Media activists versus Bridges

Everyone can see that Simon Bridges has been struggling to impress as National’s leader. Many have said so, and not just those who wish that any National leader and their party will struggle.

It’s the media’s job to report what they see.

But it shouldn’t be the media’s job (or rather some who are presented as political journalists) to try to get any leader dumped, or to try to promote an alternative leader.

However this is what seems to be happening. And to an extent the media have the power to make it happen.

John Armstrong:  Media script requires Bridges to end up as dog tucker

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs.

No account was taken of the difficulty of taking over a political party which has been thrown into the irrelevance of Opposition after having called the shots from the Government benches in Parliament for nigh on a decade.

It is not media bias at work here, however. When the media hunts as a pack – as is the case with Bridges – it is colour blind.

It is not fussy about where it feeds. It is not fussy whether the victim comes with a blue or a red tag. If you doubt that just ask Andrew Little.

Or David Shearer or David Cunliffe.

Armstrong is right – the media don’t care what colour the blood is, they smell it liken sharks and go in for the kill.

That the media are so rabid is simply the consequence of the adversarial nature of politics. The media are consumed with what is going wrong rather than what any government or Opposition party might be getting right.

I think this is only partly right. The long established adversarial nature of politics is part of the reason – but that combines with two more recent trends – the desire (and need) for clocks online, and also the rise in the level of personal involvement, advocacy and activism by journalists. Some of them are far from detached observers and reporters. Some want to be moves and shakers.

The hunt is constant for inconsistency, gaffes, blunders, infighting and so on. Negativity rules, OK.

Makes ‘better’ headlines than positives.

Despite its efforts, the media claim few scalps by their devices alone. They are instead vultures hovering over the road-kill offered up in the preferred prime minister ratings in what is now a sporadic number of polls.

That there are now only two news organisations commissioning such voter surveys – and at three-monthly intervals – means discerning a trend can be virtually impossible.

To draw conclusions from the surge in backing for Labour and decline in support for National registered by the Newshub Reid-Research poll is folly.

It was hardly a surge for Labour – it was a notable but one off change from their last poll (ignoring any other polls) nearly a year ago. And it was barely a decline for National in the current political context of being in opposition and taking into account margins of error.

Likewise the preferred prime minister ratings. That Collins has overhauled Bridges was used to reinforce the notion that Collins is now a viable candidate for the leadership — and that Bridges is not.

In part media are making the Collins conflict – they have been boosting her as an alternative by giving her exposure with every poor poll for Bridges. They have also effectively chosen her over all other National MPs.

Once you are deemed to be a loser by the media, that becomes a mindset which is near impossible to erase.
The loser falls victim to a feeding frenzy – and there can only be one outcome from that.

So the media end up getting their scalp and headlines – for a short while, before looking for the next victim.


  1. Trevors_Elbow

     /  February 16, 2019

    Its really all BS. Bridges is growing in the role and he easily has another 10 months to prove himself. And then Labour beware because the Jacinda killer is lurking in Auckland Central and she has pants Jacinda a few times one on one in elections….

    The last Reid poll is all well and good but they are notoriously all over the shop and about as useful as a UMR poll when looking at National polling… UMR is really little more than a Labour cling on..

    And before the Lefties scream Curia… no one cares, Farrar polls for National, we all know that and his polls don’t get featured in the newspapers like Reid and UMR. And at least Farrar publishes a poll of polls with long term trends and it shows the National vote holding strong.

    I will take the media a little more seriously when they start circling on Twyford and the cluster that is Kiwibuild….it is THE flagship Labour policy and its a disaster only 18 months in….

    Bridges just needs to call the journalists to account every time they come at him – Kiwibuild… immigration and the Czech problem…. just start attacking Labour aggressively and force the journalists to discuss it. If they wont report on it then start going around them – there are templates about how it can be done..

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 16, 2019

      He needs to take care, though, that he doesn’t give the other fellow free publicity, as my stepfather used to say.

      But pointing out the number of houses that would need to be built every day was a stroke of genius ..I knew that it couldn’t happen, but even so, having it spelt out like that was a surprise even to me ! When it was broken down like that, it showed the absurdity of the scheme.

      I bet that Labour’s lost any support it had in ‘TK’.

  2. Mother

     /  February 16, 2019

    So true.

    I saw for myself that Mr Bridges is too immature for the job. However, many are. The person fittest for the job is usually least noticed by media, and by their own team too.

    I think that social media has a job to do here. I detest MSM showing clips of this or that (eg Mr Bridges eating his ice cream) clearly for the purpose of leaving lasting impresses through images.

    MSM is irresponsible. Simply because they are vitriolic makes me want to change my mind regarding Mr Bridges. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he pulled through this?

    • duperez

       /  February 16, 2019

      “MSM showing clips of this or that (eg Mr Bridges eating his ice cream) clearly for the purpose of leaving lasting impresses through images.”

