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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Suze and Politics Part 7: Characteristics I look for in an MP/PM

When voting, the personal characteristics of a politician is important to me. I'm not sure, but it might even be more important to me than the principles and the policies. It is one reason why I have always liked the Green Party, and one reason why I have always hated ACT.

Anyway, here is the list of characteristics. Although I should note that having all of these characteristics is meaningless if I have an irrational dislike of a particular person.

Honesty

haha! Are there any honest politicians?

Integrity

Grace
I'm not sure this is the right word. If you can think of a better word please let me know.
I mean someone who does not go on and on about the latest scandal affecting an opposing party. Someone who does not muckrake. Perhaps I mean mana.

Strong Beliefs yet Flexible
Stands up for what they believe in but is willing to listen to other points of view and is able to change their mind if they are obviously wrong. I guess I also mean the ability to admit when they are wrong.


In addition the PM should have:

Vision

Charisma would be a nice bonus, but I would rather have a bland PM with all the other qualities.


Comments:
Honesty - our media goes out of their way not to remind us of the ones who lie (funnily enough these are Labour Ministers at the moment....). So instead many New Zealanders tar all politicians with the same brush.

Grace/mana - good point. But unless you know each politician personally or go to hear them personally, your impression is entirely controlled by the media, and in particular TV. TVNZ, TV3 and many other media outlets go out of their way to present right politicians as infantile or ill-disciplined, whereas Clark is invariably described as a 'good manager' or 'in control'. For example they use those words when she punishes a lowly Minister, but no criticism is uttered when she does not resign herself for the Doone affair, nor is she criticised when other incompetent Ministers are not asked to resign (Hawkins, Mallard and BePop are good examples). BePop was only done away with when the slime around the beating allegations were too much, and even then many in the media choose to brand it as Hide's fault!

Recently I read an NZPA report saying Clark 'neatly sidestepped' a Maori issue in Matata after the flooding, but if it had been Brash then I'm sure he would have been 'avoiding' or 'evading' the 'Maori crisis'.

Clearly people are prone to political manipulation when you judge someone based on media-driven impressions of 'grace' or 'mana'. That is exactly what media minders of Helen Clark want, as it plays to their strengths. They can manipulate the message and influence how it is presented through their ideological buddies in the media, but they can't control the problems with socialism or various collectivist solutions to Governance problems (e.g. provision of healthcare to poorer people).
 
Honesty - I know it is impossible to tell how honest someone is unless they are caught out in a lie. Wanting these characteristics and judging whether or not someone has these characteristics are two different things entirely.


Media - I agree that the media controls my impression. I agree the media is biased. It is difficult to avoid. I try and keep that in mind when I read something.

However, I don't watch tv or read papers (even online paper reading is very limited). So I guess my impressions are drawn from blog reading, which is also biased in its own way.

For example, my impression of Rodney Hide is pretty much drawn entirely from reading his blog and reading Sir Humphreys who are quite supportive of him. Yet, despite this media bias in favour of him, I still have a relatively negative impression of him.


Doone/BePop etc - I intensely dislike all the fuss about these things because it seems politically motivated and not necessarily in the best interests of people. It is not that I think they are unimportant, I just don't think they are the most important issues or particularly helpful for me in election year. I guess I am just self-centered and not really a political person.

I have never thought that Helen Clark has grace/mana. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who does. Winston Peters has charisma.


Are you implying that judging politicans on their personality/mana is a foolish thing to do because the media is biased and I will get a false impression?
 
Doonegate illustrates a very important problem with democracy in our country.

When a sitting Prime Minister goes unpunished after knowingly lying (not once, but five times) to a national newspaper (which used her as an anonymous source), leading to the resignation of our supposedly independent Police Commissioner, then our country no longer has an independent media, and arguably it no longer has a politically-independent Police Commissioner.

As simple as that.

No matter what substantial problems are dug up by opposition politicians, the media do not run repeated specials telling the truth. But in the 1990's they repeatedly ran hysterical stories attacking National MP's (etc) for what I consider minor transgressions compared to this Labour Government's problems.

That is why opposition MPs are forced to use populist dirt to attack Labour Ministers - theres no other way for them to get in the media and have a fair story told. None at all. Various media outlets consider moral stories to be apolitical, thus they give them coverage.

In the USA the old opposition (the Republicans) created their own information networks using mailouts and email lists. The same will happen here in New Zealand. In fact you can already sign up to around ten weekly emails from opposition MP's, and many of the details revealed in those are downplayed in the media and certainly ignored in the political-insider-style tripe which passes for political opinion in our largest newspapers, or hysterical anti-Christian (etc) crap peddled by columnists like Russell Brown.

And don't get me started on international coverage.
 
"opposition MPs are forced to use populist dirt to attack Labour Ministers"

Does it work?

So are you saying that the very important problem with democracy in our country is the lack of independent media?
 
The problem is an arrogant media who think they know what is important for everyone to read about. It just so happens their idea of 'interesting to the public' doesn't include repeated exposes of Labours incompetence while in Government.

The complete silence from all of the media outlets on people dying while on health'care' waiting lists is especially illuminating. They honestly can't see any other way than to have a collectivist healthcare system, which shows you exactly where they sit on the political spectrum.

If the media doesn't cover it, New Zealanders will turn to more independent sources of information - but more importantly opinion. Which is where the bloggers come in.

Whether bloggers turn into effective newsgatherers as well as opinion makers is something we have yet to find out.
 
Is it that they are arrogant? Or that their idea of what is important is different from yours?

Whatever the source of information it is going to be biased. If you are involved in presenting information, whether it is writing for a paper or blogging you can't present everything. You have to pick and choose. And you choose what you think is important and/or interesting. Or maybe sometimes you pick what will sell.

I think that people in general will-turn/are-turning to more independent sources of information. Simply because of the drift to the interweb. It makes independent information much easier to publish/find. Of course there are the associated problems like the large amounts of information to sift through, accuracy and reliability, filters, and the omnipowerful google.


Oh dear. It seems like I have veered away from the political side of things again. But I'll leave this comment because I like the google thing.
 
It is their arrogance to assume only people with similar ideas to themselves should be represented in the media, and that they shouldn't be held to the same standards as we hold people to in our personal lives.

Has your personal experience of the world ever suggested to you that any group of people ever put in one room has such a bland left-of-centre view of reality as you get from our media outlets?
 
Are you talking about the arrogance of newspapers and tv? My impression is that they aren't trying to communicate facts or represent different ideas. That they are trying to entertain/sell a product. Aren't they just businesses?

My personal experience of the world is probably not a good example. I really do not know what I am talking about as I haven't watched the news or read a paper for a long time.
 
Hmmm. I'll give up now!
 
i think mana is a good way of describing what you are trying to get at re: Gace - perhaps gravitas also does it? although that implies someone who takes things too seriously...

i also look for humility - an ability to laugh at yourself and not be too dogmatic.
 
Yes, I like the humility characteristic. Humilitiy and not taking yourself seriously...
 
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