Hard News by Russell Brown


Chaos in Kingsland

"Did TVNZ just give money to a political candidate"? asked Keith Ng. And indeed, that was the case. Melissa Lee won part of a quiz and Wallace Chapman, the host of Back Benches, handed her a $60 prize. No one seemed too bothered. It was that sort of evening.

We'd wrapped our show, had a quick dinner and gone up to Kingsland for the Back Benches Mt Albert special at the Neighbourhood bar. Turned out, dinner wasn't quick enough and there was a queue outside the place. No one, said the security guys, was going in unless someone came out. And at 9pm, no one was coming out.

Simon Pound and I had with us Jackson James Wood, editor of Salient -- and an actual candidate in the Mt Albert by-election. He wasn't getting in either.

"It's an affront to democracy," I observed to the bar owner, who turned up at the gate, but he was unmoved.

Eventually, in one of the great acts of political sacrifice of our times, one of Jackson's supporters came out so the candidate could enter.

That left Simon and I. Damian Christie, Mark Sainsbury and a series of TVNZ managers came to the gate to try and get us in. We explained that we were required as part of our actual jobs to be there. People we didn't even know took up our cause with the staff. I had to laugh. Eventually, Paul Fairless, our Client Liaison Manager charmed us in.

Inside was a lot of fun: everyone who was anyone and all that. There were MPs (Jonathan Coleman, David Parker and Roger Douglas among them), broadcasters (Sainbury, Garner, Espiner), political handlers galore, piles of bloggers and a lot of fairly excitable members of the public. Steve Barnes of this very parish got vox-popped by Damian.

The respective party jeer squads packed the main room, but there were giant TVs set around the place (rain would have been a disaster) and I eventually found a spot in front of a screen with a sideways view of the panel itself.

A friend who watched it reckoned that it was too noisy to hear anything, but I grasped most of it. On the question of what personal qualities would make the respective candidates the right MP for Mt Albert, David Shearer did much better than I thought he would (finally, he trades on the worked-in-a-war-zone angle), Russel Norman (Oddly, given his generally good political ear) spouted some stuff that had little to do with the electorate, John Boscawen lapsed into angry robot mode and Lee's reply was a surreal string of random phrases.

But they all had their moments. Boscawen and Norman's Supercity set-to was funny (if referendums are so great, why not have one for the Supercity?), Judy Turner, not for the first time, seemed to have a good grasp of the issues (I'd far rather have her in Parliament than Peter Dunne, frankly), and Melissa Lee gradually settled for showing that she had a sense of humour and was not actually a bitch from Hell. (Although why anyone thought she'd be a good electorate candidate is a mystery.)

It was chaos at times, but energetic chaos, and it seemed a fitting end to this particular electorate campaign. Also, the Auckland crowd was way groovier than the Wellington one.

Afterwards, Dakta Green from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party walked through the crowd handing out free joints. There's nothing like old-fashioned campaigning, is there?

I'll say it again, Auckland's on a bit of a roll.


Our show was, as you might expect, a quieter affair, but I think we brought out some very interesting stuff on the Bain case -- and in particular on the issue of the two pieces of suppressed evidence. Most of the major media organisations are contesting the suppression and the memoradum that came down yesterday from the court put the onus on the Bain defence team to argue why the evidence should not be published now that the trial is over. It seems likely that the orders could be lifted in the coming week. The impact of that will be, thought our panellist, Martin van Beynen of The Press, "as big as the verdict".

So that's 9.10pm tonight, TVNZ7

And here is the internet catch-up of Backbenches.

And finally: ever wish that Gordon Campbell was editing a magazine? Well, within the constraints of time and money, that's what he's doing with Werewolf, a web magazine published every full moon. It's bloody good.

PS: For those of you coming to the Great Blend tonight, here are the details. I strongly advise you to arrive early and stay late. Now, must finish that quiz …

PPS: Best Trade Me notice evah. And from Waterview!

PPPS: A relevant Supreme Court judgement in Bain has just been released. There's more about this in the discussion for this post.

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