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Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: January 12

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Supplied
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Supplied

The Labour Party's silence on the Ports of Auckland dispute is getting louder. That's what political and media commentator Denis Welch argues in a blog post that excoriates Labour for failing to show support for the workers, and suggests that the party are re-running its 1951 waterfront line of being 'neither for nor against the watersiders' (Neither um nor ah).

The insightful and cleverly written missive from Welch goes on to express concern that Labour's rebuilding and redirection under David Shearer is akin to Richard Pearse's doomed convertiplane: 'Never mind that most of the electorate no longer has any idea what Labour stands for: party strategists are convinced that with Kiwi ingenuity, No 8 wire and lashings of aviation glue they can design a convertiparty capable of soaring into the political firmament. Unlike the old model, this baby will fly!' According to Welch, Labour's 'fiendishly cunning plan' is to create a political party that will be 'all things to all people'.

Of course, a century ago Pearse was able to beaver away in his workshop with only the occasional snooping neighbour, but modern political parties have no such luxury. The advent of the political blog means that supporters, independents and political enemies have unprecedented opportunity to publicly comment on every facet of what parties do.

This issue of political communication continues to exercise Labour, particularly with its experimental MP's blog Red Alert which has proved problematic for the party, and which the MPs are currently reviewing (see: Re-thinking Red Alert).

Trevor Mallard has bristled at suggestions on The Standard that he and Clare Curran have dominated Red Alert - often with embarrassing results - and used it to promote policies they can't get wider support for in caucus - see: Become an MP - lose your right to comment on policy.

Political blogging offers up a fascinating dilemma for parliamentary parties. On the one hand it provides a useful tool for discussing policy and gives party activists a public voice they previously didn't have. On the other hand, the loudest voices are not necessarily those with the most to contribute. And of course it also opens policy discussions up to your political enemies, who are always quick to stir the pot - see, for example, Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate): The Stranded Jumping The Shark.

In Christchurch it seems to be a case of 'do as I say, not as I do', with the Government defending the decision of several of its departments to relocate outside the Christchurch CBD (at least for the medium-term). Ben Heather reports that Gerry Brownlee is dismissing criticism as political opportunism from Labour - see: Leases defy Christchurch CBD plan, Labour says. In fact, both the Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale and the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce have also criticised the decision - see: Ben Heather's Government agencies head to outskirts and RNZ's Call for agencies to stay in Christchurch CBD.

In a city where constant aftershocks are threatening confidence more than buildings, the population of Christchurch would surely have expected the Government to lead by example. Either the Government departments are acting on an unacknowledged reality, which the Government hasn't been honest enough to admit, or they are failing in their basic duty to lead the recovery where pure market forces will fail.

Elsewhere of interest, Vernon Small reveals some details about the cost of judicial travel (Millions spent on travel for judges and spouses), Bernard Orsman provides the latest update on the waterfront industrial dispute (Port begins moves to lay off workers), leftwing blogger Scott Yorke playfully says he's Looking Forward To That Blogging Money, and TV3's James Murray blogs about yesterday's article from Keith Ng, praising his innovative 'Givealittle' funding scheme for his freelance journalism (Keith Ng succeeds with a new form of 'user pays').

Finally, to complement yesterday's reviews of 2011, there are a raft of political predictions for this year - among the best are Gordon Campbell's Mr Right or just a rebound fling?, the Fairfax team's 20 political predictions for 2012, The Standard's The political year ahead, and particularly Claire Robinson's My political media picks for 2012.

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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