I haven’t been blogging for the past ten days or so because I fractured a bone in my left hand and can’t type. It still hurts like hell but I’ve been drawn out of this enforced temporary retirement by my irritation over the attempts by the Right, led by National Party clown Tau Henare and assorted hangers-on in the blogosphere, to make political capital out of two questions put to Education Minister Hekia Parata by my colleague on The Nation, Rachel Smalley.
I need to start by making one thing perfectly clear: I have not spoken to Smalley about this, nor have I informed TV3 Head of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings, or The Nation’s producer, Richard Harman, of my intention to blog about the rights and wrongs of this issue.
I watched the Parata interview in the ‘green room’ at TV3 as it was being recorded and was hugely impressed by the Minister’s performance. When she returned to the green room to collect her belongings I said to her, “That was absolutely brilliant”. She smiled, thanked me and showed absolutely no sign of having been upset by Rachel’s question-line.
I had a similar conversation in the green room today with Judith Collins, who’d also faced some tough questioning from Rachel. “You are,” I said, “the consummate performer.” Read the rest of this entry »
[Update: Susan Wood was admirably restrained in her interviews on Q & A a week after this post appeared.]
In the check-out line at Victoria Park New World this morning I bumped into my regular co-panellist on the media review segment of TV3’s The Nation, Bill Ralston. After comparing notes about why men enjoy supermarket shopping and women generally don’t, Bill asked me if I’d watched Q & A which follows the Sunday edition of The Nation on TV1 and is, I suppose, our competitor. No, I hadn’t watched it, but I’d be looking at it later on MySky. Bill thought I shouldn’t miss it. Susan Wood was ‘terrific’, she’d demolished David Shearer and given much the same treatment to National’s Nikki Kaye.
By coincidence, Bill and I had earlier been talking on The Nation to freelance journalist Karl Du Fresne who’d penned an article entitled ‘RNZ must right its lean to the left.’ Karl’s position was that there was strong evidence of endemic left wing bias by Radio New Zealand interviewers and he cited Kim Hill, Kathryn Ryan and Mary Wilson as examples.
I don’t agree with Karl’s thesis any more than I agreed with those who claimed right-wing bias on the part of the media when Helen Clark was running the country. Journalists have, in my view, an obligation to call to account whichever political party or coalition holds the reins of power, to be, if you like, an informal opposition.
Anyway, when I got home, I watched Susan Wood interviewing David Shearer and Nikki Kaye.
In February of next year the Labour Party caucus is constitutionally obliged to conduct a secret leadership ballot. The key word in this simple statement of fact is “secret”. No caucus member will be required to say who he or she voted for.
None, that is, except David Cunliffe. Talk of Cunliffe’s demotion or exclusion from Labour’s shadow cabinet and, beyond that, of his possible expulsion from the parliamentary Labour Party, revolves largely around the issue of his refusal to say whether he will support David Shearer in that February ballot. Cunliffe is being asked to say how he will vote in a secret leadership ballot three months from now. His failure to do so is being taken as evidence of his disloyalty to Shearer and possible grounds for his expulsion from the Labour caucus.
This is not merely entirely unreasonable, it is a major breach of Labour’s own constitutional rules. A caucus member is being asked to declare in advance how he will vote in a secret ballot. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday on The Nation Bill Ralston, Rachel Smalley and I had the pleasure of interviewing Cameron Slater of ‘Whale Oil’ fame. I hadn’t expected it to be a pleasure. Slater’s politics are at the opposite end of the spectrum from my own and his and his Whale Oil followers’ perpetual use of gratuitously offensive language had merely served to persuade me of their intellectual poverty.
Meeting Slater did not change my view of the morons who have made his blog the most widely read in the country. (Nothing attracts a following like intemperance of thought and expression.) But it did change my view of him.
Cameron is highly intelligent, has a great sense of humour and is… well, I’m reluctant to use the word ‘charming’ so I’ll tone it down a bit and say ‘extremely engaging’.
And I didn’t get where I am today by not being able to penetrate all that ‘don’t give a fuck’ bluster to recognise a capacity for being wounded that, needless to say, will never be confessed.
But what I really wanted to say is that I found Slater hugely interesting and entertaining. He is a character and we are woefully short of characters in New Zealand politics at the moment. In fact, in terms of personality, politics in this country has never been duller. Read the rest of this entry »
First, Smalley is now without peer in New Zealand as a current-affairs and political interviewer, an accolade I would previously have given to the hugely talented Duncan Garner. I would go further. Smalley is up there with some of the finest television interrogators in Australia (not difficult), the United States (quite difficult) and the UK (very difficult). She is enormously well-informed; her questioning is challenging without being interruptive, aggressive or rude; her delivery is impeccable; her interviews are models of intelligent debate.
Because New Zealanders have grown used to noise and impertinence as hallmarks of the effective interviewer, when in fact these are indicators of lack of real talent, Smalley’s brilliance has perhaps not yet been fully recognised. But I have absolutely no doubt that, with a little more experience, she will rank alongside interviewers of the quality of HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur.
Second, Hone Harawira is in my view the most effective political communicator in New Zealand. His reputation among Pakeha and some Maori is probably that of a loud-mouthed Maori shit-stirrer, a reputation he has from time to time deserved. And the name Harawira has not helped. His mother Titewhai, while liking to be seen arm in arm with white-skinned Prime Ministers at Waitangi, is to me the embodiment of anti-Pakeha sentiment in this country. And Titewhai is often in her son’s ear. This is how I expressed it in a previous post: Read the rest of this entry »
Duncan Garner and I haven’t always been on the best of terms. We had a very public spat a couple of years ago about whether or not Garner was running a personal campaign to discredit Chris Carter. It included my asking whether TV3 ‘should be considering whether their Political Editor is fit to hold the job’ and stating unequivocally elsewhere that, ‘Duncan Garner can’t interview.’
I’m somewhat embarrassed today by those earlier comments. My embarrassment has in part been occasioned by getting to know Garner better over the last year or so, when we have both been appearing on TV3’s The Nation. Not only did he seem to hold no malice against me for my earlier disparaging comments, he was positively welcoming of his new colleague.
More importantly, I was drawn to the conclusion that, far from being unable to interview, Garner had become the best political interviewer in New Zealand by a country mile. I’ve found no reason to change that view. Read the rest of this entry »