Perception of competence

I think a lot of people are having difficulty warming to Andrew Little. He struggles with media, and I have seen him operating in person and he didn’t give great vibes there either.

Brian Edwards has posted Thoughts on Andrew Little

There seems to be general agreement among commentators that Little’s image has improved, that he is ‘coming across’ better. But is it better enough?

Coming across’, particularly on television, is a different matter. And Little does not come across either in interviews or straight to camera.

This is not easy to define. The closest I can come is that, however reasonable, articulate or clever Little may be, there seems to be a lack of engagement between him and his interviewer, him and his television audience.

It can be argued that John Key did Little and Labour a favour by stepping down. Bill English is no orator. But he has a dry, no-nonsense, Southern man quality about him that is endearing. And a wry sense of humour. More importantly, he looks and sounds honest. It would be very foolish indeed to discount his chances of winning the September election.

If Little is to reduce the chances of that happening he must learn to engage with his interviewers and with the hugely important viewer at home.

I agree. And, I don’t know how others see him in person, but he has a problem there too.

But in comments the question of charisma versus competence comes up.

John Northcott:

It’s sad that charisma is the most important quality needed to get elected – witness Donald Trump and John Key. All we know when someone is elected is that they are good at being elected.
If only voters would look at policy.


“It’s sad that charisma is the most important quality needed to get elected”.

It’s not. it helps, but the perception of competence is the primary requirement.

Perhaps it’s a mix of both – how competence is presented by political leaders.


As Edwards says, English can hardly be called charismatic but many see him has competent and knowledgeable.

Little seems to struggle with all three.

And Labour continues to sgtruggle as  well, going by this from @MatthewHootonNZ

@AndrewLittleMP’s @nzlabour is 28% (-2%) in latest @umr_nz poll, just 1% behind @jeremycorbyn’s @UKLabour in latest @YouGov poll. #nzpol

Tribal politics

In a blog post Brian Edwards talks about his politics, concluding:

Idealism has a tendency to give way to pragmatism in politics. Leaders, particularly in opposition, have a tendency to become followers of what is sellable rather than what is right. Labour Party leaders are no exception.

But, all things considered, I’m still a Labour voter with a greenish tinge. What I’m not is one-eyed. I don’t believe that everything about the Labour Party is good and everything about the National Party is bad. I’m simply not “tribal”.

He then moves on to ‘Tribal Politics”.

Tribalism in politics is the death of reason. It involves seeing no good in the parties you oppose and no bad in the party you support. It involves blind admiration for the leader of your party and dismissive rejection of the leaders of opposing parties. It involves ascribing the worst motives to those on the other side of the fence and the best motives to those on your side. Tribal thinking can be bigoted, irrational and capable of real malice. To get a taste of this read some of the almost invariably anonymous comments about  my posts on this site or Twitter or the National Business Review which republishes what I write.

Tribal politics draws no distinction between the person and the party they support. It’s as if being Labour, National, Green, a follower of Winston or Colin Craig  was part of your DNA – permanent, irreversible and , perhaps worst, capable of explaining everything about you. “Typical Labour!” is the commonest term of disapproval I read about myself when I’ve written a post or left a comment on Twitter or Facebook. The words stick to me like the label on a supermarket apple.

But there’s nothing “typically Labour” about me. And the truth of the matter is that I could never join the Labour Party or any other party, because that would compel me to think  tribally rather than thinking for myself and saying what I thought.

Which is why I say that tribal politics inevitably involves the death of reason. If you really think that a political party, your political party, is the only viable option or can do no wrong, you’ve given up thinking.

On the other hand, it’s a very, very comfortable position to be in.

It’s easy to see tribal politics in action on political blogs (not here!), and ‘reason’ seems to be lacking at times, at least on the surface – political activism doesn’t always express reality, as the PR often rules.

But most people aren’t politically tribal. I I think the reality is that most people are very comfortable ignoring politics as much as possible most of the time.

Not my kind of woman

Karen Price has admitted her Twitter attacks on her husband’s caucus colleagues was “ill-judged”. However she has had  praise from some for “standing by her man”.

Brian Edwards posts that Karen Price is his kind of woman in Shock! Horror! Wife defends husband!!!!

I know Karen Price reasonably well. She is, in my submission, an absolutely marvellous woman. TV3 viewers got a glimpse of her qualities when John Campbell visited the Cunliffes at their Herne Bay home. (It’s not ‘a mansion’ by the way.) Not to put too fine a point on it, Karen stole the show.

