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It isn’t a game

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, September 17th, 2009 - 25 comments
Categories: Environment, Media, scoundrels - Tags:

People who treat politics as a game annoy me. People who see it all in terms of power and cliques and scoring points and winning at all costs annoy me a lot. These people have lost the plot. Politics is not a game. Politics matters. It matters to society, the lives of individuals, and the environment. Politics is about the kind of world we live in.

Too many media commentators have lost the plot. Here’s a prime example:

Astute politics on emissions scheme
Howls of outrage have greeted the news that the Nats have done a deal with the Maori Party on the Emissions Trading Scheme, effectively leaving Labour at the altar. Labour was hopeful of signing its own agreement with the Government on changes to the ETS, but the Maori Party had a somewhat remarkable change of heart within two weeks, and went from opposing the legislation to supporting it.

Now before we look at the detail of what’s proposed, let’s deal with the politics. On the one hand, a broad-based deal that involved support from the major opposition party would have … established a new political consensus on climate change which would probably have been good for the country. On the other, the last thing Prime Minister John Key wanted to do was give Goff any credit for the changed scheme, or allow him to share the limelight – as he himself did when he brokered the accord on the child discipline bill.

It isn’t the best scheme for the environment, although it’s better than nothing. But politically, it’s quite astute.

Consider the messages here. The deal which has been done isn’t the best one for the country. It isn’t the best one for the environment. But it is “politically astute”. Why? Because it rules out the possibility of giving any “credit” to the opposition. In short, screw the country, screw the environment, just as long as no one takes any of John Key’s limelight.

What a crock. The author of that piece has completely lost the plot. To him politics has become a game, the only point of which is to win the game. He has forgotten what politics is for, he has forgotten the real world outside. In cheering on his team in their narrow and short term tactics he is debasing the political process and doing his country no favours. And there are far too many commentators just like him.

25 comments on “It isn’t a game ”

  1. Lew 1

    I would say it isn’t just a game. There are game-like aspects to it, and it’s valid (indeed, important) to understand and comment on those, because they have real impacts.

    It’s a false dichotomy to oppose ‘the game’ with ‘real politics’. They’re both part of what politics is — inextricably linked and each incomplete without the other.


    • Maynard J 1.1

      “They’re both part of what politics is — inextricably linked and each incomplete without the other. ”

      Part of the unfortunate reality huh?

      Pity that the game seems to be more important and tangible these days – it is after all the cynical part that turns off and keeps away those who are not interested in politics. That is not to say that people who are into politics like it either…

      • Lew 1.1.1

        MJ, yeah. I do reckon it is an apathy driver, the sort I blogged about recently.


        • Maynard J

          It must be Socialist Participatory time!! I will take a peek at your blog, cheers.

          I reckon you might have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it – I sort of do. I enjoy it at times, but other times I loathe it. I also tend to think that support for the game is more partisan than support for policy for those with a greater interest.

          • Lew

            MJ, I do. It’s both work and play for me. Hard to entirely love or hate something under such circumstances.


  2. ben 2

    People who see it all in terms of power and cliques and scoring points and winning at all costs annoy me a lot.

    R0b that is Helen Clark in a nutshell. Where were you one year ago?

    • felix 2.1

      Yawn. You ever going to write anything worth reading, troll?

    • George D 2.2

      You’re right. After a few years, that’s most politicians. And those with the most access to power, and thus usually the most insulated from the realities of life are among the worst.

      I don’t think Helen Clark was any worse than most of her colleagues in her and other parties, but she certainly manipulated power in clever ways.

  3. It isn’t the best scheme for the environment, although it’s better than nothing.

    I strongly disagree with this statement. I think it is worse than nothing. It presents the appearance that a functioning ETS will be in place, when in reality a non-functioning ETS will be in place. And that’s just a “scam and trade”.

    • Lew 3.1

      Given the end of the beast from which the emissions emit, shouldn’t that eb ‘crap and trade’?


      • lprent 3.1.1

        Ah no. Cows and other such beasts usually belch methane. Right on type-casting, the dumb-arse NACT’s picked the wrong end of the beast when they coined the phase “fart tax”

        • Lew

          Wouldn’t it be glorious irony to have them make that sort of argument in defence of their scheme?

          But, now I’m just playing the game …


  4. As always r0b, I’ll take a charitable view of your post and suggest perhaps that it is influenced more from a view in opposition that what I would have expected you to write say 18 months ago.

    Where I take issue with your post is that while I agree with your lofty principles of what politics *should* be about, you have to see it in the context of MMP.

