On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

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Archive for October 2008

Heckling and hugs for Aunty Helen

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Martin Kay of the DomPost gives his account of proceedings at the University.

Prime Minister Helen Clark could have been forgiven for thinking she had stumbled into an Alliance Party convention rather than a rally organised by her own side when she arrived at Otago University’s Union Hall during a flying visit to Dunedin.

As she took the stage, scores of students waved Alliance leaflets and the boos from some sections of the crowd – though drowned by cheers from most – must have had her fearing a trap.

But there was no reason to worry. The leaflets had been handed out by Dunedin North Alliance candidate Victor Billot, who had perhaps optimistically hoped they would be studiously read.

Instead, they were used as fans to beat the stuffy heat that had built up as the 1000-strong crowd waited for Miss Clark, who had to charter a plane from Auckland after fog closed her connection through Christchurch.

Undeterred, Mr Billot tried to get his message across verbally.

“How many fees did you pay, Helen?” he heckled, as she highlighted Labour’s tertiary education policies.

Miss Clark brushed it off – “settle down, settle down” – but Mr Billot took the stage during question time to lay down a challenge for an immediate two-minute debate on free education.

Fortunately for her, the crowd booed him even more loudly, and gave a roaring cheer when she declined the offer.

Miss Clark was also occasionally booed and heckled, but the reception was overwhelmingly positive from most – after all, she’d just announced that Labour would introduce universal student allowances.

TNX 4 my shoes Aunty Helen, one sign mysteriously said.

It was hard to know whether it was cynical or genuine, but the woman holding it leaped on to the stage and asked to have her photo taken with Miss Clark.

A plainclothes policeman in the guard detail looked faint, and not from the heat, as other students rushed forward to get their picture taken hugging Aunty Helen.

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Written by Victor

October 13, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Turkeys for Christmas

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Today was the three yearly Helen visit to campus, where she announces some small time fiddle around the edges of the student debt scheme.

As in 2005, students have such low expectations, their political culture has become so complacent and their intellect so dulled, that they applaud wildly when they are thrown such crumbs. It is a spectacle resembling turkeys cheering for Christmas. 

The $10 billion debt is accepted as a fact of life. Fees and debt are normalized. Unfortunately when these comfortable, consumerist middle class kids hit the workforce in a year or two’s time, they are going to find out the hard way what starting out in life in the middle of a recession/depression is like. There is going to be unemployment, massive debt and serious problems for years to come. But by then it will be too late. They will have the debt. They will postpone buying the house, and postpone the family. They will react by swinging further to the right, demanding tax cuts and rejecting any concept of wider social responsibility, because they have been left to fend for themselves. This is the legacy of Labour.

Young people have been paying for the greatest intergenerational theft in New Zealand history, where a welfare state cossetted postwar generation awarded their wealthiest members a tax cut and provided the next generation with a legacy of debt.

But history is dead and the election is a horserace between two presidential contenders, the liberal candidate and the conservative candidate. The death of the vision of the founders of the Labour Party, genuine socialists whom I hold in high esteem, will be complete. New Zealand will have returned to a nineteenth century situation where two factions of the middle class battle it out – in the modern context, the bureaucrats versus the capitalists. A depoliticized population will descend into amoral hedonism and the cult of money, and a gutted union movement will stagger onwards towards oblivion.

A decade ago, politicians were still getting challenged and called to account. Today I was the only serious heckler with two or three others. People were genuinely confused and upset that anyone would disagree publicly with the Leader. This deadbeat, democratically castrated and spineless attitude seems to be dominant. This was a celebrity gig. The less politics the better.

The event was a stage managed opportunity for the Labour Party to announce its new policy. That’s probably why the platoon of sycophants who follow senior politicians around looked a little annoyed at me. I wasn’t reading from a script. A gaggle of embedded press gallery journalists trail around after her to document the self-referential world of professional career politicians.

The worrying thing is that Labour has actually created, through their manipulative approach and cooling down of the vital spark of social resistance, a generation of people who are politically conservative, individualistic and are devoid of any sense of political history, or dare I say it idealism.

Whereas once student activism focussed around a small but vibrant culture of confused and excited ideas jostling for space, the flat, empty “pragmatism” that reigns supreme in todays University environment is a reflection of a passionless, washed out defeatism. When peoples sights are set so low, nothing good can come of it.

At a time when a committed and informed generation of young people are so badly needed to solve the civilization-defining problems coming on stream, it seems that although Labour may have won the elections, the Right have won the hearts and minds of a generation.

Written by Victor

October 13, 2008 at 5:36 am

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The Left Soul Rebels

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There always comes a time in the campaign, any campaign, when you feel just a bit tired of it all. It happens to all of us. Probably Hannibal had a moment on the Alps with his battle squadron of Carthaginian elephants where he sighed and said to himself “Does the Roman Empire really even mean that much to me?”

At this time, it is important to listen to some music. Not any type of music. You have to listen to the “real” sounds. That means one thing – Northern Soul.

