think Edwards is correct in the fact the ‘debate’ wasn’t really a debate, more a discussion, most of which was between Hosking and each person rather than between each other.

  2. Corky

     /  September 4, 2017

    Bryce Edwards:

    ”A lot of people will tell you that the debate was quality – it was calm, it was respectful, and it focused on policy. But, actually it was boring.”

    That has been my point regarding Trump. The next POTUS is going to be criticised mercilessly as boring by a media hopelessly addicted to a drug called Peuedotrumphine.

  3. Blazer

     /  September 4, 2017

    Politics definately is theatre to a large group of voters.Policy detail is usually for the committed voters unless the bribe is really significant.Packaging and presenting politicians to the public ,especially the leader in a favourable light is the main factor in elections.John Key proved this,and Adern is reinforcing it.Perception always trumps reality….although the slow creep of reality can expose politicians down the track.One National member is about to find out.

    • Corky

       /  September 4, 2017

      Good post. Very good…until we get to this: ‘One National member is about to find out.’

      Would you care to expand on your innuendo?

      • PDB

         /  September 4, 2017

        Blazer regularly visits the Standard didn’t you know?

        • Corky

           /  September 4, 2017

          I have my suspicions. The test will be how he and Gezza act should Labour win the election. Feralness will be a sign of this middle of the road pap being promulgated here being a big put on. But I wont prejudge.

          Luckily, it doesn’t worry me, for previously stated reasons..

        • Gezza

           /  September 4, 2017

          😳

          • Pete Kane

             /  September 4, 2017

          • Gezza

             /  September 4, 2017

            Listen to Pete Kane, Corks. I beg you.
            Don’t try & work me out, for God’s sake.
            You’ll go bloody insane mate!

            This is you: 🐞

            This is me: 🐝🦀🐂🐊🐀🐏🐩🐪🐓🐇🐫🐿

            👤🐗🐴🦄🐱🐨🐼🐛🐅🐳🐿🌵🐉🐶🐒🐣

            🐯🐸🐙🐰🐵🙈🙉🙊💂🏻🚶🏻🏃🏽👼🏼🗣🤖👽😈

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