Edwards on Little

July 1st, 2016 at 3:56 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he saidy’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

A very harsh assessment from a long-term Labour supporter and senior adviser.

Edwards on Hosking

August 19th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

I find myself in the improbable position of coming to the defence of broadcaster Mike Hosking. …

Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, has accused Hosking of “making no attempt at objectivity”.  One might have expected a more robust critique. I’m told the words “right wing little prick” have been simply flying down the corridors of the Opposition Wing to describe Mr Hosking.


I think this critique rather misses the point. While I’d be surprised to discover that Hosking is a closet member of the Parnell, Remuera or Epsom branches of the Labour Party  – total membership five! – I’d also risk my bottom dollar that he isn’t a member of any political party. This is, or should be the default position for any broadcaster working in the field of news or current affairs.

What Hosking betrays on Seven Sharp, on commercial radio and in his writing is not political bias but social conservatism. The two may overlap from time to time, but are inherently different. It’s entirely possible and even commonplace to be left wing and socially conservative.

Another way of putting it might be to say that Hosking is somewhat “old fashioned” or “old world” in his approach to many issues. This is reflected in his relationship to Toni Street whom, his manner suggests, he respects as a woman (meaning because she is a woman), but less, it seems to me, as a broadcaster of equal ability and status. He “talks down” to her in a somewhat paternal manner.

So I entirely disagree that Hosking is “a National Party stooge” or that he makes “no attempt at objectivity”. I’m sure he does his very best. But two things make objectivity a challenge for him. The first I’ve referred to before – Hosking is perhaps the most personally opinionated broadcaster I’ve come across in half a century in the business. The second is the social conservatism I’ve described above. Hosking’s values are “old school”.

There is a difference between having a world-view and being biased. Brian Edwards correctly makes that distinction.

John Campbell has a centre-left world view. Mike Hosking has a centre-right world view. Neither are biased. I think both are good broadcasters and want both on them on the air. I think New Zealand is well served by having diversity of thought in our media.



Brian Edwards saves the day

March 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

On the 5th of March Brian Edwards blogged:

Brian and Judy think Ken is a great guy. Their haircuts are testimony to the fact that he is a brilliant hairdresser. So are all his staff.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Ken had an unexpected visit from a a representative of the ACBDD, the Auckland City Business Discouragement Department.

Ken was cutting a nun’s hair at the time. (No, this is not a joke!)

Now no self-respecting hairdresser will abandon a client in the middle of a cut. And certainly not a nun, God forbid. So Ken continued with his work, while the ACBDD official talked to the back of his head. Ken was in serious breach of a local body by-law.  

Drugs? Pornography? Sly grog? Dodgy Massage? No, the small table and two small chairs which you can see in the photograph just outside Ponsonby Hair . Ken must remove them from the footpath immediately or face the consequences, which could include shutting up shop. …

A day or so later the agent returned with reinforcements in the form of a second high-vis-jacket-toting colleague. Ken had three days to comply. If he did not, his officers would forcibly remove the small table and two small chairs and charge him for their trouble and subsequent cost of storage.

This is a great example of the petty bureaucracy that people hate. Any local body that has a culture that allows this, needs a radical culture change.

Luckily Brian’s blog had an impact, and the Council backed down:

Following yesterday’s post “Shock! Horror! Local Hairdresser breaks law with small table and chairs!” Ponsonby hairdresser and all round good guy Ken Beguely,  owner of Ponsonby Hair, this morning received a gracious apology from an Auckland Council manager, an assurance that no further action would be taken to compel him to remove the small table and two chairs outside his salon, and an invitation to contact the manager at any time if he had further problems.

A small victory for the little guy. We need more of them.

Edwards on Labour and euthanasis

November 13th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

Iain Lees-Galloway has taken over responsibility for the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’  after its sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to get elected in September. Lees-Galloway is apparently gauging support before deciding whether to put the Bill back on the private members’ bill ballot. It was removed last year under pressure from the Labour leadership who, according to the Herald, “were concerned it could be an election-year distraction or that it could deter conservative voters”. The new Labour leader, whoever that is, could apparently have the deciding voice on the voluntary euthanasia question.

So what did the contenders for that position have to say?

Well, Nanaia Manuta was in favour of reintroducing the bill  because it would show “that Labour would stand up for those difficult conversations that need to be had”.

I thought that was a pretty principled position to take.


David Parker, who voted against legalising voluntary euthanasia in 2003, didn’t want to comment till he’d talked to Lees-Galloway.

Non-committal and therefore less satisfactory perhaps.

Grant Robertson and Andrew Little both support voluntary euthanasia, but neither considered it a priority at the moment. The fairly clear subtext of their replies was that it was a vote-loser and that a party that had polled 25% in September couldn’t afford to be seen supporting unpopular policies.

I’d call that unprincipled.    

So are Grant and Andrew saying they would not have supported same sex marriage going to a vote if it was less popular?

There are precedents galore for this sort of thinking of course, for the abandonment of principle, of forward-thinking, enlightened or socially responsible policies and platforms because they’re unlikely to win or more likely to lose your party votes. Leadership gives way to “followship”.

It’s a depressing view not only of our politicians but also of us, the voters. Are we really so selfish, so venal, so incapable of persuasion that the towel has to be thrown in before the contestants are even in the ring? Have we no admiration for those who stand up for their principles against the seeming odds?

I say “seeming” odds, because the odds can never be totally accurately predicted. But, with the exception of Nanaia Mahuta, these prospective Labour Leaders are betting on the electorate not being motivated by anything other than unprincipled self-interest. That’s pretty bloody offensive really and were I a member of the Labour Party, which I’m not, I wouldn’t vote for anyone who thought so little of me.

Harsh words, but true.

Judy and I worked for Helen Clark from June 1996 to November 2008. She made mistakes of course but she was willing to espouse unpopular policies when she thought it was the right thing to do. In the process she took a lot of flak, but the sky didn’t fall in. She still got 3 terms. She wasn’t always loved, but she was greatly admired and respected.

With the exception of Nanaia Mahuta I’m not finding much to admire or respect in this lot. Their core philosophy appears to have everything to do with giving the punters what (they think) they want, and tossing out anything that doesn’t satisfy that principle.

There seems to be no excitement at all over who will win the leadership contest – unlike last time, when there was genuine excitement and interest.

