Alan Duff: Great depth - but Gareth Morgan short on delivery

I almost always leave politics to the experts. Politicians don't really interest me as people - perhaps too reminding of my own flaws. Or maybe because I hardly met a one who was good listener, and that's telling in itself.

I liked John Key (there goes my handful of leftie readers.) Key had no ego getting in the way of his judgments or perception. Politically, he was a pragmatist. I do believe his personal goal was to leave the country in better shape than he found it and he can be proud he did just that.

Gareth Morgan is an interesting bloke. For starters he stands almost alone in New Zealand as one of the biggest philanthropists we've ever known and he doesn't get any credit for this. Like John Key, I think he's a thoroughly good man. But a politician he ain't.

You don't go to Ratana Marae and take on the country's best political street scrapper, Winston Peters, and expect to win. Bad mistake, Gareth. Winston is politics' Jonah Lomu when it comes to a public debate.

You take him on at your peril.

Way back, I had my own radio show. I had Winston on as a guest. In my brief, I was told "Flatter him, Duff. Play to his ego, bring up the good things he's said and done. Just don't take him on." We had an excellent half-hour session. In deferring to him, I got what I wanted and he kept face and didn't have to be on the defensive.

I don't agree with Bob Jones' derisory take on Morgan. I think he deserves more than insults. His stance on domestic cats I completely agree with: humans have completely unbalanced the cat/bird eco-system.

One cat killing a couple thousand birds in its lifetime is giving the, uh, bird, to conservation and eco-balance. It takes a brave man to speak out like Gareth did on a subject as cute and fluffy as cats. But therein lies Gareth's problem: poor timing and no finger on the public pulse.

Play us, man. Pander to our biases and - uh again - pet hates and likes. You're not a columnist.

You don't go amongst a bunch of my Maori brethren and not use wit and humour if putting down an opponent.

You should've made them laugh, bro. Like Winston did. Maori love a laugh. Winston's coup de gras in countering Morgan's call for an upper house in Parliament by saying Maori just wanted a house, period, was debate at its best. Some of us remember when the late Paul Holmes had a crack on his show about Winston's drinking. Winston said, "You, of all people, daring to say that." Game, set, match. Jonah of Parliament thundered over the diminutive broadcaster.

Bill English does not have much to give the media, cartoonists or satirists. Bill's straight down the middle and, like his predecessor, has no ego worth worrying about; he just wants to get the job done and done well.

Making a late run on the outside - the real outside - is Hone Harawira, who has relinked arms with the Maori Party and is headed for the finish line. That's a mistake. Hone's a street fighter, and no Jonah Lomu of anything but, well, verbal fisticuffs. I reckon the man has nothing to offer Maoridom; though some Maori persist with believing he has. It takes imagination, a lack of envy and burning resentment, to come up with good ideas on how to advance. Harawira appears to me to have none of those qualities.

Your columnist wants nothing more than to see Maori advance. That's not going to happen with any of the current political crop with the exception, I believe, of Kelvin Davis. He's another bloody good man - that rare politician who keeps his word and does what he promises. And I'm no Labour supporter.

But we shouldn't laugh at Gareth Morgan. Many of his ideas are sound. His public delivery leaves a bit to be desired. However, he plays with a straight bat, better than most in those teams of which he's aspiring to become one. It would be better to use his fine brain to come up with ways of getting positive messages to Maori.

- NZ Herald

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Alan Duff

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