I talk, in case you were wondering, about the ongoing coverage in the Herald of the Mt Albert beyelection. I've talked before about the sensationalist reporting of splits on the left and Labour Party controversies. Perhaps naively, I assumed that the focus on Labour was just because the National Party hadn't done anything yet, and that the coverage would balance out when they did. Unfortunately, the reverse seems to have happened.
Tuesday's paper ran an article on Ms Lee stealing - sorry, sealing - the nomination from 'grassroots toiler' and last year's candidate Ravi Musuku is, shall we say, glowing.
Of her Labour opponent, David Shearer, she said: "He has been flown in from Baghdad to Balmoral - I know about New Zealand a little better than he does."Sorry to take the 'bloody immigrants' angle, but that's a pretty bold statement for someone who moved here in 1988. I know that's a long time and it shouldn't matter anyway, but she's made the claim - now let's see David Shearer's response to this ridiculous claim:
Oh, it's not here.
The other interesting story that should have been brought up but hasn't is the question of just how Lee secured the nomination. The favourite of the party hierarchy beat out Musuku, who took on the unforgiving task of opposing Helen Clark in the last two elections, increasing his share of the vote. Apparently the favourite of the local organisation, Musuku seems to have lost out due to central politics. Now, I'm not complaining about this - for one thing, Labour seem to have done it as well. I'm complaining about how, when Labour (allegedly) did it, the Herald were all over them. This article appeared on Monday afternoon, alleging that National knew before time that the candidate would be Lee but, rather than forming the core of an article, is dismissed in two paragraphs at the end of the article.
Today's article on Mt Albert is even more bizarre. "Mt Albert voters run up their colours" says the headline; despite this, the article seems to be less about spontaneous shows of support for the candidates, and more about wandering down the road with Lee and asking people who they would vote for:
But Tony Follaoi, an author, was wary. "I'd have to find out more to actually put my vote that way," he said.You've certainly nailed your colours to the mast, Tony. Don't be too rash.
Aside from the that, the article is notable for that classic election journalism gambit of the candidate talking to a racist:
That's a good reason not to vote for someone - they don't spend any money. Anyway, if you read the article, and if your thought processes are anything like mine, you start to see a weird correspondence in the talk about colours: are they talking about political colours (red, blue) or skin colours (white, non-white)? Mr Baird talks about Lee's ethnicity, then about how his wife is "red". The article goes on about the immigrant community in Mt Albert; David Shearer is described as a "grey UN bureaucrat" in comparison to Lee. In a final paragraph too perfect to be a coincidence, the article ends:
White-haired Mt Albert pharmacist David Baird met his first living, breathing politician yesterday - and gave her an earful.
"Hi, I'm Melissa Lee, National candidate for Mt Albert," said the politician.
"Well you won't be getting my vote because I don't think we need any Asians in Parliament," the pharmacist shot back tartly.
Korean-born Ms Lee, a former journalist who has been in New Zealand for 21 years, asked brightly, "Why not?"
Mr Baird said he had his reasons. "They are very difficult people to deal with. They don't spend any money. I don't see that they bring any money into the country. Another problem is their English is very bad.
"You're all right," he told the candidate later. "You are almost 100 per cent. But, seriously, we find it difficult, particularly old people. We have Titus [his Asian assistant] here to talk to them."
And a Pakeha mother who declined to be named turned out to be as "red" as Mr Baird's wife. Her simple verdict: "I'm going to vote for him - he's the right colour."You heard it right here, folks. David Shearer is grey, and Labour voters are racist.