Hard News by Russell Brown

79

Laying Down the Law

The Herald leader column has issued its instructions this morning on the forming of coalitions, in an editorial headed Voters clear on coalition preferences. Look, it says, more than 90% of New Zealand First voters in its latest Digipoll survey want their party to go into coalition with National rather than Labour. That's about 13 of them from the 734 in the sample, then. And the three people each who said they'd vote for Act and United Future were unanimous in the same desire.

But the "greatest change" from December, says the editorial, comes amongst decided Maori Party voters: fully five of the 11 of them want their party to go into coalition with National. That might be a a sea-change in Maori politics. Or it might simply be a reflection of the vagaries of a poll that has had the Green Party polling 3.5%, 9.1% and 4.4% in the last three months.

Perhaps the preferences highlighted by the edtorial do indeed reflect the mood of the electorate: Labour certainly isn't winning many friends lately. But it seems wildly premature to start laying down the law on the basis of a single poll. Still more so to start muttering darkly about the alleged "cost to democracy" of MMP -- under which, remember, the party which has won the most votes has always formed the new government.

It has been correctly observed that the Prime Minister would do well to get over the Herald and get on with her job. It might further be observed that the Herald would do well to get over itself.

Every now and then someone floats a plan for the All Blacks to play in Disneyland or somewhere and I think sorry, I'm not feeling it. But I feel differently about the Hong Kong Bledisloe Cup match announced yesterday. It's the difference between an irrelevant venue where rugby will never really matter and one where there is a rugby tradition, of a sort, and a horde of expats who'll love it.

And not just the expats either: you see a few Hongkies at rugby matches here too. (I have never thought so hard about the national anthem as when three Chinese guys stood behind me at the All Blacks vs Manu Samoa test in 1993 and bawled the bloody thing with all their hearts. It probably helped that Ruby Turner was on the mic.)

The two national unions' coffers will, of course, be quite well filled too. This is important given that the deal that actually pays for rugby in this country -- SANZAR rugby rights -- is over from 2010, now that the SARU has sold its domestic tests and local competition to a local channel from that date. With both TVNZ and TV3 likely to be broadcasting in digital HD by 2010, it's anyone's guess how the rights will split up by then.

It's just a shame they didn't think of it sooner: the fixture adds a fourth match to the 2008 Bledisloe series, which is one too many. Still, it pretty much makes it impossible for Australia to win back the cup this season …

Staying with the rugby, I'm loving the ELVs. Doubtless, my view is influenced by the fact that my team is travelling particularly well, but the game seems to have been enhanced by the rule changes. The five metre rule at scrum time is good, but the best change is the shift from penalties to free kicks for most infringements at the tackled ball. Essentially, the rule change recognises that adjudication of such offences is irreducibly subjective, and lowers the stakes. The potential for games to be won on the strength of a dubious decision at the breakdown has been reduced, and that's a good thing.

If the above has put thoughts in your head, then you might be interested in the The Dropkicks Rugby Wiki. Curiously, it appears there is nothing else like it, and the lads would be tickled if you were to drop by and disgorge some data. Grant Robertson, I'm looking at you …

Also: a word for The Dropkicks' sponsor.

Rain Lamdin emailed me to ask whether I could shed any light onto his unexpected (ie: he didn't do it himself) subscription to Act mailing lists. Act's list policies have been a shambles in the past, but when I tried out their system this morning, it was definitely double opt-in -- you don't get subscribed until you click the link in the follow-up email. So it couldn't have been done as a prank. But it does suggest that there has been some trading in email addresses Anyone know anything about this?

And still with political mailing lists, I got slimed by Murray McCully on Friday:

Helen's Little Helpers at TVNZ

Stung by Prime Ministerial claims that her Government's minor poll setbacks are purely the result of a hostile right wing media, Helen's little helpers at TVNZ have clearly decided on a bold initiative to win her affections. Left wing blogger, Labour Party mouth-piece and Judith Tizard campaign activist Russell Brown has been announced as the host of the new media programme on TVNZ's new Channel 7.

In order to make his intentions clear from the start, Brown thoughtfully posed alongside Labour MPs under a "Join Labour" banner at a recent Hero function. Check it out here: http://www.herodebate.org.nz

Our Prime Minister will be pleased indeed that her lackeys at the state broadcaster are coming to the party in election year.

It's nice that Mr McCully has noticed that I join the fun at the Hero Debate. I've only been doing it for three years. The debate is produced by the Labour Party as part of the Hero Festival, and also benefits the Cartier Bereavement Trust, an excellent HIV-AIDS support organisation whose leader, Karen Ritchie, spoke movingly at the event. I'm not about to be intimidated by Mr McCully into not supporting something like that.

Most of the rest is just babble, but I am not a "Judith Tizard campaign activist". That would have been seriously stretching it 13 years ago when I once helped out with an electorate pamphlet, but now it's either very sloppy politicking or a malicious falsehood. If Mr McCully is to return to Cabinet later this year, I trust wiser heads will move to curb his more feral tendencies. Because frankly, trying to score points off the employment status of a freelance journalist is not a very good look for a servant of the people.

Ben Thomas of NBR was keen for me to note his view that having paid to hear Steven Gray and I be rude to each other (and both of us be rude to sitting MPs), he is apparently therefore a Judith Tizard financial backer. He also notes that he has bought National Party raffle tickets and once bought a Maryland state flag at a Labour Party fundraiser auction "because my favourite band always has that flag in the background on their album art". A likely story …

But let's not end that way. Let's have a MAJOR DAD-ROCK ALERT!!

To wit: the mysterious new Velvet Underground bootie, 'Live at the Gymnasium, NYC'.

It turned up via some guy selling copies on green vinyl on eBay, and the sound quality is so good people were speculating it was a very faithful tribute band. But apparently the version of 'Guess I'm Falling in Love' is the same one as on the 1995 box set, which verifies it.

The previously unreleased song, 'I'm Not a Young Man Any More', is pretty slight (Chris Knox disagrees with me on this) but 'Run Run Run' might be the best version ever. The VU geeks say it's the only 1967 live recording and the last one with Cale. And a 19-min 'Sister Ray' ...

Download here and lots of other places.

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