Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'John Key'

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

Linda Clark

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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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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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Is this journalism or a party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party?

 

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The following report by TV3 political editor Paddy Gower appeared on the channel’s 6pm bulletin last night. Setting aside as best you can your political prejudices, please answer the following question: Is this journalism or a party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party?

http://www.3news.co.nz/Cunliffes-poll-numbers-slide-after-trust-issue/tabid/1607/articleID/338161/Default.aspx

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Reflections on Kim Dotcom, book-burning and the Nazis

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the ongoing Kim Dotcom/Mein Kampf debate is the rank failure of commentators to recognise the sheer irony of their positions.

I’m going to brand as ‘book-burners’ those who have made the leap from Dotcom’s ownership of a signed copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf to his being a Nazi sympathiser. I don’t of course mean that they are actual book-burners, but that they exhibit the mentality of book-burners. They are people who believe that a man’s character may be judged not merely by the contents of his library but, in this particular case, by his ownership of a single book. Their logic, as I argued in my previous post, is that if the contents of a book are evil then the ownership of such a book is itself evidence of evil:

‘Kim Dotcom owns and has read a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Hitler was the founder of National Socialism and one of history’s most evil men. Ergo: Kim Dotcom must be an evil Nazi.’

The Dotcom/Mein Kampf story was first given national prominence by TV3 journalists Brook Sabin and Patrick Gower who confidently predicted the end of Dotcom’s political aspirations and, one might assume, of his hopes of remaining in this country, as a result of his owning a priceless historical document, signed by Hitler himself and dedicated to his cellmate Hermann Esser.

So the first irony lies in journalists, traditional advocates of free speech, if not actually promoting book-burning, at least fanning the embers.

But then, in the current climate of New Zealand commercial television, sensation mongering is precisely the journalist’s job. Read the rest of this entry »

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What a dreadful fellow this Kim Dotcom is!

Mein Kampf

What a dreadful fellow this Kim Dotcom is. He owns a signed copy of Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto Mein Kampf. This constitutes irrefutable evidence that the fat German believes in Hitler’s ‘final solution’ to the Jewish problem, that behind that jovial exterior is a closet Nazi. John Key will be wringing his hands in glee. He can tear Dotcom’s credibility to pieces. In the ongoing battle between the two men this revelation will mark the day that Kim Dotcom started to lose and John Key started to win.

We know this is true because it headed last night’s TV3 News. We are indebted to the unctuous Brook Sabin and the occasionally hysterical Patrick Gower for tearing this scab off Dotcom’s reputation.

You can follow the logic, can’t you: If you have bought and have in your possession a book written by an evil person and containing that person’s evil thoughts, then ipso facto you must share that evil person’s evil thoughts and, presumably, be an evil person yourself. Dotcom should count himself lucky that we don’t burn people like him at the stake any more. And the ducking stool has been out of commission for far too long.

There’s a lesson in this for all of us. I can tell you that I’m getting rid of my copies of Mao’s Little Red Book, the collected works of the Marquis De Sade and the Old Testament. I really don’t want people knowing that I’m a Communist pervert willing to gouge out the eyes and (without anaesthetic) pull out the teeth of anyone who crosses me. Half of my library will go out with the next blue bin collection. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why I wouldn’t trust John Key as far as I could throw him – A Response

 

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In my previous post I made the unequivocal statement that “I wouldn’t trust John Key as far as I could throw him.” Several people commented that I really ought to provide some evidence in support of that conclusion. I could perhaps respond that the general theme of the post was that our opinions of other people (and politicians in particular) are often based on feeling or intuition unsupported by demonstrable facts and incapable of empirical proof. Intuition can be a pretty reliable tool for judging others. Nonetheless, I think the question ‘Why would you not trust John Key as far as you could throw him?’ deserves an answer.

You’ll find part of the answer in John Key – ‘There There’ Prime Minister which I posted on March 2. But you have to look to the ‘pokies for payola’ deal which Key negotiated with Sky City to really understand where I’m coming from. What that deal told me was that our Prime Minister is a man devoid of social conscience or a moral compass.

The Hippocratic Oath, sworn by many doctors around the globe, contains the following sentence:

“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone.”

