Cracker by Damian Christie


Policy State

I do think it’s a bit ridiculous our politicians are supposed to be so hamstrung, so toe-the-line, so blinkered from what everyone else in the world can see, that Phil Goff is not allowed to say “yes, we’re up against it, and maybe one day Helen might decide it’s time to stand down” without everyone checking their backs for knives.

Having said that, they are (hamstrung, blinkered and line-towing) so Phil Goff should’ve known full well how his comments would be interpreted by the ravenous pack of the Press Gallery.

I suspect he might not have made the comments in an interview on Morning Report, and it’s significant they came out instead on an interview on Alt TV. When I used to work at 95bFM, we would often get politicians making admissions they wouldn’t make anywhere else. There was a perception that no-one was listening, it was all below the radar, but as Don Brash proved when he made his Exclusive Brethren admissions on that station, and as Phil Goff has now found out, someone’s always listening. Even if they’re not, you can bet the interviewer is keen to make sure people find out…

One thing (and perhaps the only thing) I found quite charming about Don Brash was his inability to talk a good game. When asked if he thought his colleagues were plotting to overthrow him, he said words to the effect: “yes, I rather believe they would be”. He never unrealistically talked up his chances, or those of National, and of course, he was rolled as a result. As long as they weren’t pushing the sort of policies Brash was at the time (remember Orewa?), I’d vote for a leader for who showed even a modicum of that sort of honesty.

By comparison, the Prime Minister is a lot more guarded. She’s astute, she knows the rules. And you don’t lead a party –and a country– for nine years without putting up a few walls along the way. But I’m always impressed by her accessibility. There might have been a DPS guard watching from a distance, but at the airport the other day, Helen still took the time to inform me that she’d had no luck with the coffee machine I was about to try. You wouldn’t get that from Mugabe.

And guarded though she might be, I’m sure over the years even the Prime Minister has made a few comments on her weekly bFM appearance that she wouldn’t want quoted verbatim on TV that night. All politics aside, one thing I really admire about Helen Clark is the unprecedented access she’s given to media of all shapes and sizes. It’s hard to imagine any previous leader making time to speak to student radio each week – and not just one station, but a host of them, let alone all her other commitments. Nor can I imagine this happening in too many other countries around the world.

In order to keep up with the game, John Key has made the same commitments, appearing on most of the same stations. I hope he keeps this up when/if he becomes Prime Minister, and I trust he will. Again, all politics aside, I randomly bump into Key on a semi-regular basis when I’m out and about. He’s easy to talk to, friendly, and quite accommodating.

Of course I’m not so simple to vote on personality alone – I’ll leave that to Winston’s mob. And it’s around about this time I start to get frustrated with National not releasing enough policy. Okay, we’re going to get more of this, more of that, and more money back in our pockets, apparently. So excuse me for wanting a little detail. I understand it makes sense strategically to hold off as long as you can, to provide the detail and swing the voters at the last possible minute, making it harder for them to become un-swung.

But it just pisses me off.

And in the case of National, who have been proudly policy-free for a long time now (I remember interview after interview when English was leader, unable/unwilling to provide any detail), it worries me it might be because they don’t have any real policy yet, rather than just keeping it all a secret until the election.

So come on guys, throw us a (highly detailed, policy-etched) bone here. Keith Ng is getting restless, he’s got his FX82b scientific calculator at the ready, and his index finger is itching to start doin’ some sums. Policy sums. Let’s have it, please.

I have left this post link-free, because that's the way I wrote it, and it seems a bit artificial going through and putting them in afterwards. I mean, you guys know how to use Google, right? "Don Brash', "Orewa" etc?

But by all means, feel free to point to other people's interesting stuff in the discussion forum...

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