Hard News by Russell Brown

53

A message from The Fabians

Dear Fabian Friend

Narratives from the 2014 Election: what do we learn?

A Fabians Reflection on Dirty Politics, Dotcom and Labour’s worst result.

With

Sue Bradford, Russell Brown and Kirk Serpes.

Thursday 16th October in the Owen Glen Building, Lecture Theatre 3 (basement level)

You are invited to attend a debrief of analysis and lessons for the 2014 election campaign, a campaign that had so much to offer on so many levels and continues to remain fascinating.

The panel for the session are:

Sue Bradford such a well know figure in the New Zealand political landscape and a recent speaker on the research she has done of the New Zealand Left. Sue has been keen on this debrief for some time. There is so much we need to think afresh.  

Russell Brown, with his Public Address site and the very significant Media Take programme on Maori TV, provided the best place to go throughout the campaign to make sense of it. He has used the word shellacking to describe one part of the election outcome!

Kirk Serpes, Founding member; Generation Zero. Initiated campaigns to inspire people to move up the ladder of engagement. Worked in digital media (Auckland Transport blog), led New Zealand delegations on climate change and worked for GetUp (US) and Oxfam. .

Look forward to seeing you there.

University of Auckland, Owen Glen Building, Lecture Theatre 3, (level 0) 6.30pm, Thursday 16th October 2014.

Please register here and please pass on this invitation to anyone else you think may be interested.

Join the Fabian Society or donate to its work

The Fabian Society depends on the voluntary contributions of its members and its speakers. If you would like to join the Society you can do so here. Please note that the site does not accept money or credit cards so you can either send a cheque to PO Box 6351, Marion Square, Wellington 6141 or by EFT to Kiwibank NZ Fabian Society 38-9010-0380941-00. Donations are also welcome and can be made by cheque or EFT transfer as stated.

Kind regards                Mike Smith                 Chairman.

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13

Friday Music: The swimmer reaches the shore

When TheAudience launched as an NZ On Air-backed hype site more than two years ago, perhaps the the first song on it to really stand out for me -- and for a lot of people -- was by an artist, new to me, who called herself Watercolours. The song was called 'Night Swimmer'. You couldn't buy or download it.

It's been a while. Long enough, in fact, for Chelsea Jade Metcalf to have stopped calling herself Watercolours and gone out as simply Chelsea Jade. And, today, finally, you can actually buy a re-recorded (with co-writer Justyn Pilbrow) 'Night Swimmer' in all its softly breathing beauty.

For convenience, it's there at the iTunes Store, but you may prefer to pick up the lossless version on Bandcamp. It does sound better:

There's a video too. It doesn't seem to be on YouTube yet, but you can see it on the i-D website.

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I'm all for the recent trend of gigs with generous lineups and early starts. Case in point: Doprah have a show tonight at Galatos in Auckland, before they head to Australia and the US.

But that's not all. They're joined by Grayson Gilmour, High Hoops, Odessa, Couchmaster and the Sonny and Cher of crazy rap duos, Heavy. Starts 8.30. Details and tickets here.

And there's another early show at Galatos -- Moana and the Tribe on Sunday, showcasing Moana's new Paddy Free-produced album Rima. I have four double passes for that show to give away. Click the email icon at the bottom of the post and come at me asap.

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Jeremy Toy is en eclectic artist. He went from the soul and funk of Opensouls to magnificent shoegaze with She's So Rad and then invented a disco alter-ego for that band. Now he has Leonard Charles, the name on a new EP of jazz-inflected, largely instrumental electronic tracks like this one.

You can download the individual tracks for free from the She's So Rad Soundcloud, or get the higher-quality version and give Jeremy a payment of your choice at Bandcamp (where you can also read the Leonard Charles backstory -- man makes improvisation electronica to help himself heal from a head injury, basically). This is cool.

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Some good reads ...

David Samuels' Justin Timberlake has a cold, a long and, frankly, quite brilliant consideration of the contemporary music business set around this year's Grammys.

And Colin Hogg's tale of Mountain Rock 1994, excerpted from his book The Awful Truth for Audioculture. A few friends of mine found their way to the same festival and their stories had the same fear-and-loathing vibe as Colin's. I'm somewhere between wishing I'd been there to witness it all all and feeling deep gratitude I was several hundred kilometres away.

And also on Audioculture, Peter McLennan looks at the early years of Pitch Black's Mike Hodgson, as The Projector Mix. Some very cool posters from the 1990s here.

