Poll dancing and election exhaustion
A mug’s view The political polls go up – the political polls go down - they do the hokey-tokey and they shake this town around. Explosive? Damaging? Shocking? How many more days of this to endure? Even I’m over it.
I don’t know about your inbox, or Facebook page, or Twitter feed, or newspaper or television viewing; mines nothing but wall to wall political postings and postulations. Deep breath: here’s another.
Will Bill English ever get away with things the way John Key could? Will Jacinda Ardern continue to do things in ways Andrew Little couldn’t? Will Winston Peters ever give a straight answer?
One thing is certain – personality politics is here to stay.
At this rate the 2020 election will be contested between team Brendon McCullum and team Tana Umaga.
Perhaps Steve Hansen and Lorde will go head to head next time. How about Russell Coutts versus Valerie Adams for New Zealand’s next top politician? Policies exist, it’s just they bore us to tears.
Policies are complex and we don’t do complex anymore. What does your gut tell you? What’s your instant reckon on something or someone? Do they look like your kind of person? What are your fears and can that person calm or inflame those feelings?
I must admit on re-reading my last column I felt uncomfortable about the way I talked about our local MP.
The day the column came out Nick Smith was having rat poison smeared on his jacket. The video of the incident didn’t show any rubbing into his face as first claimed, but that doesn’t condone anything. It went too far.
Who wants to write critical columns of politicians when they have to endure that? Who’ll have the guts to put their hand up to be a politician when this is the sort of thing that happens?
We might want politicians to lift their game, but smearing them with rat poison surely isn’t going to achieve it. How much do columns critical of politicians in newspapers play a part in all this?
Hard on the heals of the rat poison affair, a giant effigy of the Minister with his pants down around his ankles was toured around the South Island and then parked outside his Saturday Market caravan. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.
But people are furious. They don’t know what to do with their anger. How do you get your point across when you don’t feel you are being listened to?
There was a time when we listened to what the experts said.
The experts were scientists. They were academics. They were economists. Sometimes it was politicians.
Generally we listened to them when things got complex. Not all the time, sure. But with every passing day this seems to be less and less the case, and it’s true from all sides of the political spectrum. Bugger the experts.
‘‘He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview’’ said John Key in 2011 when questioned by BBC World about Dr Mike Joy and fresh water quality in New Zealand.
If Key took the ‘discrediting’ science route, Smith chose the ‘blinding them with science’ approach to our lakes and rivers.
He simply changed how we measure things. The science behind the debate was undermined and then muddied. So if you can’t argue the debate, if people refuse to engage, or they simply change the rules, what’s left? Personal attacks is what.
Last week Finance Minister Stephen Joyce was once again crying-wolf regarding Labour’s financial credibility, this time drawing full media attention to a non-existent $11.7 billion budget hole. How do I know it was nonexistent? Because of all the experts who said it was non-existent.
Joyce could not come up with a single economist to back him up, but that didn’t mean he was backing down.
Headline after headline, up and down the country, Labours fiscal competence was being questioned.
So what’s left? What can you do when someone has been shown to be wrong but they continue to spread a falsehood? Personal attacks is all that’s left.
‘‘Friends, kiwis, countrymen … lend me your fears, and I’ll sing you a song, I’ll try not to sing out of John Key,’’ or something, warbled the finance minister.
Joyce had the luxury of spending years going through university and failing or not bothering to sit multiple economics papers, but still, he gets to tell others how smart he is and how stupid they are. That’s what it descends to.
So now I’m writing columns bemoaning personality politics and making personal attacks at the same time.
Damn things are mixed up. But what’s the point of trying to come up with a logical argument?
Along with attacking Nick Smith in last fortnight’s column for pushing the Southern Link despite the NZTA report into it still not being published (it is now), I had a go at Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater. I quoted his own words and said it was ironic he was bemoaning ‘dirty politics’.
He replied on his website and said I had it all wrong. He published a giant photo of Russell Harding and invited ridicule from his readers. Pity he got the wrong Russell Harding.
‘‘I started off calling Russell Harding a journalist. He is, in fact, a lecturer at Victoria University in the Government, Law and Business faculty…’’ I wish. But this is what politics has become. It is personality driven. We care more about who the presenters are at debates than the politicians who are in them. And what the politicians say isn’t nearly as important as how they are saying it.
We reward this sort of stuff. Enough already. I’m giving my two ticks to Lorde.