I suspect that she’d rather not be the wife of a politician. But the wife of a politician she is and he happens to be the newly resigned Leader of the Opposition and his party and much of the country has turned its face against him. And much of what is being said about Karen Price’s husband really isn’t very nice. Tough call!

Well, her method of attacking those who were attacking her husband might not have been well-advised and might have been lacking in Machiavellian subtlety, but you really have to admire it. “Good on you, Karen!” I say. “Well done!” “No apology required.” Those people are assholes anyway.

And a footnote: One of our regular walks takes us past the Cunliffes’ drive. I increase my stride a little as we go past and not just because David almost killed me reversing at speed over the footpath some years ago. Suffice to say that I’m less fearful today of a repeat performance from the Member for New Lynn, than from his wife, quite possibly armed with a meat cleaver.

Now that’s my kind of woman!

‘Flo’ commented:

During the last election campaign we had hundreds of students at Internet Mana rallies chanting F…John Key. Did we hear anything in response from Bronagh Key? No. We had musicians releasing a single, with words talking about raping the prime minister’s daughter. Did Bronagh Key react? No. The absolute character assassination that John Key had to endure during the campaign was evident for all to see. Did Bronagh Key react? No. Their dignity under 6 weeks of prolonged attack was impressive.

Absent any evidence to the contrary we can presume Bronagh hasn’t reacted in social media (up until the last few days I would have presumed Karen wouldn’t have either), but we can’t be sure.

Perhaps Bronagh is smart enough not to use @BronBitch2 as an anonymous identity. However she may be smarter still and stay well away from social media.

And…I can think of much smarter ways of sticking up for her husband than attacking his colleagues without telling him anything about it.

Cunliffe claims he “couldn’t have known” about the Twitter account. He could easily have known, if his wife had spoken to him about it. Cunliffe was at home while this was happening.

Secret attacks on one’s husband’s colleagues kept secret from one’s husband is not my kind of woman.

Different impressions of Jamie Whyte

Contrasting impressions of ACT leader Jamie Whyte in recent interviews.

Brian Edwards said on on Firstline this morning he thought Whyte was “particularly unimpressive as a leader”.

‘Wyndham, George’ commented at The Standard:

Jamie Whyte is shyte. He was interviewed by Michael Wilson on TV3 and was a blithering stuttering mess!

A comment closer to home (from someone who has never backed ACT and is never likely to):

He sounds very thoughtful.

After pointing out some hesitancy in Whyte’s responses:

It looked like he was having to think through questions he wasn’t prepared for, but spoke honestly about what he thought. Not political, no bland bull.

Wyndham, George is a political opponent of Whyte. Edwards trains politicians to speak to the media.

The other opinion was an ordinary person outside of the political arena.

Shearer shambles exposed

David Shearer has had several interviews over the last couple of days, and it has just further exposed his lack of coherence and comprehension.

He was grilled by Susan Wood on Q + A on Sunday – Shearer wants intelligence agency review. David Farrar posted the transcript Wood interviews Shearer…

Well, what I’m saying is that what we need to do is to grow the economy in a way that it’s not growing at the moment, and we’ll be talking about Tiwai Point in a little while…one of the big problems about – no, no, let me finish – one of the biggest problems about that is that the exchange rate is so low that we’re seeing many of our businesses actually going out of business because they’re not being able to succeed.

…and typical Kiwiblog comments followed, with some pointing out the glaring error “the exchange rate is so low” – that must simply be confusion under pressure.

Brian Edwards lamented the lack of Wood’s interviewing skills in The Last Post – on the little known connection between Ritalin and ‘terrific’ TV interviewing but also commented in passing:

Meanwhile, David Shearer made a reasonable fist of bumbling his way through Wood’s hyperactive barrage, quite properly demanding the right to finish at least one or two of his sentences

In the comments others were critical of both Woods and Shearer.

It has not led to me having more sympathy for Shearer though, as he should by now also have learned what journalists are like these days. He could have prepared better. He is not a suitably skilled and qualified leader for Labour, lacking the ability to front media, for sure.

Whale Oil gives him a blast in David Shearer on Capital Gains Tax.

Shearer wasn’t bad (compared to his previous standards) but he was far from good.

But it isn’t just under the glare of the cameras that Shearer struggles. Some of his poorest efforts are in radio interviews. Larry Williamsinterviewed him on Newstalk ZB yesterday.

His rambling comments on Tiwai, Rio Tinto and electricity prices were dominated by hesitant and vague waffle.  The last part of this interview is also on Capital Gains Tax and Shearer’s stumbles suggested a shambolic lack of understanding. At least this time he said that the exchange rate was too high.

How long can Labour continue with their Shearer shambles?


