It would be fair to say that the opening salvos of the Election 2014 campaign have been tacky, tawdry and wonderful. Any campaign that is all about whales dumping and being dumped on, without any actual marine mammals being harmed in the process, has to be better than the usual vague political waffle and retractable promises of ordinary campaigns.
Unfortunately, at some stage the campaign must turn in the direction of rhetoric about boring policies rather than entertaining mudslinging. The theory behind elections, as far as I understand it, is that we should make informed judgments about the parties and candidates, and then vote according to how they stack up with our own personal beliefs.
Either that or we vote randomly, according to who has the nicest name.
In the absence of anything other than mud-slinging thus far, I decided I needed to go to the horse's mouth (or possibly the horse's ass) to learn more about each party and what they actually want to say to me. So I went to the political party websites - where the information is 100 per cent spin and therefore the most honest form of expression in politics - to try to figure out who is who and what they're all about.
[NB: in this exercise I have decided to focus solely on the websites of the three main parties. This is because they are the three main parties and everyone else depresses me. If someone from one of the other parties wants to sue me over the right to be included in this column they are welcome to give it a crack. My only defence will be "it's my damn column, I can write what I damn well like."]
National's website is all very much about one thing: John Key.
Every page is dominated by pictures of John, like he's the white Obama. See John take time out from leading the nation to teach geography to the children. See fluoro John hanging with the building trade boys. See John close his eyes as he is engulfed in a multi-cultural hug. See John get smacked in the face by a baby. With all these pictures of John being everywhere doing everything all at once it is no wonder he has such terrible memory problems - there's only so much a politician's brain can retain.
Labour, as if trying to distance themselves from the one-person, one-party state of National, are all about their "team". There are groups of people everywhere, all over the Labour website, as if to reassure the Labour hierarchy that there are still groups of people out there who might be willing to vote for them. There are pictures of all the Labour MPs and candidates, each one with a big tick beside their picture, just to remind us what we're meant to do in the voting booth - or possibly as a message to the team from management that if they go off the reservation, a la Judith Collins, that tick can easily be changed to a question mark.
The Greens, meanwhile, have gone for a threesome approach involving Metiria Turei, Russel Norman and the planet Earth. As is often the case with the Greens, it is hard to tell which one of these three is in charge, though the photo of Metiria and Russel about to be run down by a Christchurch tram tends to suggest the Earth is plotting a leadership coup.
Some might argue that the fundamental differences between the three parties are summed up in the fundaments of their language. National, like a secretive organisation in a Bond film, pushing their benevolent dictator, state that they have a "plan"; Labour have gone for the word "vision", which is kind of appropriate when they are so far behind in the polls that victory seems like a mirage; meanwhile the Greens have "priorities" which sounds more like a To Do list scrawled on recycled paper than a decisive political agenda.
There are lots of policies on these websites; so many that my brain became numb trying to read them all. Eventually everything became a jumble of meaningless platitudes, which may have been the intention in the first place, I don't know. I tried to apply the "But What's In It For Me?" filter, in order to make sense of the white noise, but as a writer working primarily in television drama there was nothing from anyone to make my life more meaningful/cultural/valuable/profitable/sustainable so I abandoned that approach in favour of randomly clicking from one web page to another, in search of clarity.
Strangely, this kind of worked, in that if there is a party out there that incorporates a team of benevolent Earths, whose priority is one day to have the vision to form a plan, then they totally have my vote.