Brian Edwards Media

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On the uncanny resemblance between John Key and Sergeant Schultz

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In the 30-odd years that Judy and I have been providing media advice and training to prime ministers, prostitutes and pretty well every profession in-between, our teaching mantra has remained the same: “Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes”. It’s a practical rather than a necessarily moral slogan. Being straightforward with the media, telling the truth and admitting your mistakes is quite simply the only strategy that works. Everything else will get you into trouble or more trouble than you’re already in.

Our experience of our elected representatives – left, right and centre – has led us to the conclusion that most are reasonably honest and that the lying politician is a much rarer creature than the general population appears to think. Persuading MPs, Cabinet Ministers and the men and women who held the top job to be straightforward and tell the truth has not been a difficult or even a necessary task.

But will the buggers admit their mistakes? No way. To avoid the usual accusations of left-wing bias on my part, I’ll cite two examples from my side of the house. Helen Clark and the painting which she signed but didn’t paint; Helen Clark and the police car speeding her to Eden Park to watch the rugby.

Neither of these were hanging offences and reasonable explanations (or excuses if you prefer) could have been offered for both: PMs put their moniker on all sorts of things with charitable intent; the New Zealand Prime Minister arriving late for an international footie match isn’t a good look. And anyway, these cops are brilliant and safe drivers.

But Helen, who had been brought up in a family where lying was just about a capital offence, was unwilling to own responsibility for either of these relatively minor transgressions. She was reluctant to admit that she’d made a mistake or even that she’d failed to prevent others making mistakes on her behalf.

The outcome in terms of public and press reaction was extremely negative in both cases. Simple concessions, perhaps with a touch of humour, could have avoided all the fuss: “Well, I sign a lot of things for charity; but maybe I didn’t make it clear that I hadn’t actually painted the picture. I couldn’t paint like that to save my life; Yes, not a good look, I’ll admit, and not a good example to other drivers. Guilty as charged, I’m afraid.”

The problem with denial when you’ve done something wrong is that far from making the issue go away, it amplifies and protracts it. Admitting your mistakes tends to have the opposite effect. Your opponents may have a field day of self congratulation, but it will at least be brief.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Andrew Little: A Man for the Time?

In an ideal world good men and good women would be elected to government; the best would achieve high office and a few the highest office in the land. New Zealand, still one of the least politically corrupt nations in the world, may well have come closer to that ideal in the past than many other developed countries.

In the sixties the arrival of television in New Zealand complicated this simple equation.  The largely impersonal relationship between voter and politician, limited mainly to town hall election meetings and radio broadcasts, was gradually displaced  by the intimacy of the television close-up and the advent of the increasingly personal and probing political television interview.

In one sense this was for the public good. Television had the potential to reveal the cracks not only in the politicians’ policies and claims but in the facade of personal virtue which they hoped to project. The small screen was and remains a more effective lie-detector than radio or the town-hall meeting. It exemplifies the dictum that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But television in the 21st century is also first and foremost an entertainment medium. Those who appear on it are required to engage their audience, to hold their attention, to perform. As my colleague Ian Fraser once put it, “to act themselves”. If indeed it ever was, being a good person is no longer enough. You have to look good as well.

Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t “come across” on television, your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Man meets gorillas – up close and personal!

My Cook Island friend Bill Carruthers sent me this. I’m not sure how widely publicised the clip has already been but I thought it was absolutely wonderful. Enjoy and be amazed:

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The New Zealand Herald: Demise of a Quality Publication

Herald Front Page

Under the editorship of Shayne Currie the New Zealand Herald has been transformed from a quality newspaper into little better than a trash tabloid.

I need to be a little more precise here. Mr Currie has responsibility primarily for the Monday-to-Friday Herald and it is to those editions that my remarks apply.

The Weekend Herald, which appears on Saturday, is edited by David Hastings.  (*See correction below.) The Sunday Herald is edited by  Miriyana Alexander whose function appears to be to make even the Monday-to-Friday Herald look good. It is a wretched publication.