Labourites on why Labour lost so badly

September 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald talks to four Labourites on why they think Labour lost so badly. Some of their responses show how out of touch they are.

Len Richards: More than a decade of dirty politics aimed at demonising and destabilising the Labour Party by well-organised and well-funded opponents have taken their toll. The opinion polls reflect the public mood deliberately created by the spin doctors of the right, and the very poor election results for Labour over the last three elections reflect the polls.

So Len thinks Labour did nothing wrong, and Labour lost because of basically bloggers. My God.

His solution is for Labour to go more left wing. I hope they listen to him.

Brian Edwards: John Key, perhaps the most popular leader in New Zealand’s history, was deemed hugely likeable; David Cunliffe was widely disliked and mistrusted. Labour had the wrong leader.

Brian is right that leadership is important. It is only part of the challenge though.

Josie Pagani: Voters began to think Labour was trying to make you a better person rather than better off.

Which is what the Greens do.

John Tamihere: Under Helen Clark the party was captured by academics and tertiary-educated leaders of a union movement that never worked a shop floor. They concentrated on identity politics and controlled the party not on the great economic issues, but on whether you were gay, Maori, feminist, bisexual, etc. … hey have driven people like myself out of the conversation and out of contributing to the party. They have lost connection with middle New Zealand and, particularly, men.

It appears that 80% of men may have voted for parties other than Labour.

Edwards vs Fair Go

February 27th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

The television consumer programme Fair Go returns to TV1 tonight. This means work for Judy and me, work which we would ideally prefer not to have at all. Dealing with frightened and distressed people, who have been harassed and intimidated by Fair Go reporters and who see their businesses, reputations and lives being destroyed in the interests of television entertainment and advertising revenue, is both harrowing and frustrating. ….

For some years now Fair Go has been a programme out of control. Its reporters, with the notable exceptions of Hannah Wallace and Kevin Milne,  about whom we have never received a single complaint, are power-drunk bullies, its journalism is suspect, its honesty open to question.

It’s time to even the odds for the victims of Fair Go.

So here is some free advice to anyone contacted by a Fair Go reporter:

*Have nothing to do with them.

*If they send you an email, do not reply.

*If they phone you, hang up.

*If they come on to your property, ask them to leave. Repeat your request more than once. If they remain on the property, call the police.

*If they harass you in a public place, ask them politely to go away and leave you alone. Do not run, hide your face or say ‘No comment’.

*If the harassment continues, write a letter of complaint to the Chief Executive of TVNZ as soon as you return home or to your business. Send a copy of your letter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, marked FYI.

*Talking to Fair Go is the worst thing you can do. Your replies will be taken out of context and used against you.

*Do not send the programme a written statement. Your statement will almost never be broadcast in full. It will be heavily edited, parts taken out of context and used against you.

*Engaging with Fair Go is almost certain to do you more harm than good. They have already made up their mind about you.

That’s the most damning critique of a show I have seen, and coming from a former host, more so. I have not watched it for years so can’t judge. Has Edwards gone from gamekeeper to poacher or has Fair Go become a bully?

Edwards on Labour’s chances

February 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkin at Stuff reports:

Politicians may rate lower than used car salesmen in most polls, but it seems they are not all created equal.

A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll reveals that Prime Minister John Key is by far our most liked and trusted politician, with 59.3 per cent of people liking him, and 58.7 per cent also trusting him.

Key is also well ahead of his opponents as preferred prime minister on 51.2 per cent.

Labour leader David Cunliffe appears to be more polarising, with those who like and trust him, and those who don’t, falling into roughly equal camps. His rating as preferred prime minister is just 18.2 per cent.

The bad news for Cunliffe is that only Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and Internet Party leader Kim Dotcom are more disliked. Harawira and Dotcom are also the least trusted.

At least he beat out Dotcom!

Brian Edwards, veteran commentator and media trainer to former Labour leader Helen Clark and others, said for a political leader to be truly successful, they needed the public to both like and trust them – but being likeable may provide the biggest advantage.

“John Key is widely liked and I think this is a problem for anyone that wants to oppose him because that liking is the sort of liking people have for a mate or friend or someone they know.

“Key has got this easygoing pleasant demeanour, he doesn’t seem to take things all that seriously and kids around a bit, which gives him a very accessible personality. He enjoys this tremendous liking among the public, which is very difficult for his opponents to deal with.”

Even when people considered him to be dodgy on issues such as the SkyCity deal, or electorate accommodations in seats like Epsom, that was outweighed by the fact they liked him.

“With David Cunliffe he probably does not come across as such an easygoing, warm sort of character . . . he’s not hated, but I don’t think he enjoys that popular appeal John Key has.”

That was not fatal to Cunliffe’s chances of becoming prime minister, but it would make his job harder, especially with a “feel good” factor around the economy – “for some people at least”. “It’s going to be extremely difficult for Labour to win this election.

Their best chances are a Labour/Greens/Mana Government endorsed by Kim Dotcom. But you can see above the problems associated with that also!

Edwards on Jones

September 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Shane Jones is one of only two people I have ever hung up on. Trevor Mallard is the other. I don’t take well to being bullied or abused.

Now that’s a good opening line!

I do Mallard an injustice by mentioning him in the same context as Jones. I have considerable respect for Trevor and nothing but contempt for Jones.

If I ever had doubts that such contempt was deserved, they would have vanished over the past couple of weeks in the face of his numerous appearances on television. This is not a man the Labour Party can ever afford to have as its Leader. This is not a man the country can ever afford to have as its Prime Minister. He would almost certainly bring shame to both offices.

Little chance Shane will be Leader or PM. But he could well end up Deputy if that is the price of his support for second preferences.

Here’s Jones on his Dalmatian forefathers: ‘I tell you what, a lot of them were fairly lusty individuals, because they didn’t always marry those Maori wahines they applied their biological gum-spears to.’ (Penis reference. Espiner laughs.)

Jones again, following his call to David Cunliffe: ‘What the hell is a soft piece. Doing things in a soft fashion has never really been a failing of mine’ (Penis reference presumably boasting his ability to sustain an erection. Espiner finds this very funny.)

And here’s Jones, in a speech referring to what he intended to do to John Key:  ‘I’m going to tie a bungy cord around a sensitive spot and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them, and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.” (Reference to castrating John Key)

And Jones on Labour’s proposed ‘man ban’: ‘… the overwhelming response [in his electorate] is the public doesn’t want the country run by geldings.’ (Reference to women as castrated male horses.)