    By its very nature, MMP encourages this type of horse trading. I don’t want to digress into a “they did it too” response – suffice to say it is the price we pay for MMP.

    You seem to imply things would be a lot better if the two main parties agreed more. Indeed there is significant overlap as those on the left AND right have both pointed out. That’s an area where petty politics and policies does lead to going round in circles (to quote the Prime Movers!) and even backwards.

    • r0b 4.1

      As always r0b, I’ll take a charitable view of your post

      Jolly decent of you.

      Where I take issue with your post is that while I agree with your lofty principles of what politics *should* be about, you have to see it in the context of MMP.

      MMP is great, and yes of course it means wheeling and dealing and looking for support – also great. But that process (the game) is just a means to an end (achieving good things in the real world). Politics matters because of the ends, not the means. And I repeat that those who have become hung up in the game/means to the point where they celebrate poor real outcomes/ends — they’ve lost it. Politics — what matters about it and how it should be evaluated — is not a game.

      You seem to imply things would be a lot better if the two main parties agreed more.

      Yes I think it would be, but that’s not what the post was about.

    • burt 4.2


      I’m with Daveski here, 18 months ago you would have been telling us that because it was convenient for the govt to do this it was fine. But hey – you have changed your tune and lets hope it stays changed through the next change of govt. We will make a balanced commentator out of you yet.

      • r0b 4.2.1

        because it was convenient for the govt to do this it was fine

        If you can find any record of me suggesting that it was fine for the Labour government to take actions that I admitted damaged the economy and the environment then by all means post them here.

      • burt 4.2.2

        I take it back then – no chance of making you a balanced commentator – hell you can’t even admit that you may have been wrong in the past.

        • r0b

          Balanced doesn’t mean “agreeing with Burt”.

          • ak

            heh – true r0b, I doubt even a balanced meal would agree with old grumbleguts…

            Good post, as usual. Nail on head, and neatly encapsulates the sorry current state of political discourse and awareness.

            The smiling assassin and his motto of “whatever it takes” truly reflect the state of the “game” as defined and fed to the public by the media and its lazy hacks like the one you quote – (tellingly, and incredibly, himself voted “best political commentator”).

            Depth, research and thoughtful analysis now confined to the sports pages: the courage and sacrifice of those fighting for justice and succour for the underdog now derided to the “oddspot” or dismissed as gambits in the only “game” in town. The game of “me”: created and exclusively adjudicated upon by the me-dia monopoly.

            It’s the age of page-three-girl-politics: our forebears’ blood-wrought gains now pimped and traded for profit by the advertisers’ mercenaries. The bread and circuses era, rolling dice for scraps of the garment.
            Take a Nuku slash for a Foreshore credit? Trust us, our boys will take care of the mob. Okay, okay, we’ll throw in an aitch.

            Not long now though r0b: the bread’s running out, and the natives are getting increasingly restless. Even young burt’s looking a little queasy.

  5. Quoth the Raven 5

    Good post r0b like Eddie’s Condoms and Democracy. It is quite a contrast from the posts of Zet and Salmond recently that seem to revel in political gamesmanship. Their attitude disgusts me.

    • lprent 5.1

      Multi-author blog. Caters for a lot of different tastes. It always amazes me the people that like Zet’s posts..

      Hell There are even people that like mine..

  6. Zaphod Beeblebrox 6

    Can you guys get over talking about the past. Hardly a post goes by without some smart alec saying “The Clark Gov’t did…….” so there you’re just as bad as us!!!

    How about we worry about what is going to happen and talk about the best way to make life better for our kids, rather than playing the silly gotcha games that those of little thought and creativity seem obsessed with. Remember what has happened bears little relationship with what will happen- that past 18 months have certainly taught us that.

  7. sk 7

    Interesting to see Colin Espiner has put out a mea culpa (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/blogs/on-the-house/2874470/Second-thoughts-on-the-ETS).

    John Key’s undoing will be his habit of saying different things to different people, without meaning any of it. The press – like Pita Sharples – has been taken in by this for a while. But it is not sustainable . ..

    The best advice for Mr Key right now would be to curl up on his couch in Parnell this weekend with a biography of Kissenger. What did Kissenger in (apart from his policies) was his habit of continually saying things to different people .. . eg: the Watergate tapes. In the end D.C was a small enough place it caught up with him. How much smaller is NZ?

    That may be happening more quickly than expected with John Key. Will be interesting to see how Espiner and Sharples play it from here . ..

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