The pre-budget political circus symptom of a bigger problem

The politically created and media stoked pre-budget circus over insecure Treasury data was a symptom of a growing problem.

Treasury, the Government (in particular Grant Robertson), and the National opposition all came out looking worse to the public.

The circus demonstrated how out of touch with ordinary New Zealand politicians and the media are getting.

Bernard Hickey suggests: Our political metabolic rate is way, way too fast

No one comes out the Budget 2019 ‘hack’ with any credit, Bernard Hickey argues. The ‘scandal’ is symptomatic of an accelerating and more extremist form of politics in a social media-driven age of snap judgments and tribal barracking.

I turned on Radio New Zealand’s First at 5 programme, expecting and wanting to hear the latest burp and fart in the saga.

Instead, I heard presenter Indira Stewart asking some year 13 students at Tamaki College in South Auckland about what they wanted from the Budget, and comments from the tuck shop lady Nanny Barb about the kids at the school arriving hungry and needing breakfast. Listen to it here.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Year 13 students Lu Faaui, Uili Tumanuvao, Sela Tukia, Francis Nimo and Efi Gaono thanked Nanny Barb for their meal. They talked about what they wanted from the Budget. They had been forced to move out of state houses in Glen Innes (Tamaki Regeneration Company) to South Auckland and their parents were working multiple jobs to pay for private rentals.

They were paying $40 a week to travel across Auckland each day to Tamaki College.

“Just like Sela said, it’s forced us to move out of GI (Glen Innes) and yeah my family just decides to cope with it. It’s made my Dad work even more hours. My mum gets two jobs, my sister gets two jobs. I mean, money is money you know,” said Lu.

What they didn’t care about

They didn’t care about how an Opposition researcher had done 2,000 searches on a Treasury website to try to find Budget 2019 information four days ahead of its release.

Or that Simon Bridges had then recreated 22 pages of Budget information and released it to the public to highlight Treasury’s IT system flaws and embarrass the Government. They didn’t care or even know that the Treasury Secretary had jumped to the conclusion the information was ‘hacked’ and needed to be referred to the police.

Or that Grant Robertson had made the mistake of trusting Makhlouf and leapt to lash back at Bridges by suggesting illegal activity. Or that Bridges had then accused Robertson of lying and the Treasury of being incompetent, and that it was a deliberate smear and a threat to democracy.

They did not hear the Opposition Leader jump the shark by saying: “This is the most contemptible moment in New Zealand politics.”

Really? Worse than Muldoon outing Colin Moyle? Or the Dirty Politics revelations? Or Jami-Lee Ross’ allegations?

All those teenagers wanted was affordable and convenient housing and transport so they could easily go to school and their parents didn’t have to work so hard.

That sort of thing is reality for many people who don’t care for posturing and point scoring, which turns most people off politics.

This is how politics works now

If I had time and they were still interested in talking to me, I’d explain how politicians and the media operate now.

I’d show them my twitter feed and how news and commentary have ramped up into a blur of headlines, memes, click-bait, extreme views, abuse and a desperate game of trying to grab the attention of a distracted media and whip their own social media bubbles into a frenzy.

The best example of how this increased metabolic rate of politics has warped the public debate is to point to what has happened in America and Europe, where increasingly polarised politicians shout at each other from their own bubbles of supporters and nothing changes. Meanwhile, other forces keep screwing the scrum of democracy to further their own interests.

The end result is a disengaged public, policy paralysis, a lot of noise and not much light.

It isn’t unusual for politicians to be out of touch with ordinary people living ordinary lives.

But the media a real concern – they are supposed to shine a light on politicians and Parliament, hold them to account and inform the public.

too often they seem too intent on lighting the fires, or at least providing the petrol and inflaming things way out of proportion to their importance.

I understand how it happened and I’ve been living in it now for a decade. A political firmament driven by social media, sound bites, cheap shots and one-day-wonder stories is not going to solve the problems of South Auckland or Tamaki.

Everyone should take a chill pill, stop jumping to conclusions for a quick political hit and instead think beyond the beltway to the real world and long term concerns of citizens.

What’s the chances of this happening? I see no sign of it.


The Trump circus, the Peters circus, the Craig circus

The Trump circus continues in the US. It’s over u year until the US election.

They have just discussed it on TV One’s Breakfast. It was mentioned how Trump was getting all the media attention.

Who is giving him all that attention, and why?

The female presenter (I genuinely don’t remember her name) remarked that Trump was entertaining and she liked the entertainment.

I think that highlights the problem. Media are becoming obsessed with entertainment. Serious issues and intelligent analysis are diminishing rapidly as those who see themselves as entertainers (media ‘personalities) promote trite coverage of those who promote themselves as entertaining (joke political aspirants).

This is why Winston Peters and Colin Craig get so much media attention here. The entertainment industry see them as entertaining.

Perhaps the people will pay more attention to politics if we had Reality Parliament.

The running of the country would get even less focus and scrutiny but maybe that’s what the people want.

Epsom circus

Labour candidate Michael Wood called for an end to the Epsom circus – and then went on to pull a stunt. There is scant sign of the “dignified and honourable representation” he says voters want.

Epsom candidates were interviewed on The Nation.

Michael Wood: Look the people of Epsom have been embarrassed again by the Act party. It comes after the shenanigans around Rodney Hide and his perks, it comes after the dead baby scandal, it comes after the new leader’s comments around incest.

