I get sick of hearing our illustrious fourth estate refer to some piece of politicking as ‘good politics’. Who decides what’s ‘good politics’? The commentators, of course. And they define good politics as maneuvering to ones advantage, rather than getting good policies in place.
Take the ETS issue. If they wanted, the commentators could say ‘National has made a huge political mistake in weakening the already inadequate response to this most serious of issues’. Instead, it’s ‘National’s so clever for buying the Maori Party’s support’. They praise good politicking over good policy. No wonder politicians react to this and often put political maneuvering ahead of good policy results.
Imagine if, instead of criticising or praising National for the quality of its ‘politics’ on climate change they criticised or praised it on the quality of it’s policy. There’s no reason why they can’t; if it’s not a breach of the fiction of objectivity to judge a party’s political manoeuvring, it must also be OK to offer a judgement on the substance of its policy.
Take hack supremo John Armstrong:
“National could not care one jot about the cries of anguish from climate change experts and commentators. It is being unashamedly pragmatic”
John, call me crazy, but isn’t contributing our bit to save the climate and our economy the pragmatic thing to do?
What an indictment on political commentary in this country that, as every day the scientific evidence demands we do more to tackle climate change, our commentariat is befouled with the likes of Armstrong who praise a government for doing less.
Even Colin Espiner’s retraction of his original praise for National’s “astute politics” is because he now thinks it’s bad politics, not because he is worried it’s an inadequate response to the issue. He didn’t have “second thoughts on the ETS”, he may not even have had first thoughts on it. No, he had second thoughts on the politics of the ETS.
On this occasion, Vernon Small has been an honourable exception. In both Dompost and Independent articles he has ignored the politicking and instead written ‘hey, this policy sucks – it doesn’t do nearly enough to tackle the most important crisis we face by making the polluters pay’.
What a tragedy that a political commentator commenting in the substance of a political issue stands out as exceptional.