Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: February 13

Protesters are restrained during Waitangi Day celebrations. Photo / NZ Herald
Protesters are restrained during Waitangi Day celebrations. Photo / NZ Herald

New Zealand often appears to be bursting to have a national conversation and debate about issues of ethnicity and politics. The response to Paul Holmes' latest opinion piece (Waitangi Day a complete waste) certainly suggests this. As the Herald notes, Holmes' column hit a nerve, and the flood of positive and negative responses obviously reflect peoples strong feelings about Waitangi Day. However Holmes' column has generated extensive criticism, particularly for the way it paints all Maori with same brush - such as when he says, 'never mind the hopeless failure of Maori to educate their children and stop them bashing their babies'.

Maori politics specialist Morgan Godfery says the column is the 'vilest' he has ever seen and 'undeniably racist' (see - Holmes: morally repugnant and deeply racist), while Scott Hamilton says on his Reading the Maps blog that Maori might pause before taking child-rearing advice from Holmes, given that he 'helped bring up that model of scholarship and sobriety Millie Elder-Holmes' - see: Lazy Maoris and idle words.

Others have expressed similar views to Holmes about Waitangi Day - albeit with more sophistication, see: Sean Plunket's National day should be celebratory, not rudely divisive and John Roughan's Treaty principle cuts both ways.

Nonetheless, in his own limited and distorted way, Holmes raises important points and a legitimate perspective. Rather than clamping down on such opinions, New Zealand desperately needs an expanded debate about ethnicity and politics. So far this year, 'race relations' are dominating politics so more debate should be welcomed - but hopefully the kind that generates more light than heat.

Is John Key losing his enthusiasm for the top job? That's the question raised by John Armstrong in a must-read column: Grim reality has taken its toll on cheerful Key. And although Key is still apparently our sexiest politician (see: TVNZ's Sex appeal sways voters' choices, his appeal in general is on the wane - see: Prime Minister John Key wins hearts if not minds.

Declining enthusiasm for Key is almost certainly related to the growing pessimism of New Zealanders in general, coming down from the highs of the Rugby World Cup - see: Andrea Vance's Rugby joy short-lived, nation pessimistic. And it seems that it's the economy (stupid!) that is weighing on Kiwi's minds as they now rate it as more important an issue than at any time in the past 20 years - see: Vance's: State of economy top of Kiwis' concerns. However in the very long term, New Zealand has a bright future according to global bank HSBC (see: TVNZ: NZ tipped to be developed world's 'top performer') but it will be the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians who will be global economic leaders.

Labour's relationship with other Opposition parties is examined by the Dominion Post's Tracy Watkins in Old dog won't let go of the bone (not currently online). She says that Shearer shouldn't try and 'out-mongrel' Winston Peters - rather that is a job for his front bench. Watkins says the Whanau Ora policy is an obvious target for the Opposition but that Labour will 'tread warily' on the issue, particularly given that many of Labour's Maori supporters gave their electorate vote to the Maori Party. Meanwhile, for the second time in a week David Cunliffe has staked out political territory that appears to be to the left of his erstwhile rival David Shearer (as far as one can tell) - see Cunliffe's Red Alert post, A Big Ask.

Labour is now calling for further electoral finance reform, particularly the way breaches are dealt with - see: Claire Trevett's Speed up electoral law breach process: Robertson. As David Farrar points out, it has always been a low priority for the police. Despite the confusion over the rules, Tapa Misa applauds the Electoral Commission drawing the line over the RadioLive show, pointing to the blurring of lines between media, corporations and politicians in the US - see: Blurred lines are making a joke of election spending. Also on the issue of the RadioLive decision, Graeme Edgeler blogs that It's (almost) never that simple.

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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