Analysis too Expensive?

Today Andrea Vance wrote an opinion piece on Stuff.co.nz headlined: 

         The slick and the dead calm


She compared the campaigns led by John Key, and David Cunliffe. Where the former is ‘polished and slick’ (her words), the latter is rather more disorganised and (her words again) ‘inexplicably flat’.

But the words themselves are open to wide interpretation, especially since one tends to (I certainly do) second guess the words used in relation to politicians, and resist the temptation to take them at face value.

Not very long ago David Cunliffe was being harshly criticised for being ‘fake’, or otherwise attempting to be someone he is not.Given that the preening world of Politics rewards the construction of façades and ‘brands’, this very criticism seemed more than a little disingenuous. If Cunliffe was being too fake then in a world full of fakes, then I submit the fault lies with us as onlookers not yet willing to suspend disbelief.

Verisimilitude (a word that often makes me giggle), meaning the appearance of being real relies very much on the beholder to be willing to play along. Likewise the campaign of John Key being ‘slick’ depends on the beholder. Someone else could easily find it ‘artificial’, too much of a practised routine of the PM moving swiftly past, having a quick selfie and a handshake, then moving on. John Key could be on autopilot:

“Key is merciless in keeping the exchanges swift – a grin for the camera phone, and an exchange of pleasantries and he’s on to the next voter.”

 That sentence reads however you want it to, perhaps that’s a testament to journalistic impartiality. Or just political writing meant to give the impression of a salient point being made while delivering a judgement that’s as movable as the tide.

Contrast this with Vance on Cunliffe:

“The day started with a selfie – and there were plenty – but to be blunt, [Tamati] Coffey was the bigger drawcard. 

A stop-off at a local primary school excited pupils, especially when told a Labour government would give them each a tablet. But with only a handful of eligible voters in the room, reporters wondered how effective the visit was. 

A scheduled town centre walkabout was delayed by 35 minutes as Cunliffe, Coffey and activists stopped for a curry. “An army marches on its stomach,” Cunliffe said later. On the stroll he talked with eight people, two of whom were in town from overseas.”


The first sentence and the final sentences in the two paragraph’s are unquestionably negative. Cunliffe is less popular than his colleagues, Labour talking to youngsters far from voting age is a waste of time, Cunliffe spending time with people of whom a few are tourists (thus not voters). The impression here is not movable, and it is that David Cunliffe is wasting his time and resources, and lacks the honed skill of John Key.

But since when is spending time with the young people you are trying to help constitute a waste of time just because they can’t yet vote? Might not the fact that David Cunliffe is taking time with people regardless of whether they’re voters or not be evidence of humility, rather than stupidity?

Parliament exists to serve the people, not just the voters. And I don’t think I’m worth more as a voter than I am as a New Zealander.

Andrea Vance finished with the following:

“Cunliffe versus Key is a popularity contest not being fought on a level playing field. The Labour leader has been in the job barely a year, and has struggled against character assassinations from both inside and outside his party. But yesterday his campaign should have been buoyed by Coffey’s star power. Instead, it was inexplicably flat.”


I would have been really interested in reading an opinion piece on why it may be that the Cunliffe’s outing in Rotorua felt so off-key (yes the minor pun was intentional), instead hitting the inexplicable dead end. Perhaps a bit of critical analysis is asking too much of our dear journalists.

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