Laurie Penny
The political commentariat has been on its summer holidays. But all good things must come to an end...
ONE OF THE NICE THINGS about the summer has been the fact that the journalists and the commentators of the political establishment have all been away on their vacations. For a brief and wonderful period over Xmas and New Year, the media has not been clogged with their dreary conservative views and opinions.

Think about who  has been absent for the past few weeks: Mike Hosking, Paul Henry, Duncan Garner, Willie Jackson, David Farrar, Patrick Gower, Leighton Smith, Mathew Hooton, Heather du Plessis-Allan, Larry Williams, Rodney Hide, Chris Trotter. Their concern is 'politics as usual' - uninterrupted - when more and more people want to see the political applecart turned over.

The chattering class has been a lot less chatty and, I for one, have liked it. A lot. I imagine many of you, like me, feel life has been enhanced by their absence.

Of course, I am clutching at straws. I am celebrating the brief absence of the political commentariat that, for most of the year, I feel I must dutifully monitor. But I must confess it becomes a lot harder as each year goes by and nothing changes in this country.

After he gave up The Daily Show, John Stewart commented that he was looking forward to not having to watch the 24/7 news channels like Fox and CNN. In my own small way, I know what he means. I think I would be happier if I just switched off - I certainly would not be missing much.

The problem is that as mainstream politics has converged around the centre so have the media, likes bees around a honey pot. Or is that flies around a dung heap? There's a pertinent cartoon in there somewhere.

I've done some hard thinking to come up with just one columnist or one commentator who rejects the prevailing consensus. I honestly can't think of one. Occasionally Bryce Edwards chides the political establishment but , on shows like Q+A , he always leaves me with the impression he's holding back.

To join the political commentariat you must be safe, you must be predictable, you must not rock the boat. Being a 'dissident' is defined as merely supporting the other team - in this case, the Labour Party and its parliamentary chums. The game itself though, remains unchallenged.

So - called 'progressive' websites like The Daily Blog and The Standard often bang on about the conservatism of the mainstream media, but theirs is not a genuine objection. It is not a rejection of neoliberalism and the free market but rather a frustration that their people - ie the Labour Party and co - aren't sitting on the Treasury benches.

As John Pilger has written "dissent once tolerated in the 'mainstream' has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground”

Last year journalist Laurie Penny wrote of British politics: "We want someone to remember that democracy does not begin and end at the ballot box. We want someone to represent the interests of the young, the poor and the marginalised in parliament. And the most damning indictment on the British political machine is the way in which these simple, modest demands look like a revolution."

Much the same can also said of New Zealand mainstream politics but the difference is that no one in the media is saying it. Instead we have Chris Trotter, 'New Zealand's leading left wing commentator' (Paul Henry), declaring the Minister of Finance, Bill English, to be his politician of the year. And if you think I'm picking on Trotter, The Daily Blog declared the atrociously right wing Andrew Little to be its politician of the year. Jeez...

The political commentariat will be waking from its summer slumber next week. Good luck.


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