A Dog In The Fight? Is Josie Pagani really the right (or should that be left) person to speak for one half of the entire political spectrum? Shouldn't Radio New Zealand-National's Nine-to-Noon programme attempt to broadcast ideologically, rather than party-politically, aligned representatives of the Left Bloc of New Zealand politics?
IS IT JUST ME, or is Josie Pagani sounding more and more like a wet member of the National Party caucus? Radio New Zealand–National’s Nine-to-Noon show invites this former Labour candidate onto the air every fortnight to represent the “Left” in a political discussion with the Right’s Matthew Hooton. The question is: Why?
Leaving aside Mr Hooton’s frequent and worrisome conflicts-of-interest. (I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s recused himself on the grounds that his Exeltium PR firm is currently representing a prominent newsmaker?) How in the name of “fair and balanced” do the producers of Nine-to-Noon justify Ms Pagani’s participation?
For a start (and given that she shares the “Left” spot with former Labour Party president, Mike Williams, this is not a problem Ms Pagani has all to herself) why does Nine-to-Noon allow members of political parties to speak for one half of the entire political spectrum? Is a former Labour Party candidate (and staunch political ally of one of David Shearer’s key advisers) ever likely to say anything remotely complementary about Hone Harawira’s Mana Party? Is she ever likely to offer anything but faint praise to the Greens? Not really. (Or, at least, not often.)
The commentators representing the Left and the Right should be ideological – not party political – representatives. Someone like Laila Harre, who, in her post-Alliance incarnation, served Nine-to-Noon as an acute and admirably dispassionate assessor of the Left’s overall performance, is what’s required. (Not now, of course, since she’s recently joined up with the Greens!)
As things now stand, the Left’s position is being “represented” by two people who stand well to the right of most Labour members and MPs. So far to the right, in fact, that someone visiting New Zealand from, say, France or Sweden, would have immense difficulty in identifying them as left-wing political analysts at all. Ms Pagani, in particular, constantly peppers her commentary with right-wing Kiwi catch-phrases like “nice-to-haves”, “Moroccan cooking courses” and “the people writing the cheques”.
For pity’s sake! All this does is legitimate the National Party’s critique of what little remains of Labour’s left-wing credentials, and moves the “mainstream” political frame even further to the right. Given that the programme’s host harbours a thinly-disguised (and, when revealed, quite visceral) antipathy towards the Left, one might have thought that Ms Pagani would make some effort to at least hold the line against the right-ward drift of “Overton’s Window”. Apparently not.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Ms Pagani should never be invited to participate on Ms Ryan's programme, just that there are plenty of other non-partisan left-wingers Nine-to-Noon could approach. The CTU’s highly competent Helen Kelly and Peter Conway spring to mind. Or, the SFWU’s extraordinarily articulate Alastair Duncan. Up here in Auckland there’s Professor Jane Kelsey, while down in Dunedin there’s Dr Bryce Edwards and his political studies colleague (and Nights with Bryan Crump regular) Dr Brian Roper. Nine-to-Noon might even cock a snook at Afternoons With Jim Mora and recruit Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury. Hell, I’d even nominate myself – if I didn’t know that Ms Ryan would rather drink rat poison and jump off the Skytower than have me anywhere near her show.
Radio New Zealand–National owes its listeners more than Nine-to-Noon’s anachronistic obsession with the “two main parties”. Politics under MMP isn’t driven by the two main parties, it’s driven by the two main blocs. Public radio’s listeners have a right to hear much more informed and dispassionate assessments of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Left- and Right-wing blocs from commentators without a dog in the fight; and much less from those whose unfortunate pooches are getting bitten and bloody down in the ring.
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.