Monday, 4 August 2008

party conferences

i've posted at the hand mirror.

there's been a lot of comment in the media and the blogs about bill english's recorded conversation at the national party conference. sure, there were some interesting tidbits, like his intention to sell kiwibank at some point, and this was a bit of an eye-opener:

And the reality is if we had been the government with the surpluses they had, we would have had something, like working for families, but not the same. We would have given them quite a bit of cash back. And what happens is – you go in there to try and change it, frankly Don and co got a bit carried away, cos they didn’t understand it. If you give people money then, it is very hard, there’s a set of inevitable problems. It’s like physics, right. If you push something up its gonna drop. If you give people cash, you have high marginal tax rates. OK, that’s it. You can’t get round that. Don thought he could but he couldn’t. So did John, actually – but you can’t. So the only – the raw choice is: fix the problems; or take money off them. And there’s no way you can fix the problems without taking money off them.... So later on we’re gonna have to have a bit of a sort out. Yeah, we’re gonna do something, but we can’t do it now.

hmm. but aside from all that, which is quite worrying, there is also the worry of political party conferences being hijacked by the media. it happened at the labour party conference as well, with someone taping a mike william's speech that wasn't open to the media.

what this means is that party members aren't free to have discussions at their own party conferences. that is a problem. i accept that the conferences are pretty-much staged and choreographed media events a lot of the time. but for the rest of the time, it's an opportunity for party members to get access to MPs and (in labour's case) ministers. it's a time to have serious discussion about policy, and to air and share a variety of views.

i would hate to think that all of that is to be compromised just so the media can get it's scandal for the week. yes, i agree it's important for nz'ers to see what someone like bill english really thinks. we need to know what the nats are not prepared to tell us in the public sphere. but i feel distinctly uncomfortable with it happening in this kind of context. i could cope with the ian wishart job done on john tamihere, mostly because it was a one-on-one situation. i can cope with leaked documents and emails, especially if they are leaked by an insider who is having doubts about the ethics of what is going on.

but there does need to be a safe space for party activists to have conversations, and if that is not going to be at a party conference then where will it be?

but the best bit of the conference had to be bob clarkson thanking the 150 brethren who helped him win his seat. pity he didn't clarify how, although it's almost certain they were involved in push-polling. (for those who don't know, it means calling up voters and asking questions like "would you vote for john mccain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" the truth is that senator mccain adopted a bengali child, but the way the question is posed, the listener who doesn't know that will come away believing that he did what the question suggests. note that the questions also relies on latent racism).

we certainly felt the effects of the brethren campaign here in hamilton. while i don't have any problems with any political or religious group getting involved with campaigning, i do have a problem when they remain hidden and when they use dirty tactics. if they want to be involved, they should have been honest and up-front about it.

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