      Don’t they always show clips of this or that for the purpose of leaving lasting impressions through images? Should there be lists of suitable and non-suitable activities involving politicians to be shown in MSM?

      • Mother

         /  February 16, 2019

        No lists duperez. Just free will.

        If journalists are going to see themselves as people of political influence, they must be held accountable.

        We need less laws, rules and lists around what is common sense and decency.

        I suspect you know these things. Perhaps your comment was a way to undermine my credibility?

  3. Finbaar Rustle

     /  February 16, 2019

    Simon laughed at Labour opposition leaders low popularity ratings.
    His turn now.
    To be fair the media themselves are under pressure to deliver.
    They know never to challenge their audiences.
    Just give them what they want keep them happy.
    The right wing has the most money so 95% of the media is heavily right wing.
    Bridges is cruising .
    Big salary, privileges perks.
    I doubt he has clothes on lay buy at the warehouse and
    can pay cash for new tyres on the Peugeot.
    Post parliament all the MP’s pick managerial jobs
    because of their profile, contacts, and
    inside knowledge of how the system works.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 16, 2019

      He may have a good salary, but he is on call 24/7, probably works eye-watering hours and has a very stressful job.

      He is a very successful lawyer, so his pay probably wasn’t much of a pay rise. It might not even be one, I have known quite a few MPs and only one was earning more as an MP as she would have been before. There was a saying that becoming a Labour MP meant a pay rise, becoming a National one meant a pay cut, and it could well be the same now.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 16, 2019

    Armstrong overlooks the Trump tactic of attacking the media full frontal rather than submitting. And circumventing their communication monopolies while minimising their opportunities and platforms.

  5. Duker

     /  February 16, 2019

    Armstrong was one of those in the media – who were working hand in glove with national Mps to make sure Cunliffe was ‘dog tucker’. he was closely involved in smears involving donations that werent and imaginary $20k bottles of wine .
    He covers up his role in that
    he had made his mind up on Cunliffe , now he says thats a bad thing .Pleeese.
    John Armstrong: Labouring under an electoral delusion

    For over 30 years he wrote stories which conformed to his papers long time support of the national party and hostility to labour. As thats how NZ herald used to be
    Now the papers owners dont care and the editors know its those clicks that matter and keep them in their job and most commenting here find the online Herald unreadable

    • Kimbo

       /  February 16, 2019

      I think you may find, Duker, that if anyone was feeding Armstrong talking-points concerning Cunliffe, it was members and more especially MPs within the Labour, not National Party. I’m judging that by how quickly they turned on Cunliffe once he lost. In Clayton Cosgrove’s case it was just one day after the 2014 General Election…

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 16, 2019

      Labour’s ABC club never existed for you then Duker.

      • Duker

         /  February 16, 2019

        Anyone but Collins is the new version, pot calling kettle black.
        Bridges isn’t seen as a godsend either., As I pointed out his ratings were lower than Cunliffes, and Armstrong is trying round on the media to save him,
        Bridges end must be getting near now, maybe a Colmar Brunton poll could finish him, he won’t go quietly of course. His wife will make sure of that….that new house and everything

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  February 17, 2019

          So all that fluff is just to obscure the fact that your previous comment was wrong.

  6. Duker

     /  February 16, 2019

    The Herald archive has been ‘cleansed’ of stories about Armstrongs false stories but this media Council complaint covers them in detail.
    he knows that those stories didnt come from ‘thin air’ but were given to him on a plate by his national party sources – which he didnt verify before publishing, which meant that was some back pedalling involved by his newspaper.

    • Kimbo

       /  February 16, 2019

      Shock, horror, journalist cultivates and then uses political sources. And politicians do likewise in symbiotic relationship of contempt and dependency. Just as well we have Clare Curran and Carol Hirscheld on each side of the politician/media fence to do something about that pernicious oligopoly and bring some “honesty and transparency to NZ political coverage. Oh, no, hold on…

      • Duker

         /  February 16, 2019

        What stories did Hirschfeld write where she was taking lines fed from Curran ?

        You would have better luck at the story fed by J-L Ross to RNZs Jo Moir….that would be a new definition of ‘symbiotic.’

        Anyway of course these things occur.. but Armstrong is essentially a hippocrite now he has a different job, and its Bridges in cross hairs every week.
        For goodness sake , Bridges personal polls are LOWER than Cunliffe The guy just doesnt have it, and last months mantra ‘of leading a strong national party’ ( with the largest poll share) seems hollow now.

