Hard News by Russell Brown


The odds, and the simply odd

I've been telling anyone who asks that National is 75-25 odds on to form a government. I think it's evident that those odds shifted Labour's way on Friday: it's just not clear how much.

And not just because of the polls per se: the 3News report on the poll results was more damning than the numbers themselves, which must be weighed against the thumping lead that messrs Colmar and Brunton gave National two nights later.

It was the look. Key was interviewed sitting down and, as is sometimes case when he's nervous, his diction started to go off the rails ("the issues that matters to New Zealanders"). He looked a bit spooked. Clark, by contrast, was standing, smiling and enunciating every word like she meant it.

It was a similar story in Friday's opening addresses on TV. Clark spoke in a faux interview format, with frequent cuts from a left to right angle (an irritating but quite effective engagement device) and picked up the intensity as she went along, all the while underlining the seriousness of the times we face. The unveiling of the "This One's About Trust" slogan at the end had some real impact, and it's displaying as paid advertising prominently on the Herald website this morning.

National's corporate video meandered and seemed thematically dated, and, for some reason, had Key addressing us over his shoulder from the front passenger seat of a chauffeured car. I heard a commentator on Morning report today say that key came across as "friendlier". If that was the intent, it was, I think, a mistaken one. People don't want "friendly" right now: they want executive authority.

This contrast appears to have extended to the party campaign launches; according, at any rate, to John Armstrong, who notes in his column today that Key's speech "said nothing new on economic policy. In fact, it said nothing new about anything," while a couple of hours later:

Helen Clark trumped Key by delivering the recovery package he had been demanding, including contingency plans to save jobs and the promise of a mini-budget in December.

The upshot was that Labour looked like it was governing; National looked complacent and flat-footed.

Labour is feverishly developing detailed plans in case the economy turns turtle; National has a five-point plan, which apart from its less-than-well-received tax policy, is in desperate need of being fleshed out in far more detail.

Key was right to trust his instincts last week. His mistake was to assume Labour was doing nothing. That mistake may prove costly.

Labour has the obvious advantage of being in government, and thus actually able to take action. But I wonder if there's a theme here, taking in National's muddled campaign advertising and its listless style. Are there a few people in that organisation who'd spent so long reading thundering polls that they'd already started burnishing their CVs?


Meanwhile, it would seem that the kids-for-the-future theme of the Greens 08 campaign isn't entirely unprecedented. National's much-missed ad-man John Ansell is claiming credit, but spot the similarities with the campaign broadcast from the Irish Green Party.

The New Zealand Greens 08 video material is here.

Friendliest political broadcast of the weekend? The Maori-Party's fronted by Pita Sharples, with Tariana Turia as everyone's auntie. All it lacked was a nice pot of tea and some biscuits.


The other thing that happened on Friday was, of course, the SFO clearing Winston Peters -- on the charges it was competent to bring, at least -- which seems to have provoked considerable trauma for Matthew Hooton. You'll probably have read that Hooton's clash with Peters on Eye to Eye was interrupted by the lawyers, and had to be re-recorded, and that Hooton called Peters a "fucking cunt", but I'm told that's not the half of it. Hooton was agitated in the green room even before Peters arrived, and lit into him the moment he did. Everyone present was astonished by his behaviour. He seems proud of it.

The three parts of the programme that went to air are here.


And, finally, the craziness on the McCain-Palin campaign trail isn't even funny any more.

As Josh Marshall reports, the woman reprimanded by McCain for telling him that "Obama is an Arab" (some people still think she said "terrorist" but the mic cut out) is a campaign volunteer. She was interviewed afterwards, and the result was chilling. The transcript makes clear that although the kind of explicitly racist, paranoid material she's working off isn't coming from the campaign itself, campaign offices are being used as a distribution point for it.

PS: This week's Media7 looks at crime in the media and the way it is invoked in politics. The panel lineup is: Catriona McLennan (sometime Herald columnist and Nine to Noon commentator, and a defence lawyer in the Manukau District Court), Truth editor Jock Anderson and Mediawatch contributor Jeremy Rose, who has studied differences in crime reporting between New Zealand and foreign media. Click "reply" and let me know if you'd like to join us at The Classic early tomorrow evening for the recording.

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