Brian is right to point out that Shane does seem rather obsessed with certain appendages.

He definitely has mass appeal, but he is also a bit of a walking time bomb.

Stop the deathwatch

June 26th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

I find it hard to contain my disgust at the response in South Africa and abroad to Nelson Mandela’s hospitalisation for what is quite clearly a terminal illness. It has been nothing short of ghoulish.

Mandela is 94. Given what he has experienced in that long life, it is perhaps surprising that he has survived to such a ripe old age. Now it is time to let him go.

But ‘letting him go’ has not been an acceptable option for the country’s politicians, its churches and many of its citizens. The nation is encouraged to ‘pray for Madiba’ – not for a peaceful end to his suffering, but for the extension of that suffering or, at best, his survival in what may be little more than a zombie-like state. What masquerades as loving concern is in fact the ultimate selfishness.

Edwards is right.  I find this deathwatch ghoulish. We don’t need twice daily updates on him. When he dies, many will pay tribute – as is appropriate.

What South Africa and the world needs to do is to mourn Mandela’s death when it occurs and, when the mourning time is over, celebrate the life he lived. Instead, we crowd like vultures around the hospital bed of a dying man, some savouring titbits of hope, others in the expectation of gathering the first morsels of publicity that will increase their journalistic reputations.

Well said.

Praise for Metiria

June 10th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Since I blogged on it weekend before last, there has been a lot of comment and criticism on Rachel Smalley of The Nation asking Hekia Parata if she is a bitch to work for, and “How Maori are you?”.  Rachel herself has said she didn’t write the questions, and felt a bit uncomfortable with them. Of course she could have refused and said I’m not going to ask any guest if they are a bitch, unless I can ask male guests if they are a prick.

Anyway Brian Edwards has blogged in defence of Smalley, and Green co-leader Metiria Turei has responded:

I dont believe that the question Rachel Smalley asked of Hekia Parata: “How Maori are you”? was in anyway appropriate. I have a huge amount of respect for Brian Edwards and have read his blog which justifies Rachel’s question on the basis that was relevant to “Parata’s childhood and upbringing in a Maori family and Maori community”; that it produced a revealing and relevant response; that she handled it well and hasn’t complained.

The last three justifications are meaningless. It makes no difference to the appropriateness of the question whether she answered well or not, whether she complained or not. As to whether it was relevant to Parata’s childhood, that issue was canvassed earlier in the interview and could have been discussed more without forcing Hekia to justify her identity.

Thats what I have a problem with: Hekia was required by the question to justify her identity. The criteria Hekia then applied to herself is the criteria Maori have been forced to use to justify ourselves for decades: blood (whakapapa), language and whanau. It is a question based on New Zealand’s assimilationist history, when the degree of a persons “Maoriness” led to more or less entitlement, when being judged as having abandoned our cultural practices and language, we were therefore more like Pakeha and so more acceptable.

It is a grotesque irony that these days Maori are asked that question so that their right to speak on Maori issues can be judged, mostly by Pakeha, as legitimate or not.

I don’t agree with most of the policies Metiria puts forward, but I do respect her for criticising TV3 for the interview, despite the fact the question was to a political rival. It’s nice to put principle ahead of politics.

Edwards on Shearer

January 29th, 2013 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

Shearer’s media image remains a problem. The blame for that must lie in part with bad advice.

Faced with criticism of his seemingly ineffectual leadership Shearer was advised to talk and act tough. He clearly took that advice.  His essential message to the November conference was: I’m running the show, I make the decisions, I’m in charge. That was the talkingtough component. His subsequent interviews were notable for the number of times he said ‘I, me, my’, a  self-conscious attempt to reassert his personal dominance of the party. …

 Shearer is still doing most of the talking about himself, still involved in the  first-person defence and praise of his own leadership: ‘I, me my…’  And there it was again in his State of the Nation speech: ‘I can tell you that today I’m refreshed. I’m fired up and I’m raring to go.

The somewhat curious thing is that the lines, delivered with almost evangelical fervour, weren’t spontaneous; they were scripted, there word for word in his speech notes. But they  cannot disguise the fact that Shearer should not have to ‘tell’ his audience that he’s fired up and raring to go, that it should have been obvious not just on this occasion, but since the day he was elected leader. It hasn’t.

There s some truth to what Edwards say, that you say things to try and convince people of things – and they are not always true. I use the example of any country that puts democratic in its official name is invariably a totalitarian state. If they are obviously democratic, they don’t need to say so.

The simple fact is that Shearer isn’t comfortable in the ’talk and act tough’ role. The best demonstration of this was in his response to the media scrum after Cunliffe had been dismembered in Caucus. He was a stumbling, bumbling, incoherent wreck. I suspect he was deeply upset by the lynch-mob mentality and the savagery that had dominated the previous hour. He eventually walked off, refusing to answer any more journalists’ questions.

Shearer is a reasonable man, a conciliator by nature. He has to stop trying so hard to be something he isn’t. He can’t carry it off and we will see through it. He is a poor actor.

This week John Key gave him  a lesson in strength. He sacked two under-performing ministers, in all probability ending their parliamentary careers. Yet he’s taken little or no flack for what seems like a pretty brutal thing to do. Maybe that’s because he didn’t act the strong leader, didn’t say much about it at all, was matter-of-fact about a necessary decision.  Maybe that’s the lesson.

It is a worthwhile lesson.

The right to be an idiot

November 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins says it is important that Kiwis retain the right to be idiots and make fools of themselves.

Ms Collins made the comment during her speech at a NetSafe conference in Wellington today, where she reinforced the her view that a hard line should be taken on cyber-bullying and harassment.

In doing so, she pointed to reports out of Britain this week where a woman was found guilty by a jury of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a “stupid fat Australian” during a drunken tirade.

Ms Collins said that while the Government was considering a range of initiatives and law changes to stamp out cyber-bullying, she did not want to see people’s freedom of speech restricted to that extent.

“I don’t think that’s something we want to see in New Zealand. I do think it’s important to retain the right to be idiots and to make fools of ourselves,” she said.

“But when it goes too far, particularly the sort of bullying that ends with young people committing suicide, that’s where we need to be very-much focused.”

There definitely is a case for some law changes. But we do need to be aware that the proposed Communications Tribunal with proposed powers to order material to be taken down does pose significant free speech issues – and it is important we get the balance right.

