Monday 7 May 2012

Right versus ... Centre Right?!

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.


Anonymous said...

For goodness sake, this is absolutely ridiculous. You don't have a mortgage on what being left is, Chris. She doesnt have to represent every single view of the left and she doesnt claim to represent you - or any of the other Trottersky's.

When Labour won in 1999 and 2002 it had the votes of people who look and sound like Josie - working mothers from middle NZ.

Josie gets slammed by people like you for daring to have thought about what a modern Labour Party could look like and how its values can be applied in the modern context. Honestly, you do more to drive people away from Labour than any member of the National Party.

Kia kaha Josie. Ka mau te wehi!

Tiger Mountain said...

Bring back Bomber!

End the Mora-tory-um.

Dave Kennedy said...

Considering the current impact and public involvement of the Greens and Mana, as regards the issues of the moment, the left is terribly under represented in mainstream media. Well said, Chris.

Anonymous said...

Omg, I agree, it is nuts, she sounded like she was laughing when she talked about refugees arriving on boats, it is embarrassing to the left. Then there was her criticism of MUNZ during the dispute, unwarranted, poorly informed and unhelpful.

Victor said...

Granted that Hooten is far to the right of folks like you and me and may have conflicts of interest.

Even so, he has a good mind and I couldn't help feeling sorry for him this morning midst the mental fog of Josie and Kathryn.

I also note that he gave a more spirited defence of the Clark/Cullen government's economic record than Labour itself has managed these last 3.5 years.

Anonymous said...

I think Kim Dotcom would do the most damage to the right. I nominate him.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting - I thought KR was a bit rightish but never caught her in the act so to speak. Care to elaborate with specific examples? I'd be interested to hear any.

Josie Pagani said...

Today I was arguing for free education, which is a position to the left of Labour's policy.

When Katherine Ryan argued that making it free would lead to a rash of low quality courses, I said that having courses in 'Morrocan cooking or anything else' was nothing to do with the argument for making education free. You are quoting my use of that phrase to make the opposite of my point.

I don't see anything 'left' about arguing for low quality education. The cost of education is not linked to the kinds of courses that are available. Not in France, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Finland, Sweden etc where tertiary education is free. Why would we put a tax on education when our country and our economy needs highly skilled, innovators and entrepreneurs, and individuals need the opportunities and social enlightenment an education presents.

Until Mike and I started, the 'left' slot on 9-noon was filled for the last decade or so by people from parties to the left of Labour - my husband (when he started in the slot he was not in Labour); Laila Harre; Sue Bradford; Andrew Campbell. Only Peter Harris, who was there for about a year, was pro-Labour.

So I would argue that the largest left party - by far - has been heavily under-represented.

Mark Wilson said...

Jane Kelsey claimed that the boycott of the free trade agreement was a victory for the poor countries so heaven help the left if she is the best you have.

TinaA said...

i dont agree with everything Josie says, but I also don't agree with Helen Kelly or Helen Clark or Holly Walker all the time either. She is on our side and we should welcome her views.

Frankly this isn't a religion or a cult - join a church if you want to be part of a movement that doesn't allow for new or different ideas.

The left is in no position to be pushing people away Chris. I do hope this isn't petty sour grapes over not getting commentator (or candidate?) gigs.

Anonymous said...

"...Josie gets slammed by people like you for daring to have thought about what a modern Labour Party could look like..."

Actually, she gets slammed for bitching that the Labour Party is made of all the wrong sort of people, you, know, socialists instead of those terribly sensible people "in the centre".

She is a vacuous, focus group driven coloniser of the Labour party, with no fixed values beyond a vague sort of leafy suburb liberalism and a belief in the legitimacy of the ruling middle class cultural tyranny.

If Josie Pagani want to build a "modern Labour party" (AKA Blairite "new Labour" perhaps?) then she should fuck off and found a party called, oh, I don't know how does "New Labour" grab you? But she would be ten years behind the times of a failed idea and unlikely to get her deposit back, so she hasn't the guts, preferring the comfortable option of working the machine for an eventual comfortable list spot and a life as a parasite on the taxpayers dime.

saarbo said...

