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Paul Casserly: Campbell vs Bridges

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Minister Simon Bridges. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Minister Simon Bridges. Photo / Glenn Taylor

Ding. Ding.

What a great tradition this is becoming. Forget the pay per view boxing, the real action is played out for to air on Campbell Live these days. He's been labelled a "little creep" by Helen Clark, accused of bullying Ken Ring (the cuddly weather wizard) and more recently there was that stoush with John Key. It was a brutal affair that left JC bruised and fans of JK triumphant. But when you knock a good man down there's only one thing for him to do. Dust yourself off and get stuck into another Nat, preferably a smaller one.

The stage was set. The contentious deep-sea oil drilling off the coast of Kaikoura has locals up in arms. A list of catastrophes is presented and the case against the plan is pretty compelling. It's only one side of story of course, and it's pretty obvious that a side has been taken here, but still, a Minister should be able to front up.

In one corner it was John Campbell, and from the off he looked ready to turn the screws on the Minister of sucking up to Oil companies and other whale killing activities.

In the other, it was Simon Bridges. He looks too young. That's my first thought. In the previous week he refused to front up during Campbell's campaign against the off shore drilling on behalf of those with something to lose; namely the whale watchers, the fishermen and the people of Kaikoura. Why risk everything and get nothing? It's a valid question. But it was a question that Campbell live seemed to have already asked and answered.

The show had made up its mind, and Bridges would not be invited on for a thoughtful discussion, that seemed clear.

Still, a minister's job is to front and try to make us understand why rats are tasty and why we should swallow them with glee. Bridges was entering a hostile environment, but that's his job. But he's not a great proponent of the kind of dead eyed spin that allows politicians to sell the unsellable. He seemed human and frail as Campbell tugged on his choker chain throughout the interview. Actually, it wasn't an interview. It was an encounter. And while encounters leave us with less information they do provide way more entertainment.

Early points went to Campbell. The proposed drilling was way deeper than anything that had been undertaken in our waters before. Simon tried to fudge the point. He fumbled with numbers. He looked unprepared, scared even. Yet somehow by then end he made Campbell seem like a bully. For the most part he was talking over the top of Bridges with an air of pure disdain. At one point he instructed the hapless Minister, as a teacher might a child with special needs. "How about I ask a question and you answer it? Shall we try that?"

I much admire Campbell's singular brand of journalism, his passion for causes, the fact that he gives a f**k, but for the first time he reminded me a little of Bill O'Reilly. It was clear that he wasn't interested in the yapping that was coming from his opponent.

Perhaps that's ok? Perhaps entertainment is enough? Perhaps drilling for oil off Kaikoura is such a terrible idea that no argument can be made for it. It would be good to hear some of the pros, or even hear if there are any. I enjoyed the stoush but was left wanting a little teasing out of the complexities, an attempt to put the rage into perspective. But as a pure spectacle of current affairs, it sure delivered a punch.

(See the video of the encounter here.)

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