LET the games - and the promises - begin.
The Wairarapa Times-Age has begun the Monday series of political columns from the three significant players for the Wairarapa electorate. Yesterday was Green Party candidate John Hart's turn, and next week will feature the first column for incumbent National MP John Hayes, followed again by confirmed Labour Party candidate Kieran McAnulty, and so on. Readers should already be familiar with Mr McAnulty's Monday thoughts, as he has been a regular columnist for some time.
It will be interesting to observe how much political-speak the columns indulge in. This is a serious game now. In a situation where an electorate is seen as a winnable seat by another party, all candidates are going to get their columns vetted and approved before being released for publication. For me, there's always a touch of regret when the individual flair of a columnist has to go through the political check by their masters - but it's understandable. Wairarapa is going to be a high-stakes game. Seats are incredibly important to win when the majority is so slim.
It is deeply disappointing when it becomes obvious a column has been ghost-written and is loaded with party rhetoric. As I've said, I've had two out of three columns, and so far, they're okay. I can remember Hekia Parata's fortnightly column for Porirua News. She was a colossally busy Cabinet minister and it was hardly surprising that it was wall-to-wall National policy without an ounce of personality. In contrast, Mana MP Kris Faafoi's column was buzzing with a strong sense of the person behind the words.
I certainly forgive the columnists for whatever rules they are under in terms of getting their columns signed off by their hierarchy. But I always hope a columnist can get their personality into their prose, and a sense they really think about issues on their home turf. I am not so forgiving when a column is little more than grandiose ghost-written waffle - and I can assure the political candidates, the readership will get thoroughly turned off by it. This is a region where, if you want to represent your people, you better have something to say for yourself.