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Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Ugly mugs spoil billboard effort

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Candidates' billboard photos make them look shifty and desperate. Photo / Greg Bowker
Candidates' billboard photos make them look shifty and desperate. Photo / Greg Bowker

"Are they doing a new production of Gliding On?" my wife asked.

"I'd like to see that. It looks hilarious."

"No, dear, that's an election billboard," I said. "Council elections coming up."

"That one looks like a psychic," she said as we passed another panorama of the seemingly morally unhygienic, pleading with us to vote for them. And no, she didn't mean psycho. In our house, psychic is not a compliment.

"And that bunch looks like a reunion of blacklisted used-car salesmen," she observed of yet another panorama.

"Bit hard on blacklisted used-car salesmen," I demurred.

But she was right. The images of themselves that people have chosen in an attempt to earn our support are unrelievedly unflattering. Most have picked portraits that make them look like they would struggle to meet the minimum standards for entry to arse-wiping school.

In trying to look trustworthy and capable they come across as shifty and desperate.

I exempt from these comments my sort-of son-in-law, as fine-looking a young man as you could ever be asked to vote for, and one whom I won't embarrass (by which I mean, won't destroy his chances) by naming here.

It's been known for several decades that politics - especially the end of it that involves getting voted in - is a matter of appearance rather than substance.

David Shearer and Julia Gillard, for instance, can tell you a lot about that. And while these observations might appear to focus on triviality rather than the hard-hitting substance of policy on housing and plans to reform our transport system, it acknowledges the reality that image is all.

You don't have to look far to find irrefutable research that when it comes to anything from getting a job to getting a bargain, fortune favours the fair. Knowing this, why would you entrust your city to someone who doesn't have the brains to choose a halfway decent picture to promote themselves?

One of the first six charter schools is a military academy - Vanguard Military School.

Like any military organisation worth its salt, Vanguard is a discreet unit. It has a website that only gives you the opportunity to ask for more information, for which you have to register. Of course, it was naive to think an organisation that gets public money would be open and transparent. Charter schools, after all, are exempt from the Official Information Act.

So I'm left to speculate about the exact nature of the education to be provided at VMS. It's promoted as ideal for "those from disadvantaged backgrounds" but I suspect it will be most popular with affluent opt-out parents who can't handle their kids, think a bit of military-style discipline is what they need to whip them into shape - babysitting with push-ups - and who are happy to pay to get the little monsters off their hands, or at least have someone else to blame when they still fail to measure up.

Last Friday, I went to Japan for work. (Highly recommended, you'll almost certainly be the tallest person there.) I left unworried that I would miss any major news during five days away. I didn't need a newspaper in the hotel to know David Cunliffe would be elected leader of the Labour Party, and Emirates Team New Zealand would continue its dominance of the America's Cup racing. I did have a terrible dream that the whole country travelled back 10 years and the media was swamped with stories about Sally Ridge and Adam Parore's marriage. Imagine my surprise.

- Herald on Sunday

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