Brian Edwards Media

Archive for September, 2017

Going, Going, Nearly Gone!


OK, what we have now is a sale! You might call it a bargain basement sale. Or a reverse auction maybe where the price of the goods goes down with every bid. Let’s join the bidding.

‘Item 2017 on your programme, ladies and gentlemen, Running The Country. Can I get a starting bid of a zillion dollars? Gentleman with the blue tie. Thank you sir. Any retreat from a zillion dollars? Lady in the red dress. 500 million. Thank you madam. Any retreat from 500 million? Young man in the green jersey. A lifetime supply of mung beans. Thank you young man. Elderly gent with the dead cat. Five bucks. My goodness! Thank you sir. That’s going to be hard to beat. Dapper Gentleman smoking the cigarette. What’s that sir? Minus anything any of the others bid. And a partridge in a pear tree. But you’re willing to share Running The Country for the next 3 years with any of the previous bidders. Any further retreats? No? Final chance, ladies and gentlemen? Going, Going! Gone! That concludes the auction, ladies and gentlemen. If the gentleman smoking the cigarette will join me and the other bidders in a dimly lit back room, negotiations can begin.’


Labour’s New Tax Plan: A Helluva Lot to Ask

I’m a huge fan of Herald political commentator John Armstrong. His writing is superb, his analysis invariably astute and his objectivity beyond question. The proof of this is that he pleases and offends Right, Left and Centre in equal measure.

So I was surprised by his column this morning which is an unqualified assault on Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she will not release Labour’s tax policy until after the 2017 election.

This morning’s column headline left little doubt of what was to come:


And the subhead removed any doubt of what was to come:

“‘Let’s not do that’ becomes Labour’s motto as tax nips the party’s ankles.”

Armstrong begins:

“Like the sands through the hourglass – it has taken just four short weeks for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘campaign of our lives’ to become more akin to The Days of our Lives.

“Labour’s Wonder Woman has found herself cast in a long running soap opera – but not as a super hero.”

Read it here:

Well, in short, I think Armstrong is absolutely right. Given the relevance of taxation policy, directly or indirectly, to the lives of every man, woman and child in this country, it is simply outrageous to say, “Not telling! Not even a hint! You’ll just have to trust us till after the election. Long after!”

Well of course you could read their current policy. And that would be fine if the Leader of the Opposition could guarantee that it won’t change between now and the 2020 election. But she can’t/won’t do that either.

So here’s what this boils down to.

Jacinda wants you to make her Prime Minister of New Zealand this year. I’m assuming that she has some opinion in her head of our current tax system, whether it benefits or disadvantages most New Zealanders. For the answer to that question she refers us to Labour’s current tax policy which she says will not change without a mandate from New Zealanders at the next election in 2020. She’s saying, ‘Give me almost three years in office as Prime Minister before I even disclose my ideal tax regime. In the meantime here’s a taste.

Seems to me that’s a helluva lot to ask.


Semantics Perhaps, but Important

In a dodgy piece of journalism in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, entitled ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’, Jonathan Milne castigated Finance Minister Steven Joyce for his most recent defence of his claimed $11.7 billion ‘fiscal hole’ in Labour’s campaign promises.

Milne wrote: ‘Challenged to explain his discredited calculations, Joyce took the art of the cheap apology to a new low. “Well I’m sorry,” he said, “but… they’re accurate.”‘

‘And with that, New Zealand’s finance minister devalued the word “sorry” further than he or his predecessors have ever taken the New Zealand dollar.’

Now here’s the problem: when Joyce responds ‘Well I’m sorry… but they’re accurate,’ to the accusations about there being a fiscal hole in his calculations, he isn’t apologising for the calculations, he’s simply being polite. His apology is for disagreeing with the questioner or commentator.

We all do it:

‘Well I’m sorry, I don’t care what it cost, I really don’t like that hat.’

‘Well I’m sorry, you can argue till the cows come home, but I still think Edwards is an idiot.’

‘Well I’m sorry, if that’s art, I’m a Dutchman!’

In every case the ‘sorry’ indicates an apology for disagreeing with someone else’s position. It’s not a mea culpa.

Challenged to defend his calculations, Joyce’s ‘Well I’m sorry’ wasn’t an apology for those calculations, but a common way of prefacing disagreement with something said.

It scarcely deserved the headline: ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’.

Semantics perhaps, but important.


Terrible Advice for Bill English that may be Spot On


Here’s how you look at the moment, Bill:


It’s not working, Sunshine. This girl is having you for breakfast.

What to do? Well, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Man up!