Now if Mr Currie or Ms Alexander had the slightest interest in Brian Edwards’ opinion of their papers – which they certainly haven’t – they would reply that their circulation figures and the Qantas and Canon media awards on their office shelves tell a different story. In those terms they are extremely successful publications. And they would be right.

My only comment would be that tabloid trash and high circulation go together in pretty well every Western democracy and that there are so many media awards and so few major newspapers in New Zealand that it is almost impossible not to have accumulated several shelves-full.

Shayne  and Miriyana would therefore be entirely within their rights to dismiss me as a journalism snob. But we journalism snobs have hearts and we are entitled to mourn the loss of the quality publication that the Herald once was. We are consoled by the excellent Weekend Herald, but there are signs that the populist wolf is already sniffing at the door there too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons in “Followship” from the Labour Party

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In the past I’ve written several posts and articles about voluntary euthanasia. The ‘voluntary’ bit is crucial, since no-one who wants to go on living, however great their pain or however inconvenient their continuing existence to others, should be cajoled or browbeaten into changing their mind.

But it is hard to come to terms with the overweening arrogance of someone who believes they have the right to deny another human being, whose ongoing suffering has deprived them of all joy in living and who wishes to end that suffering, the right to do so.

The laws that govern these decisions and procedures will of necessity be complex and they must be watertight. But they are not beyond our ability to design and implement. Other countries have done so.

I don’t want to restart this debate. That is not the purpose of this post. This post is about the significance of comments on euthanasia cited in this morning’s Herald by the four contenders for the Labour Party leadership.

Iain Lees-Galloway has taken over responsibility for the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’  after its sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to get elected in September. Lees-Galloway is apparently gauging support before deciding whether to put the Bill back on the private members’ bill ballot. It was removed last year under pressure from the Labour leadership who, according to the Herald, “were concerned it could be an election-year distraction or that it could deter conservative voters”. The new Labour leader, whoever that is, could apparently have the deciding voice on the voluntary euthanasia question.

So what did the contenders for that position have to say?

Well, Nanaia Manuta was in favour of reintroducing the bill  because it would show “that Labour would stand up for those difficult conversations that need to be had”.

I thought that was a pretty principled position to take.

David Parker, who voted against legalising voluntary euthanasia in 2003, didn’t want to comment till he’d talked to Lees-Galloway.

Non-committal and therefore less satisfactory perhaps.

Grant Robertson and Andrew Little both support voluntary euthanasia, but neither considered it a priority at the moment. The fairly clear subtext of their replies was that it was a vote-loser and that a party that had polled 25% in September couldn’t afford to be seen supporting unpopular policies.

I’d call that unprincipled.     Read the rest of this entry »

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Thieving Bastards Steal Big Red Umbrella! Read All About It!

View from the bach at Leigh

View from the bach at Leigh

Our house in Herne Bay was burgled some years ago. We were woken in the middle of the night by crashing sounds from downstairs.  It requires a really brave person to investigate strange noises in the night. So down Judy went. She returned to say all was well. Nothing out of the ordinary to be seen. Must have been the cats.

Daylight revealed that my office window had been partially jemmied open. The thieves had managed to get their hands through the gap and make off with my laptop. There were bits of cable still caught in the window. Judy turning the lights on and bellowing had obviously scared them off.

The police were helpful, but your chances of recovering stolen property really are slim.

There’s a near universal theme in people’s storise about having been burgled: it’s less the loss of property than the sense of personal invasion. You could perhaps describe the feeling as akin to grief. Nothing is ever quite the same again. And some things are irreplaceable. I didn’t mourn for my laptop, but for the hundreds of personal photographs that were stored on it. The worst type of theft is the theft of memories. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why my money’s on David Parker. And why Labour’s should be as well!

OK, eventually you have to put your money where your mouth is. So who, of the four declared contestants – Nanaia Mahuta, Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and David Parker –  should, in my opinion, win the Labour leadership contest? And let’s be clear: the only criterion for the job is that that person should have at least a snowball’s chance of beating John Key in 2017.

Nanaia Mahuta has already conceded that she’s unlikely to win the race and she is to be admired for her honesty.