In August, the Law Commission released its report on harmful digital communications, which recommended a new electronic communications offence for those aged 14 and over and the establishment of a Communications Tribunal to enforce apologies, take-down and cease-and-desist orders, and unmask anonymous offenders.

Brian Edwards has a blog post on anonymous bloggers. He says:

More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation.  Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.

The irony is that those who blog under their actual names tend to be much better and effective for it. When you know that your words will be linked to you, you tend to take greater care in what you say.

Edwards joins the chorus calling for Shearer to resign

November 12th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

My understanding of the strategy in play, is that those in Labour wanting a change do not want an actual leadership challenge to Shearer. They are deliberately piling pressure on to force him to quit, so no one has blood on their hands.

I find it baffling that Labour gave Phil Goff three years as Leader, when it was obvious he could never be elected (not due to any personal qualities, but the fact he had been in Parliament since Muldoon was PM). Goff saw Labour consistently poll under the result he inherited in 2008.

Shearer has not even been leader for one year. Labour is polling on average 4% higher than at the 2011 election. Yet people are determined not to give him a fair chance. Why the unseemly rush to kneecap him before he even gets to to his first conference as leader?

Brian Edwards has blogged:

A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.

Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.

Her politics are to the liberal left.

For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to theHerald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.

So why now?

Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.

And I think the strategy is to force him to quit, because he is a decent man.

What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.   

It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.

But if Shearer goes, will it be Cunliffe who succeeds him?

As an advisor to Helen Clark during the 2008 election I learnt to my cost the danger of underestimating Key as a debater. My view and the view of Helen’s other advisors was that Key would be no match for the Prime Minister. He was a new boy and she was a seasoned practitioner. She was ’Minister for Everything’ and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every portfolio. She would make mincemeat of this upstart. Key, it turned out, had been hiding his light under a bushel. He was aggressive, interruptive and in his element. Helen lost the first debate and we had to regroup.

Why is this relevant? Because David Shearer could not hold a candle to Helen Clark as a debater. That is why I say Key will crucify him in any face to face debate. It’s already happening in Parliament.

So here’s what I think should happen: Shearer should announce at the Labour Party Conference that he has told caucus he wishes to step down as leader and will do so as soon as a replacement has been chosen.  To avoid the inevitable chaos (and possible collapse of the Labour Party) which will  result from the implementation of their proposed new rules for choosing a leader (which could be tested as early as February of next year), caucus should quickly select David Cunliffe to take them through the next election. Cunliffe is the only person for the job. There is no-one else.

I’d be interested to know why Brian thinks it couldn’t be Grant Robertson or even Andrew Little?

UPDATE: Lynn Prentice has also called for Shearer to go.

I should clarify something relating to my earlier post. I never suggested The Standard has a group view on Shearer. I know each author is independent. What I focused on is the fact that two (now three) of the most longest serving and prolific authors have all called for Shearer to go – BEFORE he even gets to the first party conference. The fact a couple of other authors have disagreed does not change the significance of this.

My statement that this was no coincidence was not referring to a co-ordinated effort between The Standard authors as a bloc. I meant that it was being co-ordinated by one or more MPs who have chosen to try and force the issue before conference.

Brian Edwards on NZ Herald’s photos

July 24th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In a list of bouquets and brickbats, Brian Edwards notes a brickbat:

To the New Zealand Herald which accompanied a report today on the National Party Conference with deliberately chosen, highly unflattering photographs of Paula Bennett, Hekia Parata and John Key (with double chins) and a laboured attempt at a humorous caption. There can be no journalistic defence for this sort of offensive demeaning of public figures in a news story.

It did seem rather stupid.

Edwards on gagging of Cunliffe

May 14th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

The absence of anyone from Labour on The Nation was explained by Garner at the very start of the show. The programme had invited Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, David Cunliffe, to discuss more or less the same things that Norman and Peters were discussing on Q & A – the future direction of the economy. Cunliffe was happy to appear but, conscious of the current sensitivities in the parliamentary party over Labour’s leadership, sought an assurance that that topic would not be canvassed in the interview. He received that assurance in writing from Executive Producer Richard Harman and Garner himself. 

Despite those assurances, Cunliffe’s appearance was later vetoed by what Garner called Labour’s ‘top team’ which he defined as ‘David Shearer and the media team’. The reason given was apparently that the ‘top team’ didn’t want anything to distract from Finance Spokesman David Parker so close to the Budget.

Shearer was badly advised to ban Cunliffe from appearing. Rather than make his speech less of an issue, it has made it an even greater issue.

Anyway, ‘the top team’ didn’t like Cunliffe’s brilliant speech and he was apparently bawled out by Shearer and others and told the  speech was’ naive and stupid.’ That tends to be the price you pay for idealism. And, according to the extremely  well informed Duncan Garner, the  price may be high for Cunliffe who has been ‘put in his place, somewhere down the bottom of the pecking order’.

This is so utterly stupid that it beggars belief. Cunliffe is not only intellectually brilliant, he is by far Labour’s most accomplished debater in the House and on television and radio.  No-one in the Labour Party can hold a candle to him as a media spokesperson. Stammering and stuttering seem to be the main criteria for that at present.

Ouch. That is pretty brutal.

Finally, given the paranoia that clearly surrounds Cunliffe in the Labour Caucus, I should perhaps add that nothing in this post came from him.

Cunliffe had a good career before he entered Parliament. If he remains marginalised, I would not be surprised if he packs it in at the next election – which would be a pity. That is however the hope of some in the ABC faction.

Edwards endorses Robertson

April 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Just four months after an election then, political commentators are suggesting replacements  for the current Labour Party leader.

My own view is that the strategy, devised by his Chief of Staff Stuart Nash, of having Shearer stump the country making speeches, rather than leading the charge against the Government in the House, has been misguided. The effect has been that Shearer is rarely seen on prime time television, while the Greens, Winston Peters and his own Deputy make the 6 o’clock  running. Out of sight really can mean out of mind.

So let’s just indulge in a little speculation. Between McCarten’s and Hartevelt’s front-runners – Little and Robertson – who might make it to the finishing line? I’m going to plump for Robertson. Yes, Little enjoys the support of the unions and is a forceful debater in the House. But it’s hard to see this rather dour, uncharismatic unionist as the face of a rejuvenated Labour Party. At 41, Robertson, on the other hand, who lists his interests as ‘watching too much sport, playing a bit of indoor netball and squash, cooking, movies, listening to New Zealand music and reading New Zealand literature’, projects a youthful, energetic, upbeat  and thoroughly modern image. And he’s fiercely ambitious.