I agree Chris, I was thinking exactly the same thing while listening this morning. We really need to hear Bomber back on National Radio!

jh said...

"Omg, I agree, it is nuts, she sounded like she was laughing when she talked about refugees arriving on boats, it is embarrassing to the left."
Despite claims by left-wingers to the Green Party, I don't think a "green" would belittle the notion of overpopulation and see New Zealand as an under populated lifeboat.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Josie.

Yes, I heard you propose free education this morning - and good on you for still promoting that good old Alliance policy.

But the "Moroccan cooking classes" are by no means a true example of poor educational expenditure.

The catch-phrase was coined during the debate on the removal of government funding for adult education classes. These were an important part of our education system and their effective withdrawal has caused real social harm.

As people at the time pointed out, Moroccan cooking classes could lead to many things. A new career as a chef or a cafe-owner. Or, to a new adult-education class in basic accounting, or Maori language.

For the paltry saving of $33 million, the government destroyed something which had contributed hugely to the happiness of thousands and enriched communities all over NZ.

It is always dangerous to use your enemy's weapons, they have a horrible way of twisting in your hands and harming your friends.

As for your point about Labour being under-represented. Well, I'm afraid that means you've missed the entire point of my posting.

It's shouldn't be about representing parties; it should be about providing a disinterested critical analysis of the whole Left without fear or favour.

Chris Trotter said...

To: TinaA

No sour grapes, TinaA. I haven't been a member of a political party since 1990. And every week my commentaries are published in newspapers all over New Zealand.

You can catch me on RadioNZ-National this Thursday from 3:45pm on "Afternoons With Jim Mora".

Chris Trotter said...

To: Guerilla Surgeon.

Here's a transcript of KR "explaining" to Andrew Campbell back in 2010 why a discussion of the CTU's "Name & Shame" campaign will not proceed.

“I know you want to talk about the unions’ ‘Name and Shame’ – but I want to hold that, if you don’t mind, Andrew. It’s interesting, because the very topics we’re talking about – the 90 Day Bill – and, of course the polls came out, and, I don’t know how reliable they were, but I think some of them were done – attached to proper polling, proper margins of error, around 60 percent of people saying ‘Well, yeah, okay, I’m quite relaxed about it.’ So it’s an example of how this can work.”

Award-winning radio!

Sanctuary said...

The thing that worries me most about the "tone" of the replies from Josie Pagani is she seems to think she is doing the left a massive favour by choosing to bestow her wisdom and talents in it's cause. Her refusal to engage with Chris Trotter at an ideological level and her defender above using phrases like "for goodness sake" are redolent of an arrogant and patronising attitude. Political parties exist to gain election in order to enact policies informed by an ideological agenda and it follows on from that that anyone who wishes to be a Labour party candidate must first and foremost be a socialist and not a beltway political courtier whose sole value is a Blairite obsession with power as its own justification. The debasing of western political parties from ideological organisations involved in a contest of ideas to feeble institutions ossified with the cosy ambiance of the establishment who engage in tri-annual exercise of brand awareness and marketing lies at the very heart of the decline in voter interest and participation in democracy. After all, who would want to bother to volunteer to hand out flyers on a rainy day for Burger King or McDonalds?

Anonymous said...

Don't you miss the old days, Chris? When a problem of deviation from party dogma could be fixed with an ice pick?

These days we just have to settle for the solution of the 9.00PM commenter, a right wing sellout who merely wants expulsion from the party for counter revolutionary doctrine. Such a sell out!

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@8:33am

Seriously! FFS I write a perfectly polite critique of Josie's performance on NatRad and you immediately transpose the discussion into a Stalin vs Trotsky life-and-death struggle.

Is this the best the Right-Lefts can do?

God forbid that they should engage in a little rational debate!

TinaA said...

I'm not sure you could argue it is perfectly polite to call for someone to be sacked because they aren't 'left' enough. This whole article was a personal attack.

Josie's greatest sin seems to be that she wants Labour (and it's values) to win and isn't dogmatic or hamstrung on policy.

In case people didn't notice, we just had the worst result in Labour's history !

People seem infatuated with Blairism - frankly I'm more concerned that the Party is being taken down a path towards another Michael Foot result.