Of the remaining three I’m going to discount Andrew Little first. I simply don’t believe that the country is ready for a grim-faced former union leader to be Prime Minister or to be this country’s envoy overseas.    Read the rest of this entry »

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On flocks of drunken sheep and pillow-fighting teenage girls

 

 

It would have been nice if the Labour Party caucus had just been able to get together and pick a new leader, following the departure of David Cunliffe. That would have been the tidy way of doing things – a secret ballot, no dirty laundry washed in public, no protracted taking of soundings from all and sundry, no overt competition between the aspirants.

Let’s not do that then! Too sensible. Too easy. Too quick. Too like the way the National Party does things. And look where that got them.

So when the unions and the membership and the caucus have been consulted and weighed up the respective merits of the four contenders, there’ll be a new leader ready to take on John Key and the Nats.

Not an easy job when three out of four New Zealand voters just made it crystal  clear that they didn’t want a bar of you. And even less easy when you’ve just made it plain as a pikestaff to the electorate that no-one in your caucus stands out as the obvious, unchallengeable, next leader of the party. And certainly not Nania Mahuta, Andrew Little, Grant Robertson or David Parker.

It’s not that they’re unintelligent or palpably untrustworthy or – as far as we know – have deep dark secrets waiting to emerge from the abyss like Kafka’s beetle. No, it’s just that three of them are dull and the fourth is interesting for the wrong reason.

No X-factor, no pizzazz, no charisma, no capacity to generate excitement. Oh for a Kirk, a Lange, a Clark. Good lord, even Geoffrey Palmer could play the trumpet!

And here’s the rub. For the first time, Key really looks vulnerable. ‘Prime Minister admits to speaking with forked tongue’ might have been the most apt headline this week. There are hints that the honeymoon is over, that the media are falling out of love with the Leader of the Government. Or is it the Leader of the National Party?

But never mind, Labour is providing just the distraction that National needs.

It’s actually bloody hard to be a Labour Party supporter, let alone a Labour Party advocate, when your team behaves like a flock of drunken sheep.

Ladies and gentlemen, do me a favour – get your act together. It’s just not dignified to have your potential leaders cavorting round the country like teenage girls having a pillow fight at a sleepover.

Get a grip! Please!

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How to Sell a House: Free Advice from a couple of experts. (Self-Described!)

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In the 32 years that Judy and I have been together we have bought and sold quite a few houses. Six years is the longest we  lived in any one of those houses.  Our friends regard us as gypsies. The best explanation for this is that we like houses and looking at houses. Sometimes looking means falling in love and falling in love can lead to buying, preceded of course by casting off the old love. This was the case with the house we recently sold. We had a perfectly good house, walked in to an open home at a house across the road, fell in love and bingo – divorce followed by another marriage. This one has lasted a little over 5 years and the house will soon have far more faithful owners, a delightful young family who expect their children, and maybe even some of their grandchildren, to grow up there.

In the process of all this pillar-to-posting we’ve learnt quite a lot about buying and selling houses which could be summarised as ‘win some, lose some’. And we thought we might pass on some of that accumulated experience to you, dear reader. What follows is amateur stuff really and may not be 100% correct. But it’s our experience of the fascinating world of real estate. I say ‘our’ because my editor, JC, as she always does, has read the text and given it her tick of approval. So here goes: Read the rest of this entry »

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I say, I say, I say: What is the secret of successful comedy?

“Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing. Those who lack humour lack common sense and should be trusted with nothing.”

Clive James penned that glorious truth. Examples of the correlation between humourlessness and lack of common sense are all around us in present-day New Zealand. They proliferate like weeds. No doubt some will occur to you as you read these lines, but it may be wiser not to name them, to keep your counsel. The humourless weed is prickly and cannot see the joke.

I was reminded of Clive James’ words by the current race for the Labour Party leadership. If James is right  - and everything I have observed about my fellow man in more than seven decades persuades me that he is –  if those who lack humour should indeed “be trusted with nothing”, then we would be wise to include evidence of the presence of a sense of humour among our criteria for electing those who seek to govern us.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Shock! Horror! Wife defends husband!!!!