Shearer – communication breakdown

David Shearer has a real problem communicating. Frequently in interviews the thought part of his brain seems disconnected from the speech part of his brain. Or something. He has trouble expressing himself coherently.

This was again highlighted in a radio  interview yesterday. As shown in Shearer: absolutely there’s room for MPs with homophobic views in Labour – we can guess what he probably means and guess what might have been mistakes but we shouldn’t have to do that.

There was some criticism of Shearer during Labouir’s leadership selection tour after the last election. Apparently David Cunliffe was the clear preference with most of the party members, but the Labour caucus went against that and chose Shearer. Perhaps they have experience of coherent conversations that the rest of us don’t hear.

But Shearer’s difficulty communicating was apparent then. These comments from strongly Labour leaning The Standard during the leadership contest ring some warning bells.

We have not got time for Shearer to learn to stop putting his foot in it. Every time he speaks in he goes and thats without having his opponent try and trick him. Shearer is not a leader he is an administrator, maybe a good one but I wouldn’t follow him to the nearest Fish and Chip shop.

Who even knows what Shearer really believes in or stands for? I’m getting sick of hearing about his “backstory”! It’s now we have to worry about, and he’s not looking good on the media front!

And if Shearer does win, the rest of us will sit anxious waiting to see how many times he puts his foot in his mouth every interview. Just like we have done for the last three years.

Phil Goff was way better than Shearer with regards to the media and Labour still lost. Media persona is everything to a party leader. Case in point – John Key! Cunliffe can do media effortlessly. Shearer is woeful.

Shearer’s strength is clearly his compelling back story. He’s a good bloke. But he isn’t debate / media ready. His slight awkwardness (reminiscent in some ways of early Brash) could be a killer to his leadership. Or (and recall Brash’s near success in 2005) it could be seen by the public as evidence that he is genuine, honest, not “just another politician”. Shearer is a risk, and I honestly don’t know which way his leadership would go.

I have the inside word on Shearer’s first edict to all lefties:

“er…um…ah..we..shouldn’t…um..ah…make fun of…um..K-Keys speech…ah..again.”

“Haven’t heard Shearer speak with authority once. God help Labour in Parliament in February. The Greens and Winston will overshadow Shearer for sure!”

“We have just lost an election with our biggest defeat because the leader couldn’t communicate so what do they do put in a Bumbling administrator.”

That is Labour Party members commenting.

And media expert Brian Edwards wrote about his concerns at the same time (December 2011) in Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I’ve changed my mind:

Shearer has had nearly three years to demonstrate his skill as a debater and about a fortnight to provide some evidence of competence in handling the media. He has done neither. His television appearances have bordered on the embarrassing. He lacks fluency and fails to project confidence or authority. Watching him makes you feel nervous and uncomfortable – a fatal flaw.

It seems that little has changed. He still lacks fluency and fails to project confidence or authority.

Even Shearer’s carefully scripted extensively rehearsed speeches lack authority, he comes a across as a try hard who either

  • doesn’t really believe what he’s saying, or
  • doesn’t understand what he’s talking about

And his unscripted interviews are often rambling, disjointed, incoherent, sometimes terribly so.

Whether Shearer just has an extreme problem communicating or he’s a fish out of water politically doesn’t matter. But he has a major problem that doesn’t seem to be improving.

And Labour have a major problem – unless there is some miracle cure (and it seems to be a more difficult problem to overcome than a ‘King’s Speech’ stutter). ‘Three years’ has already become ‘three more years’. Another lost election would be serious. For the party it could be a fatal flaw.

It’s hard to see Shearer surviving an election campaign and leading Labour to put together a coalition Government.

If the voters decided they’d had enough of Key and National and dumped them, if Shearer progressed from being a party leader because caucus didn’t want the alternative to Prime Minister because the country didn’t want the alternative, then Shearer could become an embarrassment for the country.

here is obviously significant concern in the wider Labour Party, but the choice of party leadership was made by the Labour caucus who earlier this month also chose not to put the leadership over to the membership.

Labour’s caucus seem to be well practiced in painting over crap and pretending it’s wonderful. It appears that they don’t want to see that they have a leadership leaky building problem.

So the rot will remain.

Shearer – a flounder on Aspiring

Compared to John Key looking like a trout in the Matukituki, David Shearer looks like a flounder trying to scale Aspiring.

And that’s a long way from the sea.

Brian Edwards has written about David Shearer’s difficulties – Why David Shearer should give up acting: He’s just no good at it.

He (and just about anyone in denial or tasked with trying to paint over Shearer’s cracks) can see what is glaringly obvious – Sheare is floundering in his public duties as Labour leader.

