Democracy at it's saddest. The prestigious Auckland seat that I call home is now being turned into a circus. I attended a debate in Epsom for my home electorate of Epsom. Candidates including
David Parker (Lab-4, Epsom),
Paul Goldsmith (Nat-39, Epsom),
John Banks (ACT-4, Epsom),
David Hay (Greens-16, Epsom), and
Pat O'Dey (Mana-15, Epsom) turned up at Epsom Baptist Church for the debate, with media vultures such aas Patrick Gower turning up. Knowing the cameras were there, the debate very quickly turned into a complete and total circus.
Parachuted Parker - Mr Policy
I've seen Parker at many Epsom debates now, and he's a reasonably dignified and intelligent man - until Thursday. This debate opened up a new side of him. He claimed to care more about policy and democracy, but saw the camera and the situation as an opportunity to exploit the populatist ideal of slamming John Banks and the ACT party. The crowd was fed up with this and chanted "Policy! Policy! Policy!" during his speech, after opening his speech with the intent on discussing policy. He appeared hysterical, outrageous, and media opportunist during his speech, capitalizing on the privileged nature of the Epsom seat and the high profile media coverage. His trucked in Labour supporters cheered him on, but the majority of sensible Epsom voters weren't happy with his carpet bagging, continually reminding him that he was running for an electorate furthest from his home than any other politician in New Zealand - with Epsom and Dunedin literally being on other ends of the country.
Parker went on to explain his decision to run for Epsom was to give Banks a good run, and had little intention of reperesnting the good people of Epsom, which was furthers by the lack of understanding of the audience. He was caught out by his admission of the increase in types an takes of taxes in the affluent constituency, one that supported Rodney Hide on his championing of limited taxation.
The man who began the race for Epsom with a hateful and negative campaign against Banks appeared much more respectable by discussing Green party policy and alluding to his Epsom background during his speech. He may have gained the intelligent left wingers' vote by doing so; sticking to the issues rather than being subdued to the low games of the populists in the candidacy.
Paul "took down his own signs" Goldsmith
Credit where credit is due; the left have been actively seeking Goldsmith to take the strategic vote, in order to weaken the National government's coalition partner, ACT. Labour and the Greens have been accused of posting fake Goldsmith billboards to promote him as the Epsom representative, knowing the closest contender is Banks. Goldsmith has been responsible in taking these down, due to their illegality and conflict of interest, as Goldsmith has been campaigning for National's party vote only. His position had remained sting and consistent throughout the campaign, telling voters that the National party has had no interest in the seat since 2005 in terms of electorate vote.
John Banks said this election was his 14th public office race, and he showed this by bing a very professional politician. He told people exactly what they wanted to hear in a style of speaking that is highly skilled, and clearly gained from a lifetime of experience. His emotive tone and serious topic grabbed the audience and set the mood for a much heavier debate than the candidates may have intended.
Believe it or not, the Mana party ran a candidate for Epsom, a fellow called Pat O'Dey from Papakura at the very South of Auckland. He turned the debate into a real sideshow, bring signs and posters ripping on Don Brash and John Banks, criticizing every move they've made in their political careers, and adding to the emotive tone where he was extremely angry and appeared hateful of the ACT presence. He blamed the economics of the 1980s on Brash, criticized his role as reserve bank governor, criticized Banks for standing in Epsom instead of Brash, who is party leader and the one who is actually seeking parliament. His sharp and stinging attacks held little water with Epsom voters, who heckled him to the point of severe frustration. The attacks and accusations were vile, hateful, and even misinformed - confusing the treasury with the Reserve Bank.
The news story spread, due to coverage from several media outlets, including the New Zealand Herald, and a story by Patrick Gower, who is well known to the ACT party for creating all sorts of stories with his own agenda.
The debate was a sham, a stab at democracy, and an insult to the people of Epsom. Anyone that wasn't in support of John Key for prime minister was engaged in attacks on the ACT Party, leaving little room for any debate over policy. People have criticized the media coverage this election, and the media has blamed the lack of policy released by parties. The fact is, this has beome very much a presidential style debate, and the media themselves are unwilling to broadcast policy, instead focusing on side stories and gimmicks. The ACT party has invited the media to many policy releases and appearances over the campaign, only to focus on the 'tea pot tapes' and poll results instead of the policies. John Banks has said that "all eyes will turn to Epsom on election night," and this has meant all eyes are on the race for Epsom now. The media wants a circus to show the audience, while the candidates seem very willing to make one. Some democracy...