 

 

In recent posts I’ve made some fairly trenchant comments about David Cunliffe, primarily about his media performance. Others, including some of his Caucus colleagues, have gone even further. The now resigned Leader of the Opposition has been under sustained and often vitriolic attack from friend and foe alike since Labour’s catastrophic showing in the General Election just over a fortnight ago. The media have feasted on his downfall.

Political survival and the retention of one’s self-respect require stoic denial from a political leader in these circumstances. To reveal hurt will  be taken as a sign of weakness. The response to Helen Clark’s tears at Waitangi in 1998 when Titewhai Harawira angrily challenged her right to speak on the marae is evidence enough of that.

But no politician can be totally indifferent to personal attack. David Cunliffe has admitted to being ‘close to tears’ following the 7-hour Caucus bloodletting after the election. That admission took courage and  should be admired rather than derided. A politician without feelings would be a dangerous creature indeed.

But what of the politician’s family, whose hurt or rage can be aired only in private, who must literally suffer in silence. For such  is the convention. So it was for Ruth Kirk and Thea Muldoon who kept just such a dignified silence in the face of the abuse, rumours and scuttlebutt that attended their husbands’ public and private lives. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Tough call!      Read the rest of this entry »

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Long run or short season for David Cunliffe?

Cunliffe and Key

When you’ve read this short post have a look at the interview below with David Cunliffe on last night’s Campbell Live .  But first,  if you haven’t done so already, please  read my previous post on the ex Labour leader, titled “Some acting experience an advantage but not required”.

To be absolutely fair to David  Cunliffe, I should perhaps add that, like all senior politicians, he has on his team people whose job it is to advise him on media issues, to analyse and comment on his radio and television appearances and to prepare him for upcoming interviews and debates, possibly by workshopping those exchanges. Their job is not to ra-ra their employer’s efforts but to be brutally frank in critically analysing his performance.

The blame for Cunliffe’s misguided and vote-losing approach to his exchanges with the Prime Minister during the last election and particularly his final televised debate with John Key on TV One, must be proportionally shared with those advisers.   Read the rest of this entry »

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The Labour Leadership: TV or not TV

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Following my earlier post, in which I argued that the ability to communicate effectively on television is a sine qua non for any politician hoping to occupy the highest office in the land, I thought it might be worthwhile to rate the current pretenders to the Labour leadership with particular –  but not exclusive –  reference to how they perform on the box. To assist in this exercise I’m using the Television Compatibility Matrix or TVCM (My own invention!) to place the prospective leaders on a scale of 1 to 10, one being ‘totally hopeless’ and ten being ‘makes Bill Clinton look like an amateur’. So here goes: Read the rest of this entry »

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Some acting experience an advantage but not required.

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If David Cunliffe were an actor, his preferred acting style might best be described as Shakespearean – declamatory, expansive, grand in tone and gesture, rich in soliloquy.

It is a style suited to the stage but unfortunately totally unsuited to the more intimate vehicle of television and in particular to the television interview or debate in which small groups of people in their living rooms at home eavesdrop on an equally small group of people in a studio talking and debating.

Cunliffe’s failure, and the failure of his advisors to draw this distinction between what is appropriate to the stage and what is appropriate to television was in my view a significant factor in Labour’s defeat. He was too big, too loud, too OTT. You could see that he was acting.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Question: Is Brian Edwards turning into ‘Angry of Mayfair’?

In an earlier incarnation I had my luxurious dark brown beard shaved off by Kenny Everett to raise money for Telethon. Viewers donated several thousand dollars to see my naked visage, complete with double chins.

I interviewed Basil Brush at the same Telethon and got into terrible trouble for asking Basil his views on sporting contacts with South Africa. The owner of the hand up Basil’s brush, a conscientious objector to apartheid, had earlier privately suggested that I ask Basil the question. And I was happy to oblige.

This was in 1981 when I was still hosting Fair Go. It was of course also the year of the infamous Springbok tour. As I was leaving the building a senior TVNZ executive took me aside to remonstrate with me about the Basil Brush question. ‘Why is it,’ he asked, ‘that you always have to spoil everyone’s fun with these serious political questions?’ Boom boom, Mr Derek!

