Hard News by Russell Brown

Hitching Sinners

I appear to have been married by Don Brash! A letter from Dr Brash arrived this week addressed to "Russell and Fiona Brown". As far as I know there is no database in which we are listed by anything other than the surnames we have used all our lives, so it's a bit of a mystery. Perhaps marriage for the likes of us sinners will be made compulsory as part of our lurch back to the 1950s.

UPDATE: It's a plague! I have already had a number of emails from readers who have been unwittingly married by the National Party, or had their wives' maiden names changed to their own. Someone called Dave reports that he has even been married to his flatmate! Does anybody have any idea what's going on here?

Certainly, some of the sweaty little Tory boys who heckled Helen Clark at Canterbury University seemed determinedly unreconstructed. Although given all National's whingeing about personal attacks, the signs they waved around - 'Y R U So Ugly?", "Nice teeth" and "Speed kills and so do your looks Helen" - rather had the effect of grotesque hypocrisy. Apparently, however, it's what Jesus would have done.

Don Brash had his troubles on the campaign trail yesterday too - although the Wananga staff made their protest with a style and warmth that eluded the right-wing students. I was trying to think of a more polite word for Brash's actions yesterday, but I couldn't go past "gutless".

Brash's handlers had planned to have him reading his lines outside the wananga - quite cynical in itself - but to his surprise, he was invited in for a powhiri and a feed. Inside the wananga, he applauded the efforts of staff and told them and students that the wananga faced a long and successful future under National, which would help it continue to deliver high-quality courses. Then he went outside and read a prepared statement dumping on them. He woodenly enunciated all the buzzwords someone else had written for him - "racial separatism", "political correctness", etc - and described the wananga as an "embarrassment".

There is a relevant Maori proverb here (alright, it's the only one I can quote): "Kanohi ki te kanohi." It literally means "face to face" and it implies that if there is business to be settled, people should meet face to face, look each other in the eye. Which is precisely what Brash lacked the gumption to do. I thought it was shabby.

Some follow-ups: I can confirm that the Sunday Star Times quashed a completed Fairfax poll last week that had National two points ahead of Labour but struggling to form a government and instead published a less robust one-night snap poll that had National seven points ahead. Also, that key editorial staff weren't told about it until after the fact.

Or maybe it's not just the Star Times: after all, its Fairfax stablemate, the Sunday News, carried the same, dodgy poll. Did the order come from on high? And exactly what the hell is going on?

Also: Mr Jonathan Pontell, the mysterious "Generation Jones" political consultant, who refused to tell Linda Clark or Campbell Live which party he was working for. After exhaustive enquiry, my learned conclusion is that he wasn't actually working for any party, just touting for business. This is not to say that Mr Pontell is just a fraud (his website is packed with details of his many media appearances), just that he is working for himself and has a tendency to claim he's working for people who say he damn well isn't. The Guardian ran a story in May noting a similar situation with respect to the Conservative Party.

Anyway, Keith has his final word today (I guess mine will be tomorrow) and Dr Jon Johansson makes a thoughtful guest contribution. If you're interested, my Wire show on 95bFM today will feature Gordon Dryden at 12.30 comparing the current campaign with those he's covered in the past (and we're talking since 1949!) and Paul Casserly at 1pm talking about The Unauthorised History of New Zealand. About 1.30, Jeremy Hall will have his interview with one of the creators of EPIC 2014. The live stream is here.