        • Kimbo

           /  February 16, 2019

          Armstrong a hypocrite? Um, yeah, sure, maybe. Or “poacher turned gamekeeper” if one is more charitable. There is indeed something amusing about a former employee of a fish and chip seller complaining about one of their stock in trade “man bites dog” tropes. Mark Reason did a similar piece this week bemoaning the sports media baying for the heads of referees, like that doesn’t make up 50% of their story angles!:

          Back to Armstrong. I appreciated what he wrote as it confirmed what discerning spectators have always known what is really going on, that all the pious hand-wringing by members of the press gallery that they are only there to “report” the news, not make or manufacture it.

          And to give credit where it is due, Armstrong is right that they are equal-opportunity and politically neutral about who they set up and then set out to destroy. Doesn’t matter if you are red, blue, yellow (Rodney Hide), whatever, the “dead duck” leader is a story that writes itself over and over.

          And whether it is fair or not is irrelevant. It is what it is and it has been happening since the Fourth Estate has existed. And those politicians who survive the gauntlet and learn to manage their media message and profile demonstrate competence in one of the few areas where the public can truly judge their capacity. Somehow Jim Bolger survived the process. So too did Helen Clark. Sure, you need a lot of luck once the media is out for your blood, but then as Harold Macmillan confirmed when asked what was the driving force of politics, “events, my dear fellow, events”. And in politics you make your own luck. To paraphrase Sean Connery from “The Rock”, “Losers whine ‘I’ll do my best/the media is unfair’. Winners f$@k the Prom Queen”.

          Who else would you rather have as PM? Someone who overcame adversity, or someone who had the job fall in their lap. Hmm, on second thoughts that may explain NZ’s current predicament! 😀

          • duperez

             /  February 16, 2019

            I’ve done quite a lot of wandering in my life. No Olympic gold medal ever landed in my lap, nor directorship of one of our major corporates. Invites to start on poll at Monaco or sing at the Royal Opera failed to arrived. I read somewhere about being in the right place at the right time. I guess for all the rambling and roving I never was in the right place at the right time and if I was in what I thought were prime positions, the stuff, the true oil, the real deal, fell in someone else’s lap.

            Like Bill English, he had the job of the Prime Minister fall in his lap. Damned fine job he did of it too. Although, on second thoughts, thinking of the predicament he got himself into, maybe not.

            • Kimbo

               /  February 16, 2019

              I thought Bill English paid his dues – solid and varied academic and work background (including as a farmer and at Treasury), cabinet minister in the tough times of the later-Bolger/Shipley governments, came back from leading National to their worst election result in 2002, was the loyal Minister of Finance who made Key look good (compare Douglas/Lange, Richardson/Bolger, Keating/Hawke, Keating/Costello and Brown/Blair. And then he beat a strong contender in Judith Collins for the caucus vote, and decisively won the party vote at the next election snaring the same vote level as Key.

              Contrast with the one who was thrown a “Hail Mary” pass by Labour less than two months before that same election. You may not be able to polish a turd but Jacinda’s degree in Communication Studies from Waikato Uni taught her how to roll one in glitter, hand-picked, groomed and gifted with jobs in the PM’s office from a young age, a nine year sinecure as a high list and latterly safe electorate MP, but with no tangible policy/legislative achievements (unless Woman’s Day covers count), and anointed by a Muldoon-era septuagenarian.

              But good luck to Ardern and Labour, you ride the luck that comes your way. 😀

            • Kimbo

               /  February 16, 2019

              …and I’d suggest that Helen Clark trod a similarly difficult path and served a similarly rigorous apprenticeship to Bill English. So the luck that came her way – or that she made for herself in the case of helping to throw Mike Moore a hospital pass at Geoffrey Palmer’s expense in 1990, then stabbing Moore in the back both after and before the 1993 election – was deserved.

            • Duker

               /  February 16, 2019

              English a farmers? That’s a total lie engineered by English, along with the whoppas he told to get the taxpayers to pay him to live in his own house.
              Bills brother Hamish took over the English family farm and his kids run it today..bBill was the academic one who was sent sent to board at St Pat’s Silverstream at 13, and he later did 2 University degrees and ended up working as a Treasury policy analyst and was national party Haitaitai branch chair when he threw his hat in the ring for the newly vacant Awarua seat( his Mum was a long time party activist in the area)
              Students working during the holidays at the parents farm doesn’t really count as working as a farmer…on that criteria you could say Helen Clark was a ‘farmer ‘as she of course grew up on her parents waikato dairy farm.
              Key played a similar stunt in the campaign to take an electorate seat from a sitting national Mp. He bought a lifestyle block in the area and was registered to vote there..despite at the time his actual residence according to company office records was Orakei Rd in Remuera. It’s an offence to sign a statuary declaration saying you have been living at address for at least a month when enrolling to vote when the truth is different.
              But he, Armstrong knew all this and more and Key and English walked on air in his Collins for 9 yrs and now the guy who grew up in West Auckland , moved to Tauranga and studied in Oxford has the broadest NZ accent ever seen in Parliament…he never sounded like that back in 2011 or even at high school as a recent TV clip has shown.
              It’s just unauthentic and the voters know it.
              Bridges was very lucky to be chosen leader, it was identity politics as labour had chosen someone of the same generation first, thus first rule of identity politics means you match like with like and the far more capable politician Stephen Joyce missed out.

