Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: November 16

National Party leader John Key and Act Party member John Banks at a cafe in Newmarket during the cup of tea meeting. Photo / Dean Purcell
National Party leader John Key and Act Party member John Banks at a cafe in Newmarket during the cup of tea meeting. Photo / Dean Purcell

It's looking like a potential 'game-changer' now. The so-called teapot tapes have somehow become the single biggest issue of the election, and are seriously threatening the stability of National's carefully orchestrated campaign. Opinion polls have consistently pointed to a landslide victory to National, but the potential for movement is now very real. It's conceivable that Key's handling of the incident will put a major dent in his reputation and image.

In addition, New Zealand First has been allowed back into the campaign, and might now be threatening the 5% threshold. It would also be a great irony if Key, in attempting to save Act, inadvertently delivered the killer blow.

The best analysis of the day on the teapot tapes is Tim Watkin's Out of a teapot and into hot water and John Armstrong's 'Teapot tape' could nail lid to Act coffin.

Both writers explain very well how John Key has mismanaged this political issue and ended up in a quandary.

Other very useful items on this issue include Tracy Watkin's Key ups the stakes over tea tape, Gordon Campbell's On the cuppa tea tape and billboard circuses, Brian Rudman's Key plays risky game over taping, Reading the Maps' Why 'Teagate' is anything but trivial, and the Taranaki Daily News editorial Live by the sword . . .. The most humorous comment comes from Denis Welch, who dreams up a John Key-Zac Guildford scenario on his Opposable thumb blogsite - see: Key tea vow.

Surely it won't be long now before the recording is released - officially or otherwise (see: Pundits believe Teapot Tape will be public soon). Much of it is already in the public arena via speculation and the pointed questions of political journalists like Duncan Garner, who has clearly got the bit between his teeth and is not about to let go. Matthew Hooton believes that National needs to do what they should have done from the start and front up properly on the issue - see: Oh dear! Key stuffs up big time. After comparing Key's gaffe to Helen Clark's infamous arrogant and angry 'corngate' interview with John Campbell, Hooton explains National's problem: 'National needs desperately to move on to this issue. The problem is that the Prime Minister's success over the last few years is so great that his team hasn't had much experience in dealing with political crises. To quote someone else, he is a victim of his own success as a popular and competent prime minister'.

The person with the most to gain from the teapot tapes coming out is probably Winston Peters - see: John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance's Winston Peters relishes opening over tape, and there's a decent chance that Peters will use tonight's minor party leaders debate on TVNZ to spill the beans.

Danyl Mclauchlan raises a good point on his Dim-Post blog, Minor point, where he points out that 'the tea-pot tape saga keys into a huge range of really substantive issues: the Prime Minister's integrity; media ethics; surveillance... It's about political management of the media, and the farce that is the ACT Party, and National's endorsement of said farce'.

It is true that the teapot and billboard vandalism issues dominating the news today have given rise to important moral and ethical questions about politics and elections. In terms of the teapot tapes, the questions include: Is it ethical to record politicians' conversations? Is it ethical to publish the transcripts? Is it OK for the state to spy on people, but not for people to spy on representatives of the state? Are political leaders 'fair game' for recording their conversations when they invite the media along for a publicity stunt?

National is not keen to answer questions - as we've seen today with John Key's dramatic press conference walkout - see Derek Cheng's Key storms off over tape question. But others are answering those questions with considerable authority and intelligence, including the British lawyer representing News of the World phone-hacking victims, who says that it is indeed in the public interest for the transcript of the recording to be released - see: Amelia Wade's Prime Minister's 'cheap shot'.

Just as the teapot tapes are a PR nightmare for National, the billboard vandalism saga threatens the Green Party's surge in the opinion polls. As today's Herald editorial points out (Sign vandals may cost Greens dearly), this is exactly the sort of issue that will worry the Greens' new-found support base amongst middle-of-the-road voters who admire the party's new moderation and respectability - see Adam Bennett and Amelia Romanos' Vandalism links blow for Greensand Tracy Watkins' Greens come clean over dirty tactics. Blogger Ele Ludemann - like others - raises questions about how much the Green Party MPs knew about the billboard vandalism campaign (Wild greens behind urbane front). She claims that it's still not clear the billboard vandals 'were not acting on the party's behalf', and in fact, 'I have found no reference to any assurance from any other MP or office holder in the party. Until they give one it is legitimate to ask did any of them know anything about the plan or its execution before this morning?'. Similarly, in his blog post, Unanswered questions re Jolyon White, David Farrar says 'The Greens have not said how many of their parliamentary staff knew about the campaign. We know at least one did. They have said they will not investigate until after the election. This leaves open the possibility that several of their staff knew, or were involved, in the campaign'.