And I hear from the people of Epsom that they actually want some dignified and honourable representation and an end to this circus.

That in itself is not a very dignified or honourable statement.

Lisa Owen: So Michael Wood, when you go door knocking in Epsom do people care about the Banks issue or what is the single biggest thing they are telling you they care about?

Wood: Absolutely. This is the single biggest issue for people in Epsom. I talk to Labour voters, I talk to National voters and across the board people are absolutely sick and tired of this. I just want to respond to that point. The idea of the Act party accusing other people of manipulating the electoral system is like Dad farting and then blaming the family dog.

David Seymour: And you’re campaigning for dignified representation.

Wood: This is the party whose only lifeline is through a deal with the National party…

Seymour: Here’s the deal with you Michael, are you campaigning to win the seat or are you going to endorse Paul Goldsmith?

Wood: If I could finish thank you David. The fact that Paul Goldsmith is not here today speaks for itself. It speaks to the fact that a dirty deal has been conjured up.

“A dirty deal has been conjured up” is not a fact.

Wood: And I’ve got something with me actually. There was a famous case in the early 1980s where Roy Hattersley the deputy leader of the British Labour party refused to appear in interviews and refused to front up and he was replaced by a bag of lard.

I’m not so unkind, but every time that Paul Goldsmith fails to front in this campaign we are going to remind people about the dirty deal with his bag of wholemeal flour. And this is going to sit in place of Paul Goldsmith who is not fronting and is facilitating a deal with the Act party to get them in when they don’t deserve it.

A not very dignified stunt. And whether the Act party ‘deserve’ anything is up to the voters.

So I’m wondering if National and Act are going to buddy up, why don’t you guys buddy up?

Wood: We are running a principled campaign. We want. –

Seymour: Encouraging Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.

Wood: I’ve just been asked a question and I’ll answer it thanks David. We’re running a principled campaign. We want this to be a straight out contest of ideas and of parties. But we have a situation in which the National party and the Act party are manipulating the system. And of course Labour voters and Green voters in the electorate will think about their options as the campaign goes on.

Seymour: So you also are running a strategic campaign.

Wood: No we are not. I have not had a single conversation with the Green party about this issue. I have not seen Julie Anne before today.

Seymour: Julie will you be encouraging Green party voters to vote strategically for Paul Goldsmith?

Genter: No, we have always…

Seymour: So will we not, so you say then.

Direct question [to Wood], are you? Paul Goldsmith, should they vote for Paul Goldsmith?

Wood: We are not running a campaign with that message at this point. But we are…

Seymour: At this point. So strategic voting is ok

Wood: No listen. We will not be tied down in to a position on this issue given that there is so much uncertainty and so much frittering.

“So much uncertainty and so much frittering” now Wood is questioned on his and Labour’s intent, he was just saying “a dirty deal has been conjured up”.

So you want him to front up and say what his deal is but you won’t come out and say –

Wood: Absolutely. We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals…

Seymour: So are you running to win the seat or you are endorsing Labour party voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith? It’s a simple enough question Michael.

One at a time.

Wood: We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals.

Seymour: But you are going to advocate for Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.

Wood: It is not for the Labour party or the Green party to defend the position that comes from a situation not created by the Labour party or the Green party.

The interview didn’t give the impression of “we’re running a principled campaign” and there was scant sign of “a straight out contest of ideas and of parties”.  Perhaps he does that in social media. His Twitter profile:

@michaelwoodnz Labour candidate for Epsom. Campaigning to end the ACT Party rort.

Tweets around and after The Nation interview:

Lost & Found: National MP for Epsom . Friendly character, missed by constituents, answers (terrified) to name “who, me”

On at 9.30am today to talk about Epsom and the Banks trial with , the ACT guy, and not

Hey I think you are getting ideas above your station. I’m still going to make you into a batch of scones on 21 September.

The original tub of lard gag here from 1993 – H/T . Your progenitor

Targeting an opponent and no sign of contest of ideas and of parties. There was at least one similar tweet yesterday which has been deleted, but there’s one on another party candidate.

On the weird Coling Craig poster: there is a pitch and language that we church goers recognise, but few will respond to it. Weird & clumsy.

That’s a weird comment.

His Facebook timeline targets John Banks and Act prior to the interview. Someone else posted about Goldsmith’s no show and Wood responded:

Michael Wood Thanks Karl. Hard to debate with a candidate who doesn’t front.

It’s obvious what Wood is campaigning against but what does he stand for? I can’t see anywhere in the interview or his social media where he promotes Labour or his party’s policies, and he doesn’t address any other party policies.

Wood is viewed by a good prospect as an MP. He was placed at 32 on the Labour list in 2011 (one lower than David Shearer) but failed to get in due to six lower placed candidates winning electorates.

He stood in the Botany by-election in 2011 but not in the general election. He was elected on to the Puketapapa Local Board in Auckland last year.

It’s yet to be seen whether he can run a dignified and honourable campaign but so far he looks like he wants to clown around in the Epsom circus.

So far his efforts have got him attention but not respect.

Labour caucus or Labour circus?

I’m very surprised David Shearer has put his name to this:

In case you can’t see the fine print:

Authorised by David Shearer, MP
Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Shearer may not be the ringmaster, but he has nailed his name to the circus. He needs to be careful about which hat might stick.

It is misleading to the point of blatant doshonesty. Very unprofessional leadership.