In talking this issue through with a gallery journalist I suggest the danger time for Shearer was the beginning of 2013. The journo reckoned it will all be over well before then.

So are we ready for a gay Prime Minister? I can only speak for myself. I find the idea invigorating. Other than prejudice, I can’t really think of any objection to it. And we Kiwis are for the most part an open-minded lot. After all, we had no trouble electing the world’s first transsexual MP.  And we didn’t seem to mind a mincing John Key.

It’s true that gay Prime Ministers are thin on the ground. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, elected Prime Minister of Iceland in 2009, was not only the country’s first woman Prime Minister but also Europe’s first openly gay head of state. She was followed in 2011 by Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo. When asked whether he was gay, the new Prime Minister replied, ‘Yes. So What?’ That strikes me as the only sensible answer to the question.

I don’t think it is useful to conflate mincing with being gay, but for the wider point I agree that the sensible answer is “Yes, so what”.

However sexuality can have some bearing, if it impacts politics. There is a difference between a politician who happens to be gay, and a politician that campaigns on gay issues. Chris Finlayson is very much in the former category while Chris Carter and Tim Barnett were in the latter category. I’d place Grant Robertson somewhere in-between.

I agree that at this stage the next leader of the Labour Party is probably a contest between Grant Robertson and Andrew Litttle, and Robertson is heaving favoured to win. The bigger issue is when will the vacancy occur!

Edwards on Labour

March 19th, 2012 at 1:39 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party whose philosophical and moral values are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition.

Strong words from a (I suspect) lifetime Labour supporter.

I’m a socialist at heart and, whatever it is, New Zealand Labour is not a socialist party. It wasn’t just Rogernomics that scotched that idea; Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, a significant influence on the Fifth Labour Government, was really just a watered down version of Douglas’s ‘trickle-down’ economics. The ‘third way’ was, by definition, a ‘middle-way’, neither one thing nor the other and ill-suited to political idealism of any stripe – a Clayton’s political philosophy.  

I read that Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, wants to move the party to that ideological no-man’s-land that is ‘the centre’. National already occupies that space but, as the distinctions between Key and Shearer lose focus – both promising to deliver ‘a brighter future’ and the Labour leader ditching policies specifically directed at putting more money into the pockets of the poor – I’ve no doubt that an accommodation can be reached between centre-right and centre-left.

Personally I am glad Labour is (mainly) not a socialist party. Socialism doesn’t work. It has been tried in dozens of countries, and nationalising the means of production etc is a failed experiment.

I’m a firm believer in progressive taxation – ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,’ as Marx  so neatly put it. You can call that Communism or Socialism or pure Christianity.  It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the core principle that the strong should support the weak. So it’s good that Labour’s new leader is at least intent on keeping a Capital Gains Tax as Labour policy. The earnings of the rich should be taxed to support the poor.

They are. Families below $50,000 income effectively pay no net tax at all.  We have a massively progressive tax system. If Brian feels it is not progressive enough, well Treasury does accept donations 🙂

But I’m not comfortable with Mr Shearer’s reported intention to move the party ‘to the centre’. It’s a misnomer for one thing. Labour is already in the centre. It has already lost its working-class constituency. Any move ‘to the centre’ will merely be, as the share-brokers say, ‘a technical correction’, not as extreme as in ‘84 but a move to the right nonetheless.

What Labour politics now seem to be about is finding ‘sellable’ policies and a ‘sellable’ leader in order to regain power. (For National read ‘retain power’.) What Green politics seem to be about is persuading people to come across to policies not obviously or immediately founded in self-interest, but in the long-term interests of all of us and (there’s no avoiding it) of the planet. No doubt they’d like to be in government too. But it doesn’t seem to be their primary motivation.

So I find myself wondering…

The harsh reality is that Labour has a better chance of gaining power if they do lose left-wing voters to the Greens, so long as they pick up some centrist voters from National.

Edwards on why Labour did so poorly

January 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs on the Josie Pagani (and interestingly notes she used to be his producer) op ed on Labour, and comes up with his own list of why Labour did so poorly. I agree with some of what Brian has said, but not all so will go through them in turn.

The extreme improbability of any political party in New Zealand being voted out after just one term in office

That is a factor in why National got re-elected but less so about why Labour dropped 7%. I would also note that under MMP getting a second term is not so easy – at the end of the day we avoided a hung Parliament by just one seat.

The nation’s love affair with John Key, without doubt the greatest exponent of the photo opportunity and ‘skinetics’ in the history of New Zealand politics;

Yes John Key is popular, and this was definitely a factor. But the implication that it is all about photo opportunities falls into the trap so many on the left make of under-estimating Key, and thinking he is just “smile and wave”. I’m not saying Dr Edwards does as he has written in more detail on Key previously, but just in this post the reasons Key are so popular are not explored much – especially the fact he ran a very moderate and centrist first term programme (second term is less centrist), that he was hugely reassuring on the economy (ask anyone who has been to a business breakfast where he talks about the issues), that he has opened up the books on MPs and Ministers spending, that he will back down on some (but not all) issues etc etc.

The relative lack of voter enthusiasm for Phil Goff

This was one of the larger factors. And it generally wasn’t anything Goff could change. Putting up someone who entered Parliament 30 years ago as the face for the future was always going to be hugely difficult. Add to that his mishandling of the Richard Worth allegations, the Darren Hughes allegations and even the SIS briefing, and his ratings stayed massively low until the campaign period itself.

Earthquakes, mining and shipping disasters which, in media terms, disadvantage those not in power and unable to influence events;

Yes, but only with a caveat – so long as the Government in power responds competently to them. Hurricane Katrina didn’t exactly help the Bush Administration. And the hysteria around the Rena in the early days wasn’t great either.

The Rugby World Cup, a convenient distraction for National shortly before the election;

The more major impact is that it shortened the campaign period during which people started to tune into Labour. But having said that, Labour then dropped away during the same campaign period.

The general euphoria that winning the Cup produced;

Must thank Helen and Trevor for bidding to host it in an election year.

Widespread voter disengagement from politics, particularly on the Left.

But why? The Greens did well.

The self-fulfilling nature of three  years of polls branding Key and National  sure-fire winners and Goff and Labour sure-fire losers.