When Shearer was chosen (by the Labour caucus) to be party leader I had some hope that he would be a different sort of politician. He promised to be a different sort of politician.

Since then he has seemed to try harder and harder to be a ‘same old’ politician, but the harder he tries – and the harder his coaches try to mold him – the more insincere and out of his depth he looks.

Shearer may survive as leader next week, but if he continues to repeat this poorly executed charade he may condemn Labour to not survive as a major political force.

He needs to either find himself in politics, or leave it to someone who can at least give the appearance of being authentic.

Coincidentally ‘tuki’ means “to attack, knock down, tackle, butt, ram, bump, gore, beat, pound” .

Time warped bloggers versus MSM

RRM commented on Kiwiblog about the blogger versus MSM feud:

Someone who lives in both worlds might just force the rest of them to up their game.

It’s slowly dawning on me (I’m a leftist after all :-P ) that Cameron Slater’s Truth editorship has potential to really show up the print news media – provided he brings with him the style that made whale oil what it is. His blog is pretty crude at times but he’s generally right in what he say,s and he’s pretty incisive and seems to often be well ahead of the pack. It’s got to be easier to tame that a bit for print, than it would be to try to warm up an average news outfit like Stuff…?

My response:

RRM I agree that a damn good shake up of news media would do a lot of good, and as you say Whale is ahead of the pack. It will be interesting to see how Truth goes.

It’s also interesting to see the rise in interest from The Standard and Trotter and their conflicting ideas.

– They helped promote a leadership debate through their blogging
– They complained bitterly when MSM promoted a leadership challenge at the conference
– They blast the MSM for their incompetent old ways
– Relishing the new found attention the MSM gave them they suddenly think they have power
– Part of that power is holding the MSM to account
– They blast the MSM for daring to hold them to account
– They vigorously defend their right to comment anonymously
– They blast MSM identities
– They feed off attention given to them by MSM identities

And so it goes on. They are now talking this up into a major class struggle, the evil MSM versus the brave anonymous bloggers. The new battle (having so far lost their battle to kick Shearer out).

They make some valid points along the way, and I agree that MSM needs a good shakeup and ordinary people should and can have more say.

But they have a major problem, and it seems to be very entrenched. As old school political activists they have trouble thinking beyond “us and them”. They have fought left versus right, Labour versus national, worker versus boss.

So they automatically see this as blogger (unless it’s Brian Edwards who’s not a real blogger anyway, he’s really one of them) versus MSM. And it’s a battle that must be won for the good of humanity.

flipper observes:

Pete , the real problem for the left is that the are caught in a 1900 – 1928 time warp.

Yes, some of them are. I can see it prominently in the internal conflicts in Labour. And the brave new bloggers also have some warped conflicts between their old political ways and new online tools.

Back to Whale. He’s got it much better sussed, he has it worked out and they are just wiping the sleep from their eyes.. It’s not an either/or us versus them battle.

It’s a merge and adapt opportunity. Use the strengths of the old with the advances of the new.


Chris Trotter shocker

Chris Trotter has responded to Brian Edwards (The Anonymity Pandemic) and the debate on pseudonyms and MSM versus blogger. He makes some  quite remarkable claims in Islands In The Mainstream.

The big problems will only arise when the stories people read on the blogs begin to sharply contradict stories being printed in the newspapers and broadcast over radio and television. That’s when the MSM should really begin to worry.
But if the note of alarm that has crept into the MSM’s coverage of blogs – especially political blogs – over the past few weeks is anything to go by, some of that worrying has already begun.

The tone of these attacks leaves little doubt that not only do these political journalists consider bloggers to be unwelcome and illegitimate contributors to the nation’s political discourse, but that nothing would make them happier than to see them tightly regulated and controlled. It’s an attitude that should send a shiver down every New Zealander’s spine.

A genuine “Fourth Estate” would welcome the democratisation of the gathering and distributing of news which the Internet has made possible. That so many MSM journalists have greeted the competitive spur of the blogosphere with a mixture of self-serving patch-protection and outright authoritarianism is cause for considerable concern.

Ah, where’s the authoritarianism? All I’ve seen is some journalists expressing their opinions. Seems like an attack of victimisation.

The recent Labour Party conference demonstrated in the most dramatic fashion the MSM’s capacity to misrepresent and mislead the NZ public.

Yeah, and all the bloggers did was report the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

How many bloggers were there? How many journalists? Drastically outnumbered and still managed to fight the good fight.

Mr Gower’s conspiracy theory…

The one he started via his agents Guyon Espiner, Vernon Small and ‘Eddie’?