It seems to me that this principle of never doing harm to anyone can properly apply to any person whose decision-making power can influence the lives of others. Politicians certainly come into that category and none more so than a president or prime minister. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Tricky versus Shifty” – Coming to your TV soon!

Cunliffe and Key

The phrase ‘presidential-style election campaign’ is bandied about a lot these days. Its intended meaning is that voters are as much or perhaps more influenced by the personality and media image of party leaders as by their parties’ policies.

This was clearly not, or at least less the case in the pre-television era when party leaders  were generally seen in the flesh only at public meetings or very occasionally on cinema newsreels. Parliament was first broadcast in New Zealand on the 25th of March 1936 but offered neither the intimacy nor the capacity for exposure of the television close-up. Radio without pictures is sound without sight. It can be hugely informative but the listener is deprived of a large chunk of helpful non-verbal information.

Keith Holyoake was the first New Zealand Prime Minister of the television age. In 1971 in my book The Public Eye  I wrote of his on-screen performances:

‘The studio Holyoake was everything that an interviewee should not be – evasive, pompous, patronising, overbearing, long-winded, repetitious, pretentious, boring.’

The trouble in part was that no-one had dared to tell him just how awful he was. That changed in 1970 when the recently knighted Prime Minister accepted an invitation to be interviewed by me on his life and times on the popular current affairs programme Gallery. Much against the wishes of his press secretary Arthur Manning, Gallery producer Des Monaghan and I sat Sir Keith down and told him the unvarnished truth about how he came across on the box. Though he still sounded as though he had a marble in his mouth, the outcome was a frank and in places quite moving interview. Unbeknownst to me, my career as a media trainer had begun. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ghost of BE returns to speak for too-humble Brian

Ghost of BE

Now as every devotee of this site knows, BE’s defining characteristics are humility, modesty and self-effacement. He keeps his light hidden, it is said, not under one bushel but under several. His idols are Gandhi, Mother Theresa and the New Zealand All Blacks. The words ‘brag, crow, vaunt, bluster’ and ‘skite’ are not in his lexicon.

I rebuke him from time to time for this lack of ego, but he merely looks down at his feet and quotes Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’.

Frankly he can be a pain in the arse.

‘You’re a pain in the arse!’ I sometimes say to him, but he invariably replies, ‘How true. How very true.’

A bloody great pain in the arse!   Read the rest of this entry »

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Congratulations David and Karen from Brian and Judy! And why John Key’s days are numbered.

Next step: the big desk on the ninth floor!

Next step – the big desk of the ninth floor!

 

I hadn’t intended to do anything more on this mini-post than congratulate David and Karen. But I’ve decided to stick my neck out and make a prediction. I predict that a Labour/Greens coalition will win the 2014 election and that David Cunliffe will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister. Labour might even go it alone.

I’ve been provoked into this rash course of action by my former media partner on The Nation, Bill Ralston, who tweeted something to the effect that Cunliffe’s win was just another example of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Here’s my principal reason for thinking that Bill’s got it wrong.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Yond Cunliffe has a lean and hungry look!

SNPA/ Ross Setford

SNPA/ Ross Setford

I note the many reasoned calls for unity in the Labour Party once the new Leader has been selected. I’ll happily add my name to that list, but the odds on a harmonious outcome seem to me slim.

It’s a matter of simple mathematics. The largest group in the current Caucus is the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ group, including no doubt most Robertson supporters and a few Jones supporters.

If David Cunliffe wins the leadership, this large group will, to put it mildly, be extremely miffed. Faced with the near impossibility of mounting a challenge to a newly elected Leader, making Cunliffe’s life as difficult as possible for the next 14 months might just seem an attractive option. True, the resultant disharmony and internal division would almost certainly mean losing the 2014 election, but the upside of that is that, having led the party to defeat, Cunliffe would be gone. So strongly is this group opposed to the Member for New Lynn, that they might just see three more years in the wilderness as worth it.   Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sort Of Open Letter to the ABCs in the Labour Caucus

A good mate pointed out to me that it wasn’t very smart to heap abuse on the heads of people whose opinion you hoped to change. He was referring to my most recent post On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party Stupidity, in which I called the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ brigade ‘numbskulls’.

