Norman attacking the media

I don’t think Russel Norman did himself any favours yesterday for his shrill attacks on the Dominion Post and Trans-Tasman. I’ll cover what happened in detail, but let me start by saying that of course the Trans-Tasman MP ratings are subjective. They are the opinions of the three authors. A list from another three people would have different rankings. However Trans-Tasman are the only organisation that actually does a numerical rating for each MP, and has been doing so for over a decade. Hence it is news-worthy, and it is no surprise that media cover their publication.

So we have a party leader publicly berating a journalist because the journalist wrote a story on the ratings. Really? Isn’t this what a certain other party leader used to do in the 1970s? As for the smearing of Trans-Tasman as “far right” (a term used in Europe to describe neo-nazis), that’s idiotic. Certainly it is a business publication and like the NBR has an editorial tone that is pro-business. But it is no more “far right” than Radio NZ is “far left”. It is not a bad thing to have a diversity of views in the media – except for Russel who wants to silence those he disagrees with. I’ve been covering the Trans-Tasman ratings for almost a decade, and in my experience they tend to score Ministers higher than other MPs – regardless of who is in Government. Maybe that is because they see the job as harder. Helen Clark was the top rated MP when she was PM. In 2012 Russel Norman himself was rated the second top MP. Now I actually agree with Russel that some (not all) of his MPs got too low a rating this year. Catherine Delahunty deserved more than 2/10 and Julie-Anne Genter more than 4.5/10. There are lots of ratings different people will have different views on. You would expect a party leader to say he disagrees with the ratings for his MPs. But to smear the newsletter as “far right” and berate a Fairfax journalist for daring to do a story on it is a form of bullying. But he carried on:

Now he is hysterically claiming the newsletter “hates” his MP” because she is so effective, and is instructing the jouranlist to print his words. Rutherford notes:

To moan on social media about how we should print what a co-leader thinks about one of his lower ranked MPs. Nice try.

But it doesn’t end there. Norman retweets someone saying how much they “despise” Trans-Tasman and then calls Trans-Tasman sexist:

It is a panel of three. As for being biased against women, Helen Clark often topped their ratings. Annette King was the highest ranked Labour MP this year. It is true that male MPs get a higher average rating, but the senior ranks of both major parties tend to have more men there than women, so it may just reflect that.

Yes some female Green MPs have got rankings which I think are unfairly low. But every year there are ratings where I disagree with Trans-Tasman. For several years Coromandel MP Scott Simpson got a 2/10 which was bizarrely low. I note this year they have doubled that. One year a (female) Minister got a rating which was probably around double what most people would have given her. Just because you disagree with their ratings doesn’t mean they are biased.

But this isn’t so much about the rankings, but Norman’s behaviour. In the last two weeks we’ve had:

  • Norman lambasting a journalist for writing a story he didn’t like and demanding he print his views on his own MPs
  • Norman smearing a media newsletter as “far right”
  • Norman barging past the PM doing a media stand up and shrieking “Resign” at him
  • Norman using the 2014 post election review conference to effectively blame the SIS for the left losing the 2011 election

I should’t give free advice, but I think such behaviour is a big turn off. It’s an ugly look. He could have made a case for the Trans-Tasman ratings being too harsh on some of his MPs, without doing it as an attack on the media.

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