Dirty Politics in 2015
- Date published:
8:53 am, January 13th, 2015 - 81 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, broadcasting, capitalism, class war, Deep stuff, Dirty Politics, john key, journalism, labour, Media, national, newspapers, radio, same old national -
There was a fascinating interview on Radio New Zealand yesterday where Noelle McCarthy interviewed Political Scientists Bronwyn Hayward and Mark Boyd. Bronwyn is the head of the Department of Politics at Canterbury University and Mark is a Doctoral candidate for a PhD at Auckland University. The audio is here. It is well worth a listen.
What was really impressive was the quality of the interview. Instead of the typical type of political panel discussion where the loudest dominate and the best slogan wins we had the pleasure of listening to two people who clearly knew what they were talking about and were prepared to engage in an analytical discussion of the subject at hand. If only more political discussions were like this. And if only experts of their calibre were used to talk about the left wing parties as opposed to the usual suspects.
They discussed dirty politics, the election result and the current state of the political parties. The following is a simplified list of what they said but as I said have a listen yourself.
Points made included these:
- Turnout for the 2014 election for young people improved by about 10% and this was a good result especially considering the sort of election campaign (dirty) that it was.
- Hayward was hopeful that respect and interest in politics is improving and pointed to world events last year as evidence of this. Young people are increasingly engaged in politics per se.
- The problem is with engagement with political parties and voting. Issues such as inequality affect people at a deep level but they tend to be more likely to vote if they have a stake in the future. People in the lower socioeconomic groups are less likely to vote because they see less reason to do so.
- New Zealand’s vote last election was historically low and about average for countries in the OECD.
- The media’s role in New Zealand is very important. Our media is dominated by the same voices spread across different media and we tend to get the same narrative. There is a very small group of people saying the same thing.
- This needs to change. A large reason for this is that the media is predominantly owned by commercial interests, and apart from Radio New Zealand and Maori Television we do not have public service media. Because the media is so heavily commercialised it needs to attract an audience and the best way to do this is by covering conflict and scandal.
- Dirty politics and the circus surrounding Kim Dotcom were an absolute gift to the media. They focussed on the scandals, the coverage was much more negative and much more personal than normal and we missed having the debates about policy.
- Rorting of the system is a major problem. In Epsom 23,000 party voted National and only 1,000 voted ACT. In Ohariu only 200 people voted for United Future. If we want to restore faith in the system we have to sort this problem out.
- New Zealand’s politics is small and personal and with PR each vote counts. The system is simple which can be bad because power is heavily concentrated in the executive without any real checks and balances.
- The power of large companies and their ability to lobby direct are huge. Dirty politics was all about cronyism and power of the lobby groups.
- The role of the media is to scrutinise this and the difficulty with so much of the media being commercially owned is that there is a dampening effect on the media fulfilling its proper role to scrutinise.
- It was a shame that Dirty Politics came out during the campaign. Hayward thought the disclosures did bother the electorate. People became very uncomfortable about John Key and could not understand why he was associating with Cameron Slater. They were concerned about Oravidia. The moment of truth hurt the left though and people stopped thinking critically. They did not like big money being used in this way and reverted to type. People were concerned about childhood poverty and corporate power but the moment of truth caused them to go back to their traditional corners and vote for what they knew.
- What people are now interested in are questions of where are we going as a country? What are our values? How are we building our nation and who for, and how will we survive as a small diversifying country? These issues were not discussed during the campaign because of the dominance of dirty politics. During the campaign any policy debates were presented negatively. We were still primarily concerned with hip pocket issues rather than the bigger issues of personal freedom or nation building or our place in the world. And with the economy appearing to be fine people preferred not to change.
- Changing the flag is a branding exercise for helping businesses internationally. This is not a proper reason for changing our flag. The issues that will define the coming period are dissension envy hate and corruption. The values that matter to us as a nation need to be agreed on before we can decide on a flag.
- Politics has to get back to things that matter. Andrew Little’s “cut the crap” is potentially the start of a shift back to a discussion on the things that really matter.
- Andrew Little’s position as Labour leader is secure, he has made a good start and he will be a real challenge to John Key.
- Labour was hurt by having three leaders in three years. The vote for Labour, Greens and Mana were all down in the election and National had a dream run in 2014.
- The TPPA is not well understood and there are concerns. Kiwis need to know more about it before it is signed. This ties into the need for the media to provide in-depth reporting on the issue. And there needs to be transparency and we need to know what we as a nation are signing away and what we are gaining.
- Academics need to stand up and help with this process. A lot of academics are working on projects that are tied to business and Government funding and feel reluctant to speak out because of this.
- As for social media Instagram is starting to take over from twitter for young voters. Twitter encourages a fast and furious debate which is not helpful for the development of ideas. It is more for the chatteratii. Facebook is not helpful because of the corporate ability to affect feeds. We are not dealing with a neutral platform, we are dealing with a corporate controlled medium.
The discussion presented the best critical analysis of New Zealand politics that I have heard in a while. Well done Radio New Zealand, just what I expect from a public service media outlet.
And from the sublime to the ridiculous I paid a visit to Whaleoil. Slater is running a series of posts “Who is Andrew Little”. Obviously he believes that he being the one man wrecking ball that he is can destroy Little with the power of his blogging. The funny thing is that he used a recent Standard post to provide the material in this donotlink post and linked to a youtube video put up by yours truly.
I expect that Slater will continue doing what he does but it will be interesting to see what strategy National adopts this year both in relation to Slater and in relation to the smearing and attacking of opponents. Who will they use and how will they do it? Meanwhile there needs to be a deep conversation on the current role of our media in serving our political system and what can be done to improve it.