Here is my top ten list to get the big beat going for your campaign, no matter in what department. (Since I’m not running for the National Party, I’ll even share it with you for free. That’s what we incentive-sapping, envious socialists do.)

1. “There’s a Ghost in My House” R. Dean Taylor

2. “Baby I need your loving” The Four Tops

3. “Third Finger, Left Hand” Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

4. “Put a little love in your heart” Dusty Springfield

5. “Stormy” The Supremes

6. “Feel the need in me” Detroit Emeralds

7. “Just say Goodbye” Esther Phillipps

8. “Right back where we started from” Maxine Nightingale

9. “Band of Gold” Freda Payne

10. “Helpless” Kim Weston

Written by Victor

October 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

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Shootout at the 60 second corral

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Tonight the smaller parties had their TV ads. I didn’t bother listening to the National and Labour ads last night because I have a low tolerance level for self-serving tripe. Also because I find the new make up job they have done on Helen terrifying, and I can’t stand it when she lies and claims Labour started Kiwibank when at the time of its introduction she basically laughed at it.

As for Key . . . well, the less said the better.

All the smaller parties were on tonight, jammed together in a one hour segment that was probably watched by about seven people. TVNZ should have been forced to distribute the ads throughout normal advertising times in regular programming. Isn’t that what they used to do?

One thing I noticed is that the non-parliamentary parties all seemed to have better ads than the main parties. Here is my review of the night. In the interests of fairness, I don’t review the Alliance Party ad – but I am pretty stoked with it.

Greens.

Another advertising disaster for the Greens. Despite their copious cash and supposed platoons of hip inner city creative types, how do they manage to get it so wrong? 

The first seven seconds of their ad was the highly produced, branded and slick extract where the young girl is standing by the harbour. So far, so good. Trite, emotional, but nonetheless picking up votes.

Then suddenly everything grinds to a halt. We are inflicted with close up, wavering headshots of Green Party MPs staring into the camera with an air of desperation. Russell Norman wanders past in a bizarre camel-coloured suit with a karitane yellow tie, dragging a refuse bin across a lawn. More close up footage of Green Party teeth – dental care policies should be a priority here. Many pictures of trains. Keith Locke is the only one who comes across as vaguely convincing. A video game soundtrack bleeps in the background. Graphics and production poor. Teeth grindingly bad.

4/10

New Zealand First

Winston spends his allocation in a rambling monologue about the media and other shadowy forces working against him. However now that the National Party have foolishly cut him off, he has tacked left on economics. What were they thinking? Winston would cut a deal with anyone. This shameless phoney would cut a deal with Lucifer to keep in the game, and probably come out ahead in the transaction.

The immigrant bashing has disappeared, Winston probably realizing he needs all the friends he can get these days. 

The theme from “Exodus” plays in the background while Winston tries hard not to burst out laughing at his own outrageous chutzpah. 

The sad thing is that 5% of the population will swallow this codswallop and vote this Ageing Impresario back into Parliament.

2/10 for content, 8/10 for sheer nerve

Maori Party

Pita Sharples as Billy T. James. Probably the best soundtrack, sounds like Herbs jamming in Wairoa in 1983. Light on policy as always, lots of feel good rhetoric and all about what great things the new Maori capitalist class are doing. Not sure what this all means for the brothers stuck on the minimum wage but Pita is selling it good.

8/10 for feelgood reggae vibe, 1/10 for specifics

ACT

Impressively slick, although I preferred the old, round, cheery Rodney to the new slimmed down “power” Rodney. As predicted they go light on their 19th century economics and stick to crime and punishment. Dickens wrote novels about these type of people back in the day: mean, pinched, moralistic, in love with money.

The ad goes well until they kneecap themselves by wheeling out a ghastly vision from the past, a toothless, gibbering “Sir” Roger Douglas who looks like he has been pulled out of a retirement village and dosed up with cheap speed. He chews on his lips and raves on about the Government spending money (wasted on roads, schools and hospitals, no doubt). 

6/10 reduced to 3/10 after Mad Douglas appearance.

United Whatever.

High production values but Dunne AKA The White Rabbit is a wet. He pompously drones at the camera then the ad cuts to a random selection of vox pops of passersby saying whatever comes into their heads, which may or may not reflect United policy. Apparently they keep the major parties honest, which is a bold claim considering they have absolutely failed to do this whatsoever in their entire existence. Their logo resembles a defecating PacMan.

No rating, not worth effort.

Jim Anderton’s Jim Anderton Party.

Jim presents an updated version of the Mainland Cheese ad. He talks about how his experience has taught him a few things. Good things take time, over the years he’s picked up a few tips for you young folk. Once again, it’s all about Jim, everyone’s boring great uncle who wants to set you straight about how it all works. 

Jim really has a super opinion of himself, which is of course the only reason he doesn’t rejoin the Labour Party, because then there would be other egos to get in the way.

What will the Progressive Party do when Jim is no longer there to guide them? Probably wander off in sheep like fashion. Baaa! Baaa!

