Russell Brown of the Public Address blog site (and ubiquitous media commentator), will be hosting TVNZ 7’s coverage of the upcoming general election on Freeview.
Brown, who is also unofficial president of the Auckland Labour Milieu Club, told the TV Guide that it was important for him to be involved in the election coverage because, yawn, its democracy in action.
So he’s not doing it for the money then.
Brown, one of the most irritating Labour apologists around (him, and Tumeke! blogger Martyn Bradbury) said that the election was important because
‘. the three-yearly chance to vote is a key component of citizenship. It’s one of the most important things we do – and, at best, it’s a genuine contest of ideas, and it reminds us why live in a democracy.’
I’m wondering if Brown was drunk when he said this. Or perhaps he was speaking ironically?
Sadly, I don’t think so. Brown I’m afraid, seriously believes what he is saying.
It’s wonderfully naïve for him to believe that casting a vote every three years gives us a real stake in the affairs of the nation but, regardless of his touching faith in bourgeois democracy, this year’s general election is even more of a sideshow than usual.
One of the main arguments for MMP is that it would break up the ‘two-party club’ and allow a range of parties to be represented in Parliament, representing a range of political views. It would be, so the argument went, be more ‘representative’ of the increasingly diverse nature of New Zealand society.
Tthe detractors of MMP said it would allow into Parliament parties with political views unpopular with the majority of the population. The MMP detractors claimed that ‘extremist’ parties could get elected.
The promoters of MMP argued that the five percent threshold would prevent any old Tom, Dick or Harriet entering Parliament.
However what we have ended up with is no political diversity at all, never mind ‘extremism’. Hell, I'd love a bit of 'extremism' right now - about the only 'extreme' thing that's happened so far is Helen Clark falling over in a Christchurch cafe (is it on You Tube yet?)
The parliamentary parties have all gravitated to the ‘centre’ and embraced the free market. It doesn’t mind which of the parliamentary parties you vote end you will end getting the same thing – more free market, more neo liberalism. It’s a Clayton’s Election. – the election you have when you are not having a election.
With no fundamental ideological differences between them, television ‘debates’ between the party leaders are yawn fests and Labour, in particular but not exclusively, is resorting to throwing mud at John Key and hoping some of it will stick.
Today we learn that Labour President Mike 'I'm on Five Government Boards' Williams, who would have got the green light from Clark, flew to Sydney to pore over business documents looking for dirty on Key. Apparently he returned with a case load of the documents that revealed nothing much.
I'm surprised Williams had the time to fly to Sydney what with all that important board work he has to do.
This is what it’s been reduced to, folks. It’s a million miles away from being anything like ‘a genuine contest of ideas’ that Russell Brown claims it is.
Dr Bryce Edwards on his Liberation blog says that the minor parties have failed MMP because they have all effectively ‘morphed into United Future’.
He makes the point that the minor parties have run of steam and ideas – just like Labour and National.
Of Monday’s soporific television ‘debate’ between the minor party leaders Edwards writes:
'The minor party leaders’ debate involved mostly ‘yesterday’s politicians’ of the 1990s: Anderton, Peters, Fitzsimmons, Dunne, and Hide are all simply survivors from the politics of the early 1990s. They’ve been around for too long and represent mostly pre-MMP politics. Hence everyone in the debate had grey hair. Now obviously there should always be room for a bit of grey hair in our elections, but the handwringers who worry about youth not voting, might want to look at just what’s on offer before blaming the public for not bothering.'
He observes that MMP has not revitalised the New Zealand party system and that all the minor parties are ‘leftovers’ from the pre-MMP days. Not only that all the minor parties are merely the products of parliamentary machinations. The exception is ACT but as Edwards observes, even that was created by some ex- MPs., including Richard Prebble.
I agree with Edwards that its time for a real shake-up of the political system – then we might get some of the ‘genuine contest of ideas’ sorely lacking in 2008.