Gordon Campbell on dropping bait for election coverage

Getting yourself criticised by the educated elite is a well-worn path to electoral success in this country, dating all the way back to Rob Muldoon and the Citizens for Rowling campaign, which played right into his hands. Winston Peters’ Chinese “joke” was a similar attempt to bait the same elites, in the hope of drawing critical fire. Thereby, Peters could cozy up to the wide swathe of conservative voters who dislike being lectured about their racism and sexism, and who resent being mocked for being unable to explain the difference between a mochaccino and a cappuccino. Sure enough, Peters has since portrayed himself as the innocent victim of the PC brigade.

If Peters’ ‘victimize me’ gambit was obvious, it was a lot harder to see a winning political strategy in the claims by David Seymour, the Act Party’s candidate in Epsom, that Labour has been guilty of “dirty tricks” in his electorate. Especially when the “dirty tricks’ in question involved centre-left voters in Epsom being encouraged to vote tactically, for the National candidate. Ay, caramba. Need we be reminded, Seymour sole chance of getting to Parliament relies on him begging, literally begging, for National supporters to vote tactically for him. Let him without sin cast the first stone etc etc. Well, maybe there is a bigger village idiot vote in Epsom than pollsters have hitherto detected. Or maybe this was another example of the Act Party’s winsome sense of entitlement, whereby it feels quite OK about preaching the Randian gospel of self-reliance for everyone else, while seeking handouts for itself.

We seem to be in the phase of the election campaign where being talked about – regardless of the content – is better than being ignored. That’s understandable, given there’s not much going on in the way of comparative policy analysis. That campaign meeting the other night in the PM’s electorate, where the candidates were forbidden to talk about each other or about each other’s policy may have seemed utterly crazy – and having such rules was an outrageous piece of pandering to the Prime Minister – but it has fairly reflected the nature of the campaign coverage so far. Sure, policy is dutifully described when it gets released, but it then gets displaced immediately by the next juicy bit of election bait dropped in front of the microphones.

So, what could we be talking about? How about the fact that the economic recovery on which the government’s claims to re-election largely rest, has apparently peaked, and before it has lifted wages at all? Yes, unemployment has fallen – but all of the job growth has been in Christchurch, and has been associated almost entirely with the rebuild. In other words, we have a (faltering) recovery financed by an influx of insurance money from offshore and by (falling) commodity prices, none of which has created jobs outside Christchurch, and nothing of which has filtered through to the wage packets of ordinary voters around the country.

Hate to sound PC and all, but isn’t this state of affairs a bit more worrying than an ancient “joke” by an ageing politician hungry for headlines?

Sex Clark Five
In the late 1980s/early 1990s, there were a number of great bands – the Skeletons, the Sex Clark Five, the Vulgar Boatmen – that earned passionate little blocs of support, but never the wider acclaim they deserved. (I’d argue that Please Panic by the Vulgar Boatmen was the great lost album of the 1990s.)

The Sex Clark Five hailed from Huntsville, Alabama, and they did drug-addled satires of leftist rhetoric -_“Liberate Tibet! / Think of all the mountains we could get!” – in a variety of musical genres from folk to world music to noise pop. Their noisiest, most exhilarating album would have to be 1989’s Battle of the Sex Clark Five, none of which is on Youtube. This (un-named) track is though. It has the same energy as the breathless “Accelerator” from the BOSCF album, and the video is great.