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To the driver who ran over our cat Felix tonight…

Felix in basin

If you are the driver who ran over our lovely Burmese cat Felix around 4pm tonight (Thursday) in Argyle Street, Herne Bay, would you please be kind enough to contact me on 0274754939. No recriminations. Felix is being treated and it’s touch and go whether he will make it. It would be helpful to know exactly what happened.

Thanks

Brian

Update, Friday:

Felix made it through the night, today’s X-rays show he has a badly fractured leg, but no other life-threatening injuries. Orthopedic vet operating tomorrow afternoon. Max, who raced to his aid when he came in hurt, is fretting. Vet says Felix is coping reasonably well. Looking at horrendous bill and six weeks ‘cage rest’. That will be interesting!

JC

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The day I met Rolf Harris

Rolf Harris

 

If you were to browse through all the posts on this site you’d find a disproportionate number devoted to the author’s intemperate outbursts on the abysmal quality of radio and television interviewing in Godzone today. In particular you’d find him railing against the current fashion for overly aggressive, highly interruptive and plain-bloody-rude cross-examination of public figures by self-important, snotty-nosed journalists whose only regret is that the rack, the bastinado and the iron maiden are no longer considered acceptable methods of getting confessions out of politicians, pilferers of the public purse and other worthless riff-raff. Think Hosking, Espiner, Wilson, Dann, Gower, sadly now joined by the once pleasant and highly professional Lisa Owen. What they all have in common is the belief  that it is unacceptable for an interviewee to carry on talking while they are interrupting. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Shane Taurima, Linda Clark and Conflicts of Interest Left, Right and Centre

Linda Clark

Shane Taurima 2

 

 

 

 

 

There was nothing terribly complex about Shane Taurima’s situation with regard to his job as Head of TVNZ’s  Maori and Pacifica Department once he had, albeit unsuccessfully,  sought the Labour Party nomination for the Rawhiti Ikaroa seat following the death of Parekura Horomia. Taurima had very publicly nailed his political colours to the mast. In doing so he had effectively disbarred himself from any further involvement in News or Current Affairs broadcasting with the state broadcaster. The potential conflict of interest could not have been more clear.

Television New Zealand apparently did not see it that way. Perhaps they thought that Taurima’s failure to actually win the nomination made all the difference. He had been a would-be Labour candidate, not an actual Labour candidate.  (And, as it turned out, would be again.) That rationalisation is so facile as to be laughable. Taurima was politically tainted. He should not have been re-employed in his previous role. But he was.

When he took things even further and  turned his TVNZ office into a Maori/Pacifica Labour Party branch, Taurima did his employer a favour.  Without actually hanging portraits of Savage, Fraser and Kirk on the walls, the conflict of interest in which he and others in his department now found themselves could not have been more patent. To his credit, Taurima had the grace and good sense to resign.   Read the rest of this entry »

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At last! We find out what Members of Parliament REALLY think is important!

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What ACT’s Jamie Whyte could learn from Albert Einstein

 

stuff.co.nz

stuff.co.nz

 

In a remarkable coincidence two Essex district court judges are arrested on the same night for riding their bicycles without lights. On the following morning they turn up at court to answer the charges.

“Well, this is bloody embarrassing,” says Judge Brown. “How are we going to handle it?”

“Oh, I don’t see any problem at all,” says Judge Green. “You can hear my case and I’ll hear yours.”

“Brilliant!” says Judge Brown. “I’ll judge your case first.”

Judge Green takes his place in the dock.

Judge Brown: You are charged with riding a bicycle at night with no lights. How do you plead?

Judge Green: Guilty, your honour.

Judge Brown: Very well. Fined five pounds. Stand down.

They change places.

Judge Green: You are charged with riding a bicycle at night with no lights. How do you plead?

Judge Brown: Guilty, your honour.

Judge Green: Very well. Fined ten pounds. Stand down.

“Hang on,” says Judge Brown. “I just fined you five pounds for the identical crime.”

“I know,” Judge Green replies, “It’s a deterrent sentence. There’s far too much of this going on. This is the second case we’ve had today.”   Read the rest of this entry »

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