And here’s your new motto, free, gratis and for nothing. (Practice by shouting it from your ninth floor Beehive window.)




It’s not original and it didn’t end too well for the guy who first used it. But he went too far. And Bill mate, it isn’t in your nature to go too far.

What have you got to lose? Being Leader of the Opposition is a shit job. Just ask anyone who’s been there.



Just a Crazy Thought

Here’s a crazy thought: let’s ban political journalists from delivering ‘who won/who lost’ judgements on election debates.

Why? Because their judgements are worth no more than yours or mine, but their professional status invites us to assume that they are and to be guided by those judgements.

This leads to what you might call ‘a pre-election vote count’.

Let’s say there are ten political journalists covering the election debates. On average six give the overall win to candidate A, four to candidate B. A bit like a boxing match, except that the judges announce their chosen winner before the fight starts.

Well, this may not affect the hardcore supporter of either major party, but the wavering or undecided voter may well be guided by by these ‘expert opinions’ delivered before the final bell.

It’s simple psychology really. We all want to be on the winning side. And if a majority of pundits are calling it for Party A… Well, you’re swimming against the tide, aren’t you, if you vote for any other party.

Doesn’t that amount to undue influence?

As I said: just a crazy thought.


Thoughts on the Newshub Debate

Jacinda Ardern  Bill English

I was standing in for Kim Hill on National Radio. On that morning’s guest list was the Leader of the Opposition Helen Clark. Her ‘preferred prime minister’ ratings at the time were dire. Towards the end of the interview I said to her, “You don’t look very happy.”

Not long afterwards I had a call from Helen’s office asking if I could come over for a chat. The possibility of Callingham & Edwards giving Helen some media advice was discussed. To my eternal shame my reply was that I was unsure whether she ‘could be fixed’.

My closest friend at the time was Michael Hirschfeld, then President of the Labour Party. We talked. Michael later brokered a one-off training session with Helen. We looked at tapes of several of her previous TV interviews. In most of them she was overly formal, spoke too loudly and barked.

We explained that the television interview is an intimate, close-up affair and suggested that she speak more quietly and in a more personal tone.

We had a second go.

We’ve trained a helluva lot of people. But Helen was/is the fastest learner by a country mile. She would have won the 1996 election were it not for Winston Peters.

I’m telling this story because I was reminded of those events as I watched last night’s debate between English and Ardern. English was his usual amiable self. He spoke quietly and calmly and showed virtually no sign of being fazed.

Jacinda was more abrasive, more combative, generally louder and occasionally shrill. A kinder interpretation would be to say that she was more passionate.

From a quick read of this morning’s papers the majority view appears to be that English won the debate. Ms Ardern doesn’t want my advice but here it is anyway: Even when you are debating in front of a large and sometimes voluble studio audience, the audience that really matters consists of small groups of people sitting at home in their living rooms distractedly watching the box. Television is an intimate medium. Treat it like a town hall meeting at your peril.


Some Man to Man Advice for Bill English

Bill English

I’m conflicted. There’s a war going on in my brain. It’s a war between the media trainer and the champagne socialist, a title given me by my so-called friends.

The champagne socialist wants and expects Jacinda Ardern to win the election.

The media trainer prides himself on his ability to turn sows’ ears into silk purses. He has a rescuer mentality. He backs losers, and himself, to win.

The current and probable loser is Bill English. A nice enough chap I would say, but no-one who makes it to the top job in politics is ever entirely nice.A

Paradoxically it’s his niceness that’s buggering his chances of keeping his current job. He needs to harden up, to stop playing the gentleman farmer.

I have a deep suspicion that lurking in his deep subconscious is an early message from his mum and dad, an injunction against ever being mean or nasty to females. Laudable advice for every young boy – who has no ambition to pursue a career in politics. And, paradoxically, demeaning to those women.

Man up, Bill! Stop being a wimp. Stop thinking of your opponent as some nice young Kiwi lady. Start thinking Merkel, Thatcher, Golda Meir, Shipley, Clark … strong, confident, determined women who took no prisoners.

So here’s your choice at the next debate: Get stuck in OR get ready to go back to farming


She Gave Him His Due


Who won? Well, I’d give it to Ardern. But not by much. And not really because her arguments were more telling or she scored more points. Sporting analogies aren’t really my thing. I’m my own sports free zone. But for once I can’t find anything more apt to say than that, throughout the debate, Jacinda played the ball and not the man. And more than that, she was generous to her opponent. She gave him his due. SHE GAVE HIM HIS DUE! Wow! That’s not just new, that’s revolutionary. And inspiring. And probably unanswerable. Bring on the next debate!