Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, the mainstream media try to extract some mileage from the Prime Minister's staged meeting with John Banks in an Auckland cafe.

I have taken marginally more interest in the general election campaign than I did with the Rugby World Cup but that's not saying much. So I know who the main teams are, who are the key players and I can give you a brief outline of the main game 'incidents' but, after that, I'm kind of working on remote control.

I've avoided most of the TV 'debates' and I've read mere snippets of the myriad of articles and columns that have been written about this campaign. What's more - I don't think I have missed much.

The problem is that party politics is no longer about ideological differences, or indeed any kind of substantial debate reflecting competing visions for a better society. There is nothing to engage with and nothing to debate. There is no passion. There is no excitement.

Despite the fact that neoiliberalsim has failed and capitalism is stuffed, none of the parliamentary parties are prepared to abandon the 'free market' and start afresh.

This election - like the last one - is about which company director will win the boardroom battle to run New Zealand Inc. It's a naked grab for power within a set of defined rules. It might even be a game of two halves but neoliberalism will definitely be the winner on the day. It's just a matter of who gets the big office with the big comfy chair.

Because none of the parties - and that includes the Green's -can even conceive of a society not under the iron heel of the 'free market' , this election campaign has been reduced to personality clashes, party machinations and petty squabbles over policy differences that are mostly disagreements about technicalities rather than about differences in fundamental philosophy.

And we can't forget the incessant opinion polls. Its 14 -0 to National but Goff has just kicked a penalty from a John Key foul. Its 14-3! But Labour supporters say that the score doesn't accurately reflect the true nature of the game!

'Show me the money!" demanded John Key, when he accused Labour of not costing its election promises.

A backpedaling Phil Goff retorted that he would be releasing ' a spreadsheet' '. Gosh. A 'spreadsheet'! Be still my beating heart!

The media, of course, went goo-goo over this. It was about as interesting as two accountants criticising each others work methods but,apparently , its one of the pivotal moments of this dreary election campaign.

We really are scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrell when John Key quoting a line from a Tom Cruise movie is considered to be the height of clever. The fact that Key's backroom staff thought it was a good line to deliver was sad but what was even sadder was the way the media got sucked in by it.

The media are now going ape about the taped conversation between John Key and John Banks.

What does it say about this election campaign that the mainstream media are devoting so much time and energy to reporting crazy over reality? Perhaps Key discussed his preference for English Breakfast tea or perhaps he and Banks talked about Don Brash's shelf life. Maybe someone cracked a joke about Winston Peters. Who cares other than Guyon Espiner, Duncan Garner and co?

The really important issue that the mainstream media won't talk about is how we, the people, are living under a one party system and the only 'choice' we are being given is which brand of capitalism we want. We have been effectively disenfranchised and the corporate media has nothing to say about it.

It would rather speculate on a conversation between two politicians in a cafe.


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