5/10

The Family Party

Probably the most well-produced ad (of course I’m not reviewing the Alliance ad here.) Super slick but absolutely bizarre. A heavy metal soundtrack features heavy looking dudes in leather jackets wandering around at night time in what looks like downtown Chicago. May attract 18 year old males but will terrify everyone else. They look like exactly the type of people they claim they want to lock up or convert to the Destiny Church or whatever wacko cult/pyramid selling scheme they subscribe to.

Remarkable that this hard right, fundamentalist, anti-youth culture organization has produced a Shihad video for their election address.

9/10 for presentation, 0/10 for appeal to their fellow fundamentalists.

Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party

Professional appeal from the mullet-coiffed leader Appleby to give them your protest vote, and a few wacky graphics showing a picture of a petrol station pumping hemp oil. How anyone could devote their energy in life to this is beyond me but a perfectly acceptable advertisement.

7/10

RAM

RAM go for the downhome appeal with a man in a paper-mache mask scaring children in a Four Square and a bluegrass soundtrack  that sounds like the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Would be more convincing if I didn’t know that 90% of their candidates are revolutionaries masquerading as middle of the road reformists as part of some weird new strategy. Oh well.

RAM the LabNats is a slogan that needs some more work.

6/10

Workers Party

A relatively smooth presentation from New Zealand’s revolutionary communists who at least admit they are revolutionary communists.

However I am disappointed that the Workers Party seem to be suffering from a bashful approach to electioneering, and don’t get down to nitty gritty with a blow by blow video presentation of the final showdown between the proletariat and the boss class complete with armed militias, secret police and burning buildings. They seem to be going a little soft: could a compromise sell out be on the cards? Watch this space.

7.5/10

Democrats for Social Credit

Anodyne presentation, marks off for the ludicrous flying turkey that appears on all their advertising.

6/10

Written by Victor

October 11, 2008 at 9:51 am

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And the winner on the night . . . was apathy

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A low turnout. Despite the creditable organizing efforts of local CTU volunteers to get the meeting together, there was a smaller crowd than in the 2005 forum, of around 30 or so local unionists. The Labour Party should take this as a warning sign. If the pro-Labour unions can only summon up this kind of audience, then it is a bad omen for them.

Unlike Christchurch or Wellington, the Otago CTU invited the Alliance to speak. I still can’t believe that ACT was invited to workers forums elsewhere and the Alliance were turned away. Incredible.

Anyway to be honest there was a flat vibe and it only moved into second gear towards the end. However I will for the sake of thoroughness review the other candidates performance. As always I will not rank myself, in the interests of fairness.

Mr Smooth, AKA Michael Woodhouse (National, Dunedin North) impressed with an oleaginous performance. He pitched perfectly to the crowd, dropping in a few welltimed sentimental notes about his family origins, defusing any sign of conflict with a paced patter, and is already developing a trademark device to smother tough questions, which is to pose one back to the audience. 

The Technocrat, AKA Pete Hodgson (Labour, Dunedin North), is approaching this election devoid of any sense of urgency. Dry monotone like the rustling of autumn leaves, the audience was transfixed with boredom.

The Earnest Liberal, AKA Clare Curran (Labour, Dunedin South) used her public relations background to accurately point out how Mr Smooth was manipulating language to present a nice, friendly version of the National Party. However she was doing the same thing about the Labour Party, which kind of undermined her good point.

Save the Snail, AKA Shane Montague-Gallagher (Greens, Dunedin South) spent the entire meeting nervously going over his policies after a challenge from the floor flumoxxed him. However he kindly kept pouring everyone glasses of water which says something for him, probably that he is a new candidate. I didn’t bother to point out the glasses were non-recyclable plastic. 

All in all a pretty tepid night. National continues to sleep walk to victory with no policies and a banal smirk for a leader.

Written by Victor

October 7, 2008 at 9:12 am

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Giving pragmatic conservatism a bad name

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The 6 October 2008 issue of Critic has a lengthy article about the Dunedin North candidates including Mr Michael Woodhouse, the National Party candidate, who is CEO of a local private hospital. Mr Woodhouse is obviously the type of leader that New Zealand needs, as displayed by his following published comments:

“I would call myself a pragmatic conservative . . . when I was here [at uni] it was a competition of who could dress down the most . . . Now it’s a bloody fashion show . . . I love spring around here, it’s bloody fantastic, the skirts were never this short in my day.”

“Better not print that,” he added.

Written by Victor

October 6, 2008 at 10:47 am

Unions Otago Forum

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Unlike Christchurch and Wellington where the local CTU has shamefully excluded trade unionists running for the Alliance from debates in favour of ACT Party candidates (pure genius!), in Dunedin the Alliance has always been welcome to speak at CTU forums.

I believe I will be the only trade unionist candidate addressing the meeting, as I work for the Maritime Union.

Tuesday 7 October at 7pm at the Burns Hall, First Church – see you there!

Written by Victor

October 6, 2008 at 9:49 am

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