The countdown to the election is on. If you like politics then you might also like this selection of music, books and shows, artfully compiled by Kiran Dass.




In regards to 1980s French nuclear testing in the Pacific, Herbs' message was clear - "Get out of the Pacific!" An assertive statement backing New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance, French Letter warns what happens when "unwelcome guests" make nuclear tests which will "make the ocean glow". From the staunchly political group with connections to the Polynesian Panthers, French Letter - re-recorded in 1995 in protest at French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll - smashes through the cool, glassy idyll of the South Pacific ocean to say to no to nukes.


Heaven 17
The 1980s inspired a slew of anti-fascist political music. On the surface (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang has the sound of innocuous shiny danceable pop-funk with its glossy panache but the title says it all, this is a full-blown protest song, banned by the BBC. With a clanging, skittish beat and infectious groove, this slick slice of disco-funk inflected pop warns of complacency and implores the listener to not "just sit there on your ass" and warns us about how "evil men" are "spreading all across the land".

Blam Blam Blam
Written by poet/performer Richard von Sturmer, no other song captures the rising political and social anxiety and tumult of Muldoon's early 1980s New Zealand as succinctly as this anthemic and subversive classic. Dripping with irony - "we have no dole queues, we have no drug addicts, we have no racism, we have no sexism", the song also foreshadowed the civic concern of the divisive 1981 Springbok rugby tour and "Dirty Politics" - "we have no SIS, we have no secrets" while observing the bleakness of rising unemployment and diminishing opportunities.

Robert Wyatt
The plaintive line "Is it worth it?" opens this beautifully elegiac anti-war ballad penned by Elvis Costello in protest of the Falklands War but made famous by Robert Wyatt. A socialist statement against Thatcher's harsh and unforgiving Britain, the song examines how the war could possibly revive British shipbuilding regions but at the expense of the lives of the sons who would go to war on those ships - "within weeks they'll be re-opening the shipyard and notifying the next-of-kin once again". The melancholy line, "diving for dear life when we could be diving for pearls", is unforgettable.

Billie Holiday
The starkly vivid, haunting and explicitly political lyrics of Strange Fruit came from a 1937 poem by teacher Abel Meeropol in protest at the vicious racism and lynching of African-Americans, jolting a cry against racism into the white consciousness. The image of likening "blood on the leaves and blood at the root, black bodies swinging in the southern breeze" to "strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree", is indelible. This song made a crucial contribution to the Civil Rights movement.



The immersive crime show set in Baltimore revolutionised the television series format, successfully portraying the different layers of politics from the "street" right up to City Hall and the governor/senate. Tackling themes of the illegal drug trade through the perspective of dealers and the law, the seaport system, city government and bureaucracy, education and the media and the effects all of these have on societies, The Wire transcends the crime drama genre with its gritty study of street politics.


This immensely gripping and binge watch-worthy Danish political drama portrays the incendiary rise of idealistic centre-left politician Birgitte Nyborg, who becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. Following Nyborg, her supporting staff and the media that track and document her moves, Borgen cleverly blends the personal with the political, as both politicians and media reconcile professionalism with conscience and ethical dilemmas.

Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and the BBC miniseries of the same name, cynical political thriller House of Cards is set in the 2010s in Washington DC and charts the story of a Democrat from South Carolina's fifth congressional district and House Majority Whip congressman Frank Underwood (portrayed by Kevin Spacey). When he is overlooked for appointment as Secretary of State, he and his equally ruthless wife Claire (a coolly glacial Robin Wright) embark on an elaborate plan to elevate his position of power.

Though in hindsight it may seem dated, who could forget this subversive 1980s puppet sketch show featuring hilarious and garish puppet caricatures to mercilessly mock famous political figures of the moment including Margaret "The Iron Lady" Thatcher along with the British royal family. The show featured the voices of Steve Coogan, Harry Enfield and Adrian Edmondson.

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Stanley Kubrick's 1964 whip-smart enduring classic of a pitch-black comic film is a scathing look at the Cold War. A maniacal United States Air Force general, Jack D. Ripper, incites bedlam when, without permission from the President, he unintentionally orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, threatening a devastating nuclear apocalypse. The President and his advisers enlist a nuclear expert, the bonkers Dr Strangelove (a delightfully twitchy Peter Sellers, who multi-tasks multiple roles in the film) to recall the bombers and prevent the crisis. Eerily, Kubrick was unaware that copies of the novel on which his film was loosely based, Red Alert by Peter George, had been sent by the Department of Defense to every member of the Pentagon's Scientific Advisory Committee for Ballistic Missiles where the book was viewed as a serious cautionary tale.



Thomas Mallon

A wickedly entertaining and smart novel subtitled A Novel of the Reagan Years, Finale presents caustic, sometimes sympathetic multi-faceted angles of Reagan, Gorbachev and Thatcher and a host of other real characters, told from multiple perspectives including Nancy Reagan and a gay National Security Council staffer. And if you like this, there's more. Check out Mallon's previous book Watergate: A Novel.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Freshly published, this is the memoir from the polarising politician who could have been the first female president of the United States. A surprisingly frank account from Clinton in which she delves into and shares what she was thinking and feeling during the controversial and tightly-wound 2016 US election which saw her run head-to-head with Donald Trump. Of Trump's inaugural address which she describes as "dark and dystopian", she writes, "I heard it as a howl straight from the white nationalist gut".

Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to sign copies of her book
Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to sign copies of her book "What Happened" at a book store in New York. Photo / AP


Edited by Philip Temple and Emma Neale

When the editors invited submissions to this anthology of political poems, they received around 500 poems from over 200 poets. Miraculously, they whittled it down to 101 poems. A call for revolution, for action and empathy, the poemshere form a united call-out to vote for the power of the democratic voice. Includes poems by Kevin Ireland, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Tusiata Avia, Louise Wallace and Airini Beautrais.

Tony Simpson
Though he's written about the Depression years in New Zealand, the origins of New Zealand cuisine and the lives of working class New Zealanders, Wellington social historian Tony Simpson recently published a wry and anecdotal memoir which outlines his life and career as a political insider, trade unionist and public servant - an involvement that spans from the 1970s to the present day. He muses on observing Margaret Thatcher's rise to power while he was in the UK on his OE, the fallout of Rogernomics and his public scraps with Muldoon.