Deborah Mahuta-Coyle: Voters demand only honesty

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All singing all dancing David Cunliffe. Photo / Dean Purcell
All singing all dancing David Cunliffe. Photo / Dean Purcell

When I was 8, I went to my friend Emma's birthday party. I was seated opposite her prim and proper grandmother, who leaned forward and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember thinking to myself, maybe a lawyer, or a teacher - but before I could answer she told me: "Because you know, people like you can only really do two things when you grow up - play sport or sing."

Panic set in. So I did what any good 8-year-old would do: ran home and told mum, who advised me Emma's grandmother was a crackpot.

If had listened to Emma's grandmother, would I have been one of those deluded people you see auditioning on reality TV shows such as American Idol?

There are many similarities between the Idol shows and politics. I'm not suggesting we hold a "political idol" - the thought of Gerry Brownlee twerking is too much. Although I'm sure Judith Collins would do a great cover of China Girl, David Cunliffe would pull off Son of a Preacher Man, Shane Jones could rock out to the Final Countdown and Gareth Hughes could break out into his own version of the Birdy Dance.

Both start with auditions, weeding out the nutters, getting rid of those who don't have the talent to go the distance. Then we get down to the top contestants. Week in, week out, they must perform, connect, and show versatility.

Producers want to get audiences to feel emotionally connected to contestants, become invested in their journey and ultimately cast a vote in their favour. This week, John Key announced the election date. September 20 is D-Day. So for the next six months, we will be bombarded with policy announcements, glamour shots (some more glamorous than others) soft background stories with partners, babies and possibly puppies. Both sides will throw money at voters, but not too much as to look economically irresponsible.

The past week has seen embattled MPs trying to bat off their problems with smiles and jokes, rather than addressing legitimate questions. That is going to rub people the wrong way.

What do New Zealanders want from their MPs? We know those in the beltway are going to enjoy crunching numbers, pulling apart budgets and finding problems to every solution parties on either side put up. I doubt the rest of New Zealand is into any of that.

I think Norman Kirk got it right when he said New Zealanders don't ask for much: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for. Family, friends, housing, jobs and a future. They want honesty and genuineness from their representatives, not the spin, evasiveness and secrecy that has dominated headlines this week.

Even on shallow show Idol, the public sees through all the flashy costumes, the scripted answers to questions and even forgives honest mistakes. They don't vote for the prettiest contestant or the smoothest. They look for people who are genuine and sincere. Almost always the most talented contestants win on the night. Let's hope we can say the same for the election result.

The Herald on Sunday will publish a range of different views "out of leftfield" over the next couple of months.

- Herald on Sunday

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