That definitely does have an impact.

Labour’s courage in advancing policies that made long-term economic sense, but were highly unattractive to voters in the short term: a capital gains tax and raising the age of eligibility for the pension.  

I’m not sure the CGT or superannuation policy (both which I supported to some degree) turned off many voters. Maybe the superannuation one delivered a few to Winston.

I think the pledging an extra $70 a week to beneficiaries with children and only $10 a week to working parents with children went down like cold sick.

I also think Goff fumbling the numbers, combined with policies requiring more borrowing in the next seven years (even by Labour’s numbers) were a significant factor.

Nor was Goff helped by the idiotic decision of Labour’s campaign team not to have a Party launch and not to feature the Party Leader on any of their election billboards. The only possible interpretation that could be placed on this hare-brained scheme was that Labour was embarrassed by Goff and wanted him kept in the background. And that is precisely the interpretation that the media, political commentators and, I suspect, voters placed on it.

Yep, a very stupid decision. And the question that hasn’t been answered is who made that decision? Is he now the Deputy Leader?

Finally, Phil was probably not helped by Helen’s dramatic departure from the scene or by her ordination of him as Labour’s new leader. Having served a parliamentary apprenticeship only three years short of hers, he might just have appreciated another three or six months to get his bearings and turn to her for advice.

I agree this was unhelpful. Not just for the advice, but the fact he gained no profile when he took over, as all the focus was on Key. Labour did it much smarter this time around.

There’s other factors also. The front-bench was all Clark era Ministers. The ongoing series of social media own goals. The smear brochures which people don’t like, the relative strength of the Greens, the u-turns on policy, the three years of attacking every single spending cut and then claiming they will adopt National’s fiscal parameters except in one or two areas. I could go on.

Edwards dis-endorses Shearer

December 7th, 2011 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Praising Shearer’s freshness and dismissing his lack of experience in the bear pit of the Debating Chamber as irrelevant has almost become the norm in comparing him with Cunliffe. I was on that side of the argument myself when Shearer first threw his hat in the ring. But 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.

My problem is that I just can’t imagine him on his feet in the House footing it with the Prime Minister or any of his hugely experienced lieutenants. And a Leader of the Opposition must have a mastery not just of his own portfolios but of every portfolio. Clark had just such a mastery, but it was the product of 18 years experience in the Debating Chamber before she became Prime Minister.

I think Brian makes some good points, but I would point out the next election is in three years times, not three months time. Shearer’s decision to stand for the leadership is a recent one, so he hasn’t done the stuff aspiring leaders normally do such as media training and debating. He will never be a Michael Cullen in the House, but Michael would have never been elected PM.

And then there’s Cunliffe. We’re told there’s a group in the Labour caucus whose ABC mantra is ‘anyone but Cunliffe’. It’s hard to imagine a more childish or stupid approach. Your job, ladies and gentlemen,  is to choose someone who can win the next election, not someone who makes you feel warm and fuzzy. And when you’re making that choice you might like to consider this fact: above almost everything else, Kiwis like leaders who project strength. Kirk, Muldoon, Clark are prime examples. None of them was particularly ‘nice’. Rowling, Lange and Goff were ‘nice’. QED.

Cunliffe may or may not be nice, but he is hugely experienced, has an in-depth understanding of policy, conveys confidence and authority, handles the media superbly and can make mincemeat of anyone on the other side of the House. His ambition should be seen as an advantage not a disadvantage.

My instinct is that the Labour Party is about to make a huge mistake. Their logic, I suspect, is that they must replace an unpopular leader with a popular leader. But it is shallow thinking. What the next Leader of the Opposition must be able to do is best and bring down John Key. That really isn’t a job for ‘a nice guy’.

I am definitely not an ABC person, but of course I am not a member of the Labour caucus. I have considerable respect for David Cunliffe, having worked with him on some of the telco reforms. And on a personal level I’ve never seen the stuff that some people go on about. Yes David has ambition, but what MP doesn’t? Ambition is not a bad thing, if there is talent to back it up, and Cunliffe has that.

On balance I think Shearer has a greater chance of leading Labour to victory, for reasons I have written about previously. But I will say that Shearer is a somewhat risker option. There is greater potential to wins over the hearts and minds of New Zealanders and get Labour’s party vote back into the mid 30s or highers. But there is also a greater risk that Shearer just can’t hack it, and Labour stays weak or gets weaker.

However Labour has dire problems being in the mid 20s. If Labour had got say 30%+, then you might go for the safer option of Cunliffe to lift you that few per cent more. But to win enough party vote to form Government in 2014 from 27% in 2011, you need to take some risks. Otherwise the best you can hope for is a Labour/Green/Maori/Mana Government propped up by NZ First. Sure that will get you into Government, but it won’t be a very good one.

As I have said previously, both contenders should do better for Labour than Phil Goff. Labour are fortunate to have a healthy and competitive choice between two good options rather than choosing the least worst candidate.

Edwards on Goff

April 26th, 2011 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards looks at the futu for Phil Goff. He notes:

After Clark steps down in the wake of National’s win in the 2008 election, Is unanimously elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

Both Goff and Labour have floundered in the polls ever since.   

It’s worth pointing out, however, that Goff’s and Labour’s poll ratings are actually better now, seven months before a general election,  than Clark’s and Labour’s were seven months before the 1996 general election. Had it not been for Winston Peter’s decision to go with National, Clark would have won that election.

There is an important context here. The last time Labour polled below 27% was indeed in 1996. But the Alliance and NZ First between them were polling 33%, and both were pushing left wing messages. So the actual support for leftish parties was 60%. Today it is under 35%.

And Edwards is right Clark coudl have been PM in 1996 if Winston went with her. In fact on election nigth she all but declared herself the victor. It was partly the arrogance of Labour in the negotiations that pushed Peters back towards National.

There is, however, no such expectation that Goff can win this year’s election in November. He has been written off by the media and, if the latest polls are to be believed, by a majority of Labour’s own supporters. After a 27-year career in Parliament the Leader of the Opposition looks almost certain to be denied the glittering prize. Therein lies the tragedy.

Goff, it seems to me, has three strikes against him.

The first is that he took over as leader of a party which had been in office for nine years, which the electorate was thoroughly tired of and which had just lost an election. His task, to re-enthuse that  electorate to the point where it would throw out the government after only one term, was nigh on impossible. Political history argues against it.

