Fran O'Sullivan: Prime Minister, what have you let yourself become?

Helen Clark could not resist labelling me a "right-wing blogger" after my latest column on the great parliamentary spending raid got under her skin.

It was a bit too much for the Beehive's 9th floor for me to state the obvious: that some of her Labour colleagues are asking whether she has lost her usual unerring political judgment after the election funding scandal impacted on their pockets; that her glorious 13-year reign as Labour's leader might have lost its lustre; and that there is talk in some quarters of a managed leadership transition.

Let's put the record straight. I am not a right-wing blogger, Prime Minister.

Most of those who would be happy to wear that epithet - the well-connected business people and public servants who hide their identity on New Zealand blogs under pseudonyms such as Antarctic Lemur, Redbaiter and Adolf Fiinkensein usually categorise me as some sort of craven media love slave of Helengrad. Don't choke.

Prime Minister, I am an MSM (mainstream media) journalist whom right-wing bloggers charge could have brought down the Labour Government if she had the cojones to publish the full "Doonegate" affair just a day before the September 2005 election and reveal the lengths to which you went to pull the skids from under a previous Police Commissioner while he was under investigation six years prior.

Unlike Labour's sympathisers and political allies such as "Cadmus" or "Redrag" who also inhabit the blogosphere and regularly do battle on your behalf with those who label themselves part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, what I write stands under my own name.

We are both, Prime Minister, of a generation that has to come to terms fast with the fact that the privileges that have sustained our relative positions are rapidly disappearing.

In your case, you need to come to grips with the fact that ramming through legislation under urgency to retrospectively legalise the unlawful raid on parliamentary funds has already provoked an instantaneous reaction that is well outside the bounds of either yourself, or mainstream media, to control.

In just 48 hours, an online call to New Zealanders to endorse a "No Royal Assent to Electoral Act Violation" petition to the Governor-General has amassed 22,500 signatures. That's the reality in 2006.

Another reality is that the mainstream media, which is fast losing journalist horsepower as advertising migrates to online sites, frequently tunes into the most assiduous blogs, as published hit-rates show. In some cases, I am chastened to say, bloggers of both left and right persuasions have at times more energetically pursued topical issues than print media.

Both politicians and media need to improve their acts to withstand this instantaneous onslaught, where power has devolved in the anarchic kind of way that our generation would have jumped at when we were fearless young pursuers of truth.

You know yourself, Prime Minister, what it was like being a student leader when this country was known as the "Albania of the South", when heavy political controls ensured those who spoke out were subject to Security Intelligence Service probes and IRD audits, and were planted on public hit-lists as communist sympathisers by an errant Prime Minister long past his use-by date.

My sense is that you need to recapture some of your earlier spirit before it is too late. Pulling back on your Nixonian plans to entrench established political power as payback for the electoral spending imbroglio would be a start.

Taking away the Exclusive Brethren's employment law loophole because they spent $1.2 million campaigning against the Greens and your party is unworthy of your Government.

The Brethren may have thought they were doing God's Work but they failed, for heaven's sake, and were exposed as a faceless group during the campaign.

In the 1960s and 70s you railed against the suppression of dissident voices. Now your Government wants the Charities Commission to clamp down on the tax privileges of charitable trusts that cross an undeclared line into political advocacy.

Previous Governments managed to withstand the Anglican Church's open campaigning against them with its "Hikoi of Hope" march and not retaliate by withdrawing privileges.

Surely the Vietnam generation can hold its own now it is in power without imposing legislative clamps.

Then there are the proposals to banish third parties from advertising during election campaigns, so obviously aimed at the Exclusive Brethren but with no recognition that your own most fervent supporter, the trade union movement, also spends up large in support of the wider labour programme at election time.

Then there are the plans to clamp down on news media. I know you were too buried in the furore over your husband's sexuality some weeks ago to let the press gallery know that you were much taken by the measures the British Labour Government has imposed to curb press freedoms.

It must have been embarrassing to play host to visiting British Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor Falconer the very weekend you were working your cellphone to exhaustion defusing allegations that your husband was gay. The British legislation is only 18 months old, but Falconer wants to suppress what is released to media to avoid embarrassing Tony Blair's Government.

Now you seem to want to toughen up the Press Council because you believe it to be a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with a local media that is just doing its job.

Think back, Prime Minister. How would Helen Clark circa 1969 react? Then act accordingly.

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