It’s a bit late, but this post is in response partly to John Armstrong’s bouquet piece at the end of 2010 headlined “Forget the economy, watch the lemmings”, and partly to Fran O’Sullivan’s latest piece in yesterday’s Herald about Hone Harawira.
Fran O’Sullivan was my political journalist of 2010, for one simple reason. She’s a pro, and she’d never forget the economy. I don’t agree with a lot of her analysis or all her answers, but at least she gets the problem. The New Zealand economy has big problems, and the Government’s got no answers.
Armstrong showed he too knew the problem:
The scandals involving these minor players certainly fed the media’s increasing appetite for personality-based politics at the expense of more serious discussion about policy.
It meant the real story of 2010 – an under-performing economy and what on earth to do about it – was obscured by politics akin to soap-opera story-lines.
But then he proceeded to run the soap-opera lines; “foot-in-mouth award” and “stunned mullet award” and so on.
Fran’s challenge is as much as to her colleagues and her bosses as it is about Hone Harawira.
But there has also been a sea change, which I put down to the journalistic tendency to quickly put any backbench MP on to the “must be dumped from caucus’ slipway” when they call their own party to account.
Instead of greasing the ramp, why don’t journalists simply challenge the leadership to respond to the valid points Harawira has made?
The Herald’s editorial yesterday ran the corporatist line – Hone doesn’t fit the Parliamentary club so should go. Fran, by contrast, spoke truth to her own power. That takes courage.
The under-performing economy and what to do about it will be the story of 2011 as well as 2010. Bill Clinton’s famous line summed it up “It’s the economy, stupid”. John Armstrong certainly got that right.
David Lange famously characterised gallery journalists as “reef fish”. While not as self-destructive, reef fish have the same follow-the-leader characteristic as lemmings. Instead of “greasing the ramp”, which they are already doing for everybody but the National party, it would be good if Armstrong and the gallery challenged the leadership – all of them – to tell us what they will do to improve the economy’s performance.