Once it becomes clear that those principals have agreed upon an interpretation of events it is extremely hazardous for any political journalist to offer an alternative view

The integrity of how many are being questioned? Can you name names  Chris? Unlike bloggers, they aren’t anonymous.

Is this the real explanation for the sudden spate of attacks on the anonymity of these citizen-journalists?

Ah, bloggers are citizen-journos now. I guess those of us writing under our own names aren’t included amongst the comrades.

Has a focus group warned the MSM that the stories it declines to tell – and which are now turning up in blogs – are being believed?

The great focus group conspiracy.

Are more and more of the MSM’s readers, listeners and viewers coming to the conclusion that the Fourth Estate, far from speaking truth to power, has become its willing stenographer?

Are they? Has Chris been checking some focus groups of his own?

If this is true, then the decision by so many active participants in the blogosphere to remain anonymous or write under a pseudonym becomes entirely reasonable. Any system powerful and mendacious enough to suborn the one institution specifically charged with exposing its malfeasance is probably not the sort of system to be openly challenged or taunted by vulnerable individuals using their real names.

No, can’t have any old school journos holding anyone to account, can we.

The day focus groups and their deliberations cease to be confidential is the day bloggers will gladly abandon their pseudonyms and the “pandemic of anonymity” will be over.

And Chris is speaking for all the anonymous bloggers? As soon as the revolution has been won they will reveal themselves in their glory?

And the AB’s at The Standard have picked up on Trotter’s column and are praising it in “Name” journalism & voter dis-engagement:

just saying
29 November 2012 at 5:52 pm

A lot of great minds thinking alike. A very relevant and eloquent column form Chris Trotter today:


29 November 2012 at 7:18 pm

I’m so glad the Internet still provides a diversity of voices to hold the MSM to account, and hope that it won’t be regulated down to an exceptional minority by banishing the use of pseudonyms…. if it was even possible?

But no one should hold anonymous bloggers to account?

And I’m not aware of any proposals or suggestions to banish the use of pseudonyms. Paranoia piled on the conspiracies now.

And it’s worth noting that The Standard is billing that as the main post of the day.

The Cunliffe camp lost the leadership battle so they switch to the great media war.

Redlogix – not

Another post on anonymity and media (by Redlogix) at The Standard that seems somewhat illogical – Media Medicine.

One stark contradiction is that while journalists and media pundits love hurling the ‘cowardly anonymous blogger’ line at us; while they themselves zealously guard the anonymity of their own sources whenever it suits them.

And their papers routinely publish thundering right-wing editorial pieces without names attached. They cannot have it both ways; they cannot belittle and discredit bloggers for not using ‘real names’, while they themselves uncritically resort to the same. It’s a remarkable blind-spot.

This is a common defence of online anonymity – “if they do it we should be able to too”. But Redlogix ignores majors differences.

Newspapers are businesses that have to stay financially viable, which means maintaining readership and income. To do this they have to maintain a reputation.

Journalists are employees, and have to maintain standards to keep their careers.

Newspapers are heavily edited. They don’t realtime abusive rants and attacks, even in their online comments.

In contrast blogs are usually part time hobbies. Blog authors and commenters can come and go as they please using as many blogs and identities as they wish. They can hit and run. They can assassinate a character and disappear unnoticed into their day to day lives.

It’s a remarkable blind-spot

Redlogix has one of those him (or her) self.

They go on to suggest…

There is no reason why political journalists should not be required to reveal and name ALL of their sources. If you want to quote a politician, someone elected to Parliament to serve New Zealand, then you have to name them. No more ‘off-the-record’ or nameless ‘senior sources’.

…and more. Good grief, bloggers don’t reveal their own identities, many don’t even reveal what relevant groups, parties or organisations they associate with yet, journalists should reveal absolutely everything?

That’s a huge double standard.

The Press Gallery are accorded by convention special privileges, protections and access us ordinary bloggers don’t have, yet increasingly it’s obvious that as a whole we’re doing the better job.

Wow, really? I have far more respect for information and opinion delivered by Colin James, Fran O’Sullivan, Vernon Small  or Felix Marwick than I do of Redlogix, Eddie or Zetetic (they can be interesting and informative but…). Apart from anonymity it’s impossible to be sure what you are dealing with – my guess is that Redlogix is a one person pseudonym but the last two are highly debatable. Actually more than that, multiple people, one slush pseudonym is not only allowed at The Standard, it is a core part of it’s operation.

Authors and commenters have been rightly been far more noticed lately, but especially with the attitude and practices comonat The Standard it is a long way from competing for credibility with the traditional media and journalists.

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