My good mate is right. It wasn’t very smart and you aren’t all numbskulls. But I was angry with you. Very angry.

I’m still angry with you because, though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, that’s where my political sympathies lie – left of left. Like you, I want Labour to win the next election. I want to see the back of a government that rewards the rich and powerful and punishes the poor and powerless. So I’m unlikely to have time or sympathy for anyone whose words or actions make that Labour win unlikely.  That is what you are doing by supporting either Grant Robertson’s or Shane Jones’ bid for the leadership. Robertson can’t win for Labour and Jones is a harmful distraction.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Campbell versus Key – the wider issue.

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The wider issue is television itself. Television does not deal well with complexity. This is particularly the case with commercial television which subscribes to the view that the average viewer has a short attention span, is easily bored and likely to reach for the remote within minutes or possibly seconds of the first hint of tedium appearing. Commercial television executives have assessed the attention span of the average viewer at a maximum of seven minutes, less if the viewer’s interest is not frequently stimulated.

In the areas of news and current affairs that stimulation generally comes in the form of conflict:  the reporting of conflict in the case of news; and actual conflict between antagonists in the case of television current affairs. Third Degree’s ‘The Vote’ provides a classic example. As did the Campbell/Key debate.

However unpalatable, this view of things is probably more or less correct. Commercial television viewers do bore easily and will desert a channel that does not offer them excitement. Such desertion leads to declining ratings and  loss of advertising revenue – the commercial television executive’s nightmare.

The discursive (big word for ‘long’) examination of significant social or political issues simply does not fit the commercial broadcaster’s agenda. So programmes like Campbell Live and Seven Sharp, which play in prime time, are normally made up of three segments with a combined duration of around 22 minutes. I’m told the average sound-bite in a commercial news bulletin is now around five seconds.

Programmes which do attempt to take a more in-depth look at social and political issues – such as The Nation and Q & A – are deliberately marginalised by commercial television executives to the audience wastelands of early Saturday and Sunday morning. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the red corner John Campbell; In the blue corner John Key; Your Referee – the good doctor!

The last time I really got stuck into John Campbell was when he interviewed ‘moon man’ Ken Ring after the February earthquake. That was on 28 February 2011. You’ll gather I find very little to criticise in John’s approach to his work – and a great deal to praise. I’ve described what he does as ‘advocacy journalism’ and many thousands of New Zealanders, most particularly those teachers, parents and children adversely affected by the Novopay debacle, and the dispossessed and seemingly abandoned victims of the Christchurch earthquake, have benefited from that advocacy.  It would not, I think, be an exaggeration to claim that both groups and a great many other people regard John Campbell as something of a hero. I share that view.

I don’t want to revisit the Ring interview. My criticism of John for browbeating his subject was harsh and I later regretted its harshness. I followed the first post up with a second, A Gracious Apology from John Campbell. It included this sentence: ‘For my part, I believe that my critique of his performance on this occasion was justified, but the manner in which it was expressed may not have been. Like John himself, I was angry.’

My impression last night was that John was angry again, this time with the Prime Minister, John Key. Key had refused numerous invitations by Campbell Live to discuss the GCSB legislation. That is his right. Television programmes have no power of subpoena and nor should they have such a power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Of knuckleheads, long-running stories, media beat-ups and Judith Collins parting the waters

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Referring to John Key’s current dissatisfaction with the ‘knuckleheads’ of the Fourth Estate, a prominent journalist, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, observed to me recently, ‘No Prime Minister who ever attacked the media got re-elected.’ He was evidently out of the country during both Rob Muldoon’s and Helen Clark’s three terms, but his remark was less than flattering to the members of his own profession. Journalists, it seems, will revenge themselves on politicians who criticise them, in the process abandoning their duty to report objectively and dispassionately.

Key’s response to media attacks on his credibility, and to the Press Gallery’s  dealings with him during ‘stand-ups’ in the corridors of Parliament, has been to suggest that he’ll either abandon the stand-ups altogether or at least greatly reduce the number of questions he will take.

I would suggest the former. It makes absolutely no sense to throw yourself into a pit of hungry bears who have been practising tag-team mauling while they waited for your arrival. It would be hard to think of a more uncontrolled, uncontrollable or  dangerous arena.    Read the rest of this entry »

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