            • Blazer

               /  February 17, 2019

              to be fair Bill English could shear a sheep….an animal one…too.😁

  7. Duker

     /  February 16, 2019

    Heres another Armstrong comment where he …. well kicks the bloggers who “In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week – that the media who went with John Key to Vladivostok and Tokyo concentrated on trivia, interviewed their laptops and parroted Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet press releases.”‘

    Armstrong didnt have to go to Vladivostok to do all that and more
    His rebuttal was mainly ….deadlines ( mean we pass off rubbish as our own) , the DPMC isnt the PMs office ( big deal)…. The rules that apply to journalists in terms of accuracy ( thats a whopper ..mirror mirror.) …News organisations’ websites have to be fed – especially if there is “breaking” news.( hello, thats what you complaining about today. A new job and new employer who doesnt have deadlines …sweet as )

    • Kimbo

       /  February 16, 2019

      Yeah. NZ Herald has been peddling those sort of journalistic excuses since Terry McLean was sending in match reports from Cardiff via telegram. And what the hell did TP know about rugby anyway? Just regurgitating NZRFU talking points anyway. /sarc 😳

  8. PartisanZ

     /  February 16, 2019

    We have established right here on YNZ in April 2017 that the media in NZ skews somewhat to the Right …

    … so Assassination by Media is not necessarily a politically motivated phenomena …

    In reality it may be and very likely is purely about money.

    You takes your politicians’ scalps to the trading-post at ‘Freemarket’ and fight like a dog for punters.

    • PartisanZ

       /  February 16, 2019

      So, next question: What if more-or-less everything we know as ‘political’, and a whole lot else besides, is actually really only about money?

      What if the money motivation is THAT powerful in Human Beings?

      What if we’re really Homo Economicus?

      “using rational assessments, Homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer”

      Wait!!! ………… Hang on a minute!

      “Rational”? …………….. Seriously?

      “using ambi-rational* assessments, Homo economicus attempts to maximize utility and satisfaction as a consumer and economic profit and power as a producer” [This definition could be greatly enlarged]

      * ambi-rational = both sides = new word # 212 [and one of my better coinings IMHO]

      other possibilities along the same train-of-thought or spectral analysis are –

      * amphi-rational = expressive ambivalence = # 213

      * omni-rational = #214

    • PDB

       /  February 16, 2019

      PZ: “We have established right here on YNZ in April 2017 that the media in NZ skews somewhat to the Right …”

      And your proof of this statement is a link to a chart showing Kiwiblog as left wing. The NZ MSM is predominately left-wing.

      From your link: “A 2014 Massey University study, for example, showed that 22 percent of New Zealand journalists considered themselves Centrists. Just 16 percent said they were on the Right and fully 62 percent said they were on the Left.”.

      • PartisanZ

         /  February 17, 2019

        You’re Right!

      • PartisanZ

         /  February 17, 2019

        I could wRIGHT about this issue all day … (as you know) … but its day was yesterday …

        Oh the fleetingness and superficiality of BlogLife*

        Some quick responses to “fully 66% said they were Left Wing” …

        – ANYTHING, not least the media, is much safer in the hands of Left-leaning people

        – Left-leaning journalists are much more likely to need the extra money … (a riddle) …

        – Why do INEVITABLY Right-Wing media owners employ Left-Wing journalists? (Unless Rupert Murdoch is an extremely deep cover LMTI** Agent? And if so, why haven’t ‘they’ awoken him yet?]

        – It must therefore be Left-Wing challenges to Right-Wing orthodoxy that creates media contention, polarization and above all else SALES!

        – If, as Chris Trotter seems to assert, Right = Power & Wealth, while Left = Fairness & Compassion, therefore ………

        That’s just quickly off-the-cuff.

        *BlogLife = # 215 [Honestly, I thought I was going to run out of new words to invent]

        ** Looooooong March Through Institutions

  9. PartisanZ

     /  February 17, 2019

    If negativity rules … Okay …. the media …

    Let’s be positive then!!!

  10. Patzcuaro

     /  February 17, 2019

    The political journalist must get an idea reasonably quickly whether a party leader has the for want of a better term “x” factor. Without it there is little chance of becoming PM. Key and Ardern have it, Shearer, Cunliffe, Little and Brigdes don’t, which doesn’t mean they can’t contribute, just not as leader.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  February 17, 2019

      Until Ardern became leader I couldn’t see that she had “it” but the media being closer to it, could.

  1. Media v Bridges | The Inquiring Mind