Second, he has been around too long. In a post entitled The Prince Charles Syndrome

I think the second strike is the hardest to overcome. Phil Goff joined the Labour Party in 1969 when John Key was an eight year old and became an MP in 1981, when Key was a second year university student wooing Bronagh. It is hard for someone who entered Parliament when Muldoon was prime Minister, to be seen as a Prime Minister for the future.

The third strike against the Leader of the Opposition is that amorphous quality ‘charisma’. Or rather the lack of it. Phil does not have charisma. His ‘image’ – that other indefinable term – is terrible: stiff, wooden, robotic, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, stern, censorious, lecturing, occasionally irritable, occasionally sour.

In an unhappy irony Goff is a Labour leader with no apparent common touch. The ‘apparent’ is important, because people who know him and people who meet him face to face speak of an entirely different person – approachable, warm, relaxed, funny, a good bloke, a decent man.

I’ve found Goff perfectly pleasant and nice in person. And if we are to have a Labour Prime Minister, I’d rather have Goff than many others.

Campbell vs Ring

March 1st, 2011 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogged:

John, Your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional  non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.

I have no brief for Mr Ring or his theories, but after watching your treatment of him tonight, I have considerably more respect for him as the reasonable exponent of an admittedly controversial point of view than I have for you as an interviewer.

What mattered to you in this exchange was not what he had to say, but what you had to say. And since he thought the process was meant to involve his being critically questioned on statements he had made and being given reasonable opportunity to reply, he had every right to complain when you preferred to deny him that opportunity by shouting him down. It was, quite simply, appalling.

This has led to a huge debate with 113 comments to date on Brian and Judy’s blog. Opinion is divided between those who say that as Ring is a charlatan, Campbell did good (Russell Brown noticeably in this camp) and those who say he didn’t let Ring even explain himself.

I like the take of Not PC:

If it’s true that Campbell bullied Ring, the greatest damage done by the bullying is …. that it didn’t give Ring a chance to bury himself in his own words. That’s surely the point of good interviewing. To let your audience see for themselves when a flake is being interviewed.

And in bullying rather than burying his interviewee, Campbell would have allowed Ring to gain his viewers’ sympathy instead of their contempt. Surely not at all what he intended.

Not PC also has some great links and graphs from scientists showing how Mr Ring has predicted earthquakes, well pretty much for every second day.

I didn’t see the interview, but what do people who saw it think?

SST v Edwards

February 11th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards has been threatened with a defamation suit by lawyers acting for the Sunday Star-Times. I think the SST is over-reacting, especially as all Edwards has done is publish four sworn affadavits saying Amanda Hotchin did not speak the words attributed to her by the Sunday Star-Times. Edwards has been careful to say he does not know who is correct, and has mainly been calling for the SST to rebut the affadavits.

The SST are refusing to, on the basis of a possible lawsuit by Hotchin.

I don’t know if the SST report of Mrs Hotchin’s words are correct or not. I will make the point that the reporter, Jonathan Marshall, is in the habit of recording his conversations as proof of what has been said to him. I do not know whether or not he recorded this particular exchange.

Mrs Hotchin has said it is too expensive to sue, and has instead effectively fought her side of the story on Dr Edwards’s blog. And I have certainly found it interesting to hear her side. However at the end of the day Brian Edwards can’t adjudicate on the veracity of the report, as he can’t compel a response from the SST.

Mrs Hotchin should file a formal complaint with the Sunday Star-Times, and if not satisified with their response, then complain to the press council. That would allow her affadavits to be tested against any evidence from the Sunday Star-Times. I am suspicious that she refuses to take this step – it does not need lawyers and costs basically nothing – it is her best chance of clearing her name.

But while Mrs Hotchin is not helping her own case by refusing to go down the route of the Press Council, I don’t think it is a good look for a newspaper to use nastygram legal letters to try and shut up a blogger – these are the tactics normally used by the subjects of newspaper investigations – not newspapers themselves.

The SST could simply have responded to the affadavits with an invitation for Mrs Hotchin to complain to the Press Council, and stating they are confident in their version of events.

Threatening Dr Edwards with defamation is also very stupid. It guarantees more and more people will know about the issue, and gets the story into the mainstream media.

Hopefully common sense will preval and Mrs Hotchin will go down the press council avenue for adjudication, and the Sunday Star-Times will keep its specialist defamation lawyers on a leash.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed out to me that the Hotchins themselves have been pretty quick to use lawyers also to threaten defamation. An (offline) HoS story reported in May 2010:

As with Amanda, few who know Mark are willing to talk on the record. Robert Alloway, managing director of Allied Farmers, the firm that absorbed Hanover assets in controversial deal at the end of last year, says the men behind Hanover have a reputation for sending out letters from law firm Chapman Tripp.

“They have deep pockets and aren’t afraid to reach into them. Whether it’s Bruce Sheppard, or me, or anyone saying anything you’d call an opinion, you’d get a letter. Typically I can set my watch by it. If it’s in a Saturday paper, I’ll get a letter on the Tuesday,” he says.

I also understand the Hotchins had their own law firm send lawyers letters to other media, threatening them if they repeated the SST story.

CTU criticism

October 23rd, 2010 at 10:16 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

In the Campbell Live poll 90% of respondents thought Actors Equity was to blame for the Hobbit fiasco and 10% thought the film company was to blame. Even given the statistical unreliability of this sort of poll, that’s a resounding and deserved indictment of the appalling PR of Actors Equity, the CTU and in particular CTU president Helen Kelly. I have seldom seen groups so out of touch with public sentiment or so incapable of getting across the message they wanted to convey.

Danyl blogs at the Dim Post about the next CTU media campaign:

CTU launches charm offensive, desecrates grave of Sir Edmund Hillary

In the wake of sharp public criticism over its handling of contract negotiations around The Hobbit the Council of Trade Unions has launched a public relations campaign aimed at rehabilitating the organisation’s image. CTU President Helen Kelly has promised New Zealanders they will be ‘wowed’ by a series of industrial strikes planned to disrupt the rugby world cup next year and has violated the grave of revered mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary during a live press conference.

Heh this is of course Danyl’s normal satire. However he hits a bit close to the bone. Numerous Auckland industrial agreements have been timed to expire just before the Rugby World Cup. watch this space!