In terms of the ethics of the Green Party related billboard vandalism, the following questions are being widely discussed: Is it OK to deface billboards during an election campaign? Where do you draw the line in between harmless billboard political pranks and systematic dirty tricks that infringe on the freedom of speech of opponents? Are political parties responsible for the actions of their members or activists? Is it appropriate for political party leaders to dob in their party members to the authorities for billboard activism?

Ex-Green Party MP Sue Bradford answers that last question with an outraged 'No' - see: Danya Levy's Greens accused of selling out over billboard stoush, or listen to Bradford on RNZ's Checkpoint. Not only does the Mana Party candidate say that the Greens have 'sold out their own people', she argues that billboard defacing is an acceptable and normal part of the electoral political discourse. In agreement with this is Steven Price and Kiwipolitco who both argue that a bit of billboard damage should be an acceptable part of the campaign as long as it doesn't shift into the type of large-scale operation we've witnessed in the last few days - see: Price's Billboard "vandals" and Kiwipolitico's On Billboards. In contrast to this, John Pagani makes a good argument that Vandalism isn't free speech.

Finally, check out the account of Sue Bradford's very interesting views on the Green Party in her live Herald-online chat today: Bradford: Mana a 'party for the future', as well as a very good blog post analysing the shift of the Greens into the centre of the left-right political spectrum: Kiwipolitico's Against Centrism.

Today's content

Tea tapes and Epsom

John Armstrong (NZH): 'Teapot tape' could nail lid to Act coffin

Tim Watkin (Pundit): Out of a teapot and into hot water

Derek Cheng (NZH): Key: Tea tape issue a 'sideshow'

Dan Satherley and James Murray (TV3): Teapot tape: Key storms out of media conference

Danya Levy, John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance (Stuff): Key storms out of media conference

Tracy Watkin (Stuff): Key ups the stakes over tea tape

Matthew Hooton (electionresults): Oh dear! Key stuffs up big time

Duncan Garner (TV3): Key turns down glimpse at 'teapot tapes' transcript

Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the cuppa tea tape and billboard circuses

Reading the Maps: Why 'Teagate' is anything but trivial

Brian Rudman (NZH): Key plays risky game over taping

Dom Post: Minor point

Dom Post: Defining expectations down

The Standard: Goldsmith removing Goldsmith signs

TV3: National's Epsom candidate removes National billboards

Bernard Orsman (NZH): 'Hold your nose' answer to Epsom 'match-fixing'

TV3: NotW hacking victims' lawyer rejects Key claim

Amelia Wade (NZH): Prime Minister's 'cheap shot'

NZH: Peters: Key tape remarks derogatory

Patrick Gower (TV3): Peters tells supporters teacup tapes contain insult to elderly

John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance (Stuff): Winston Peters relishes opening over tape

Peter Wilson (TV3): Key may face more teapot tape accusations

Natasha Burling (Newstalk ZB): Pundits believe Teapot Tape will be public soon

Michael Morrah (TV3): Teacup tapes: Missed recording device highlights security flaws

Simon Cunliffe (ODT): Mundane social ritual now steeped in new meaning

Taranaki Daily News: Editorial - Live by the sword...

Nelson Mail: Editorial - Stoking up a storm over the teacups

Michelle Cooke (Stuff): Teacup cameraman's police past

Whaleoil: Just who is Bradley Ambrose/Brad White?

The Standard: [insert tea-related pun here]

John Pagani (NZH): Tea party tape mere sideshow to main event in Epsom

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): This will not help

Steven Price (Media Law Journal): Conflict of interest

Denis Welch (Opposable thumb): Key tea vow

Billboard vandalism campaign

NZH: Editorial - Sign vandals may cost Greens dearly

Danya Levy (Stuff): Greens accused of selling out over billboard stoush

Tracy Watkins (Dom Post): Greens come clean over dirty tactics

Steven Price (Media Law Journal): Billboard "vandals"

John Pagani (Stuff): Vandalism isn't free speech

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Wild greens behind urbane front

Rob Carr: (Political Dumpground): Green Damage

Martyn Bradbury (Tumke): Green Party so called 'vandalism' and Epsom Tea Party Tapes

Kiwipolitico: On Billboards

Alexia Russell, Natasha Burling and Felix Marwick (Newsgtalk ZB): Norman's leadership questioned over billboard vandalism

Whaleoil: Oh Really?

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Unanswered questions re Jolyon White

TVNZ: Norman a fan of billboards but not controversy

Danya Levy (Stuff): Green co-leader's PA knew of defacing plans

Keeping Stock: Dismiss him at your peril

Adam Bennett and Amelia Romanos (NZH): Vandalism links blow for Greens

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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