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Buzz Moller is back! Not, this time, with Voom, but with Clap Clap Riot. Yet another great tune from the Buzzfactory and a free download:

They play Churchills in Christchurch tonight, as part of a tour which will include Buzz's new solo material and Clap Clap Riot swinging in as the backing band for a set from Voom's back catalogue.

I don't really get the R&B the cool kids all dig these days, but I do like it when the kids do their cover versions. Case in point: Eddie Johnston in his Lontalius guise and his lovely, slipping, sliding re-interpretation of Drake, which arrived as a download on Soundcloud this week:

I mentioned Valere a while back. She pops up this week with her first single off an EP set for release next month, the breezy 80s-style electro-pop of 'Dodging Bullets':

Fresh this morning from Auckland beatmaker S.F.T., this slinky instrumental:

That's from the new local compilation Bearded Beats Vol 2, which features Haz Beats, Tall Black Guy, Brendan Haru and more.

Ace Sydney DJ (now New York resident) Copycat has been breathing new life into funk and hip hop classics for several years -- and now he has an album of his own, Stealing from Thieves, nearing release. He posted this banger this week as a free taster:

And that'll do you. Post 'em if you got 'em.

UPDATE: I felt the strong and pressing need to add to this post the cover of this album by this awesomely-named male quartet ("male quartet" is not a euphemism -- I think). Hat-tip Dangerous Minds ...

 

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The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:

theaudience

189

The humanity

Election campaigns are exhausting for everyone concerned, and the strange one we've just emerged from more than most. Even for the losers, there's usually at least the simple relief of it all being over. Most of us out here can just mentally change the channel. But spare a thought for the journalists.

Like the politicians they cover, political reporters have itineraries. But they also have deadlines -- and in the modern media world, those deadlines fall closer together and must be met with fewer and fewer resources. One journalist I know, sick throughout the final week of the campaign, vomited in a stranger's garden on Sunday, out of stress and sheer exhaustion. The additional treat of being abused on social media must feel pretty special at such times.

So there was a grim irony yesterday in poor bloody gallery reporters having to spend more than seven hours, much of it slumped on the hard floors of the Parliament building, waiting outside the Labour caucus room for the battered MPs to emerge from their debrief. This great photograph posted to Facebook yeterday by One News' Katie Bradford (and used here with her permission) captures the vibe:

They didn't have to wait, of course. The world wouldn't end if an MP wasn't wrangled in the corridor, and in this case, little or nothing was actually got when the caucus did actually emerge. But the reporter who missed the moment would not be very popular with his or her boss.

After all this sympathy, I would like to observe what can be really wrong with political reporting. Journalists are not, with a few exceptions, biased in a partisan sense. But the collective culture (especially with male journalists) is quite often about the pursuit of the weakened. Duncan Garner inadvertently admitted as much in a talk about his years as political editor at the Wintec Press Club earlier this year. He told a story about hearing that a particular minister was on the skids and swinging into action, thrilled at the scent of blood in the water. It was no coincidence that John Key got the most onerous grillings of his leadership exactly when he was knocked off balance by Dirty Politics.

Yesterday's post-caucus press conference with David Cunliffe was brutal. The Labour leader, denied even a no-confidence vote by his MPs -- because they don't want him to lose one just yet, and thus trigger Labour's party primary process -- looked shattered. His voice wavered, there may have even been tears in his eyes. TV3's political editor Patrick Gower did a decent enough job of explaining the grim mechanics of Cunliffe's predicament in his report -- but Gower's conduct in the press conference made me uneasy.

He shouted at Cunliffe, a lame-duck leader with no good answers, for the answers he wanted. And then he barked: "Just say it -- stop being tricky!"

"Tricky". It's hard to over-emphasise quite how loaded that word is. "Tricky David Cunliffe" is an attack line conceived and cultivated by Cunliffe's National Party opponents over the entire time of his Labour leadership. There can barely be a National minister who hasn't deployed it: The first few Google results for the phrase turn up Todd McLay, Amy Adams, John Key and, naturally, Whaleoil. Its organised use had a lot to do with shaping the popular perception of Cunliffe. It would not have had meaning without Cunliffe's missteps, but it was a very successful political strategy.

For these reasons, it's a line that a journalist simply should not be using.

But there are other reasons too. Cunliffe has failed as party leader. But he has not committed a crime, breached ethics, lied or hidden something from the public. He does not owe the apology to the country that interviewers have demanded from him in the past two days. He is simply an easy, bleeding target. Perhaps a little humanity is in order.