‘This shows the public that the union movement is about more than being a voice for working people, conducting fair and equitable negotiations between equal parties and destroying the capital owning parasites like Hillary and Jackson, and also Hayley Westenra who has it coming to her,’ Helen Kelly announced while digging, pausing to pose for cameras and spit on the grave.

‘Like most Kiwis we have nothing but contempt for Hillary and his achievements,’ Kelly said hitching up her skirt and squatting on Sir Edmund’s skeleton while onlookers and supporters cheered and sang We Shall not be Moved. ‘This sends a signal to the public that we share their values.’ …

‘Although Hillary did support the labour movement for many decades let us not forget that he also lived in Remuera,’ Kelly added, spray-painting a picture of a penis on the tombstone. ‘Fairness! Respect! Solidarity!’

Subsequent to the desecration Kelly and senior union delegates burned a huge pile of five dollar notes, which bear Sir Edmund’s image. According to a statement released by the union the bonfire was unrelated to the Hillary protest and is customary practise at CTU events.

This is again one of the ironies. Sir Peter Jackson could have made so much more money if he had moved to Hollywood. But it was is desire to create jobs for New Zealanders that has seen him remain here.

Also Lee at MWT highlights this comment made on the Dim Post:

“What kind of country do we live in if union bosses can’t meet at Matterhorn to decide the future of 22,000 people’s jobs over a few $42 Mains and some cocktails, without being harangued by smelly jobless proles?”

Actually I quite liked that Simon Whipp who featured in the video. I’m thinking he’d make a great candidate for Parliament – he should seek selection for a safe seat somewhere.

Edwards on Banks

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:48 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards has just done a very interesting blog post on John Banks. Most will know Brian is a life long Labour activist. Further John Banks actually sent him a defamation suit in 1993, so it is fair to say they are not close. The post is titled “John Banks – a personal reassessment”.

You’ll understand that I was not a fan of the current Mayor of Auckland then and continued not to be a fan, until very recently. On numerous occasions I expressed my dislike of him publicly,  though rather more circumspectly. …

Ten days ago I was one of five speakers at an Auckland Mayoral Fathers’ Breakfast at Sky City organised by Parents Inc., the organisation founded by Ian Grant. Each of us had seven minutes to give an inspirational address on fatherhood to the 750 men present. The Mayor of Auckland, formally hosting the event, spoke first.

I’ve heard a lot of speeches in my time and few have been memorable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the seven minutes in which John Banks held that audience in the palm of his hand, enthralled. He did not, as his advisors have suggested, talk about his own traumatic childhood. He talked about the troubled kids he has met in the course of his job; kids on drugs, kids in trouble with the law, kids in borstals and prisons, lost boys and girls. A common theme, especially among the  boys, he observed, was the absence of a father in their lives. These were boys without role models, boys who didn’t know how to be men. Fathers mattered and fathers had a responsibility to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong.

Delivered entirely without notes, the short address was spellbinding, extremely moving, and entirely met the inspirational criteria laid down by the breakfast’s organisers. When he returned to the table, I said to him, ‘If you could talk like that during your campaign, you would certainly be the first Mayor of the Super City.’ …

And then Brian deals with the rather tragic events around James Webster:

A week later Banks was on Close Up responding to claims that his son Alex was one of the boys who had egged on 17-year-old Kings College student James Webster to go on drinking vodka, advice which at least contributed to his death.  Banks was only one of two parents to front up about their sons’ involvement. Holding back tears, he told Close Up:

‘I say as a father, there but for the grace of God, go I.  I said to Alex, this is very sad for our families and you’re going to have to stay home and not go out at night until you’ve undertaken a comprehensive First Aid course, so that you understand the dangers of alcohol and you clearly understand that if it ever happens again you’ll be in a position to save a life.

‘It’s a big thing for me to have to live with, but it’s very, very hard for the Webster family. My son now knows from experience that what happened was disastrous and if he was in that circumstance ever again, he would know what to do. And on that fateful night most people didn’t know what to do. That little guy didn’t have to lose his life.

‘Life is about accepting responsibility for the actions of yourself and for the behaviour of your sons. And in this case, you know, we’re having this conversation because, hopefully, we will save one or two or a handful of James Websters.’

Banks, it seemed to me, had practised what he preached. He had fronted up, accepted responsibility as a parent for his son’s actions and set the limits that are part of a father’s duty to his children.

John Banks is a polarising individual, admired by some, hated – not too strong a word – by others. For my part, I have not changed my view of the man I attacked on The Ralston Group, the talk-back host I deplored on Radio Pacific or the Mayor of Auckland in his previous incarnation. But either he has changed or I have. I suspect it’s the former. Certainly the person I have got to know in the past fortnight is a very fine man indeed. Or maybe there are two John Banks, two sides to the one man – the father and the politician perhaps. I’d be happy to have the father continue as Mayor.

I’m glad Brian has got to know the John Banks, that I and others know.

Edwards praises Garner

July 13th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

No that is not a typo. From Brian’s latest blog:

Garner is extremely good ‘to camera’. He looks comfortable and relaxed and conveys a natural authority. He ‘comes through the lens’. These are rare enough qualities among television presenters and both TV1 and TV3 currently have newsreaders less professional  in their delivery than Garner.

*That when he is not trying to make his mark as the Stephen Sackur of Godzone, or trawling for headlines for the network news, he is a very good interviewer indeed. In his lengthy interview with Anne Tolley, he adopted a friendly but persistent approach which probably revealed more about the Education Minister and her policy on National Standards than the aggressive haranguing she is more often subjected to.

I regularly observe in these posts that the heckling style of interview almost invariably produces more heat than light, frequently degenerating into little more than a ‘did/didn’t’ exchange. By the end of Garner’s interview I had changed my opinion both of the Minister and of the value of National Standards. And that (Trust me!) is remarkable.

High praise indeed.

At the moment The Nation is being taken to the cleaners by TV One’s Q & A.  Paul Holmes’ strong and often entertaining performance as host/interviewer on the TVNZ programme against the lacklustre Steven Parker on Three  will certainly have been a factor. The Nation would be wise to hold on to Garner, perhaps even to give him his head a little [God, am I really writing this?] if they want to make inroads into Q & A’s audience.

Almost a love fest.

Oh, and before you ask, I have not altered my view of Mr Garner’s previous conduct. But credit must be given where credit is due.

One of the reasons why I always read the Edwards and Callaghan blog.