Earth to politicians, come in please

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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Opinion

Welcome to David Cunliffe's nightmare Leaders energised by breaks Key v Cunliffe: Battle of the soundbites Greens stir up dirty water issue The secret diary of . . . David Cunliffe Cunliffe needs us to like, trust him Permission to panic, captain Cunliffe? Big hole in Dotcom conspiracy theory Could National lose the unloseable? Deciphering election talk

OPINION:  Earth to politicians, come in please.

Would it be possible, just for a few days, to get both feet of the body politic on firm ground?

Or is there something in the water in the last few weeks that is breeding the current outbreak of collective nuttiness?

That’s right, this is one of those columns where the plague is on all their houses.

Let’s start at the top.  

For months, years even, National has been batting away questions about links from senior ministers to the, shall we call it intemperate, blogsite Whale Oil.

So much so that when ninth floor eminence noir Jason Ede was sprung sending a picture to the website there was a collective ‘‘gotcha’’ from the media. So, can John Key point to any political advantage in blurting that he regularly chats to the site’s Cameron Slater? 

Then there is poll-becalmed David Cunliffe, suggesting his $2.5 million-plus Herne Bay pile puts him in a different category when it comes to understanding Kiwi battlers than the prime minister in his $10m mansion. 

His next stroke of genius was to ask in Question Time about Key’s claim there were jobs out there if people looked for them.

His timing – when he was seeking a new chief of staff, had lost a senior member of his research team and had seen his potential candidate for Tamaki Makaurau, Shane Taurima, fall on his sword at TVNZ  – was, shall we say, not ideal.

It says nothing about the genius of press gallery reporters that they had pretty much rehearsed Key’s slapdown of Cunliffe before it came.

Which brings us to Taurima and his bosses at TVNZ. 

One of the (very limited) advantages of selecting media types as candidate MPs is their supposed risk radar – knowing what will hurt if it appears in the headlines. How Taurima could allow himself to remain active in Labour, even to the point of attending branch meetings on TVNZ’s property, beggars belief. How TVNZ could allow him to return to an influential role after he had nailed his colours to Labour’s mast makes belief completely destitute. 

You can only laugh till you weep to hear that Labour’s front runners for the Tamaki Makaurau seat are two other media personalities. 

Green co-leader Russel Norman had his own ‘‘doh!’’ moment last week when he suggested even before the court cases were complete that Kim Dotcom’s possible extradition to the United States should be overturned. 

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The court decision yesterday, on appeal, that the raids on the Dotcom mansion were legal underlined the point. In response Dr Norman was yesterday declining to comment on every twist in the case. That is what the education theorists call ‘‘learnings’’.

This week’s Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll showed Dotcom’s party had zero support – plus or minus a decent margin of error – and a preferred prime minister ranking to rival it.

While he was liked by 30 per cent of voters he was trusted by only 17 per cent. That does not argue he is fronting a vibrant political movement requiring senior politicians to form a conga line at the gates of his Coatesville mansion. 

Meanwhile, Conservative leader Colin Craig is in the midst of making a fool of himself – that’s my honestly held opinion by the way, not his true intent – by threatening defamation proceedings against the very same Norman.

Is there anyone out there who believes that when one politician tells you what a rival politician thinks that you are being given the established truth? Or are you more inclined to think it is an opinion, perhaps an exaggerated one – certainly a self-serving one?

If Craig presses on – and God forbid is successful – it would have a more than chilling effect on politics.

Never again could National MPs claim that the Greens want us all to go back to living in caves. Never again could Labour accuse Key of cutting taxes or selling assets just to help his ‘‘mates’’. Nor would we ever again hear that Labour MPs were trying to bribe their way into power with the taxpayers’ own money.

Worse still, how bad would it be if a po-faced approach to political rhetoric stopped Winston Peters from ever again claiming: ‘‘There was a time circa 1999 when a group of journalists in this press gallery were meeting Helen Clark every Sunday afternoon and many of you know that to be a fact.’’

It’s a planet of Peters’ own making and we should all defend to the death his right to live on it.


- Fairfax Media

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