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Last Night's Media Take looked at democratic events thrice over: in Scotland, Fiji and New Zealand. I particularly enjoyed the smart, purposeful commentary of AUT's Richard Pamatatau on the nature of the punditry in our campaign cover. You can watch it here.

465

Five further thoughts

1. Christ, what a shellacking. Click around Harkanwal Singh's Herald interactive. In electorate after electorate, polling place after polling place, National won at least a plurality of the votes. Even where voters collectively chose to return their Labour MPs to Parliament, they generally gave their party votes to National. Labour won the party vote in only five general electorates. I don't think it's viable for Cunliffe to stay on after this.

2. The Maori electorates are now effectively Labour's Heartland. Six of the seven electorates were won by Labour candidates. In every electorate, Labour won the party vote by a considerable margin. Those voters will expect, and deserve, proper recognition of that fact in whatever shape Labour reassembles itself. On the other hand, I don't see how Labour's rejection of the Maori Party was a major failure. Maori voters rejected the Maori Party too. See also: South Auckland.

3. The election was not primarily about policy. Although it will understandably be regarded as a mandate for National's policies, I don't think this has been an election about policy, but about who the voters have seen as fit to govern. Where discrete policies have been tested in polls, the public has often-as-not favoured Labour's over National's. They just didn't back Labour to enact them. I'm very concerned now over what happens in education, where I think the degree of the mess National has already made (National Standards is objectively a shambles) is not widely appreciated.

4. The majority of the public does not deserve scorn, and neither does the grieving minority. A bunch of my Facebook friends are beside themselves, and that doesn't mean they're out-of-touch wankers. They're entitled to be disappointed that their priorities are not shared. The ones who are already committing to take their own action over child poverty are acting admirably.

5. As David Cunliffe has implied, perhaps the future is indeed the campaign coalition with the Greens that he rejected back in April. I agreed with that choice at the time and now I wonder if I was wrong. The public wanted to see what an alternative government might look like. They should be given the opportunity next time.

651

The sole party of government

It turned out to be a great night for the National Party and its leader. For everyone else, the 2014 election result ran from disappointment to disaster.

Even New Zealand First, which doubled the support it was showing in polls only a few months ago, will spend the next three years bereft of any meaningful influence. Internet Mana turned out to be a terribly failed experiment, Act and United Future exist as parliamentary parties solely through the dispensation of National, the Conservative Party was stranded, the Maori Party was deserted by its core support and the Greens' problem turning polling growth into actual votes seems worse than ever.

And, above all, the Labour Party failed to convince enough voters that it could be the core of a viable alternative government. That, I think, is the problem beyond any of the unusual and controversial elements of this campaign. For a majority of voters, only one party seemed a prudent choice as the leader of a government. They did not welcome or trust the change Labour was offering.

A swing towards National in Christchurch, where the government has failed and people know it, says that. The "swing" towards National in Mt Roskill was actually a matter of Labour's voters staying home. The "missing million" voters stayed MIA: almost the same number of registered voters gave their vote to National as failed to vote at all.

It's not as if the result is a huge surprise. National's vote was not greatly higher than where the poll-of-polls left it and Labour's was virtually bang-on. The last Herald DigiPoll poll almost called it. I thought it was likely that National would form the next government, but expected it would need New Zealand First for a Parliamentary majority.

As it turns out, National needs only Peter Dunne and David Seymour (although it will embrace Te Uururoa Flavell), and I think that accountability gap is a problem. I have been fairly confident that the tangle of Dirty Politics and the more recent, alarming evidence that the official information process is being corrupted would have to be examined in public over the next year. Now, I'm not so sure.

Similarly, there will be few checks on National in areas where its policy is lacking, and even, the polls have said, out of step with the wishes of a sizeable chunk of its own voters. Think education, housing and foreign investment.

The establishment of National as the sole party of government also means that the path to Parliament has become more and more a matter of patronage within the party. The fact that Mark Mitchell was heading for the country's bigest electorate majority in Rodney last night will not be lost on anyone who has read Dirty Politics and knows how he won what has become the real contest in Rodney and a couple of dozen electorates like it -- the contest for the National Party nomination.

There will inevitably, be an unedifying tussle within Labour and much contemplation elsewhere and none of that will have much impact on the actual practice of goverment. For that, we will be relying on National to be the prudent, mainstream party of government it projected in its campaigning. To, in short, be decent.