The left needs to be open to debate - and allow room for the Greens and Labour to flourish and not just canibalise each other.

Chris Trotter said...

No, TinaA, I specifically affirmed Josie's right to participate in these discussions.

What I did ask for (robustly, it is true, but politics is a rough business) was a demonstration of her ability to do more than cheer for her own party by providing a disinterested critique of the whole Left's performance.

Perhaps the fault lies with Nine-to-Noon's peculiar decision to ask one person (in the case of Matthew) or two (in the case of Mike and Josie) to carry the burden of representing one half of the entire political spectrum week-in, week-out.

Surely, given the importance of the subject matter, it would make more sense for this slot to feature the widest possible diversity of political voices?

I can't help catching a whiff of the prize-fight about the way Nine-to-Noon sets up these encounters; a desire to give its listeners an aural spectacle; to generate more heat than light.

It's the lazy journalism of horse-race political reporting, coupled with the American media networks' penchant for setting up noisy confrontations between individuals.

But, even here, we find anomalies. Why, for example, is Matthew always the Right's spokesperson, while the role of champion of the Left is constantly passed from one person to another?

Is Ms Ryan screwing the scrum?

Victor said...

Bring back Kim Hill!

I appreciate that she's probably far happier rearing her chickens and doing her once-a-week cultural schmultural show.

But she should be prepared to put her personal preferences aside in the interests of her country.

And, until that happens, Chris, would you really want to waste time on Nine-to-Noon?

K said...

Actually Chris you started out by accusing Josie of sounding like a 'wet' member of the National caucus (weirdly because she was advocating free education, which would be unpopular in the National caucus even among the wets I think.)

Therefore we are entitled to think you were not arguing about the need for 'ideological diversity'.

You were arguing she is not left enough for you.

Therefore the issue is whether the 'right' left person has to be left enough for you. To be fair, and I mean no disrespect, being left enough for you would rule out most public opinion.

You listed a number of commenters who, in the NZ context, are all far left. All of them are anti-Labour, yet Labour is easily the largest of the left parties. In contrast Josie is in the mainstream of Labour thinking. It's hard to see how that disqualifies HER more than them.

I think it's great that National radio is prepared to let politics be discussed by people with a point of view drawn from typical strands of thinking in the wider public.

Not all political debate should be by essayists, academics and reporters. They have many outlets already. 9-Noon is the only slot I can think of where actual participants get to debate - MPs are invariably restricted to party lines, and Josie, Mike Williams and Hooton all go well beyond those limits. But they have a point of view and they are good at outlining their perspective.

What you seem to be trying to do is invalidate that perspective and disguise your argument by saying its just about diversity.

But if 9-noon took up your argument and had you or Laila Harre on the show, then that would not be more ideological diversity. It would just be someone you agree with more, who also happens to be anti-Labour in general and anti-Shearer in particular.

If Josie was on there every week attacking Shearer you would be happy with her. That's not a fair litmus test for 'left'. Shearer is the leader of the largest left party. It follows that his supporters should be heard from sometimes.

But what's even worse is that those who disagree in this thread appear to think the best response to someone in Labour who advocates for Shearer is to expel them from the Labour Party. On the grounds of 'leafy suburbia.' I think this might be why one sarcastic observer reduced your argument to Trots v Stalinists. Is expulsion from Labour and the airwaves really the right response to someone who doesn't go along with your calls for the leader of the Labour Party to be dumped (calls that would be echoed by the other commenters you list, but not by most members nor left voters).

Chris Trotter said...

To: "K"

It really is amazing how utterly incapable you Right-Left's are at standing back from your own agendas.

I'm simply gobsmacked to see this whole debate reduced to a defence of David Shearer.

It's symptomatic of why so many people are deserting Labour for other, more mature, political options - like the Greens.

I'm especially unimpressed by your: They're all 'Far-Left' so, obviously, shouldn't be granted a hearing - not when we have a safe and uncritical (in the true, ugh, 'academic', meaning of the word) gal like Josie to make everyone feel safe and non-threatened and entirely happy about Labour having its 'turn' on the Treasury Benches.

Take a look around the world "K". You think 'business as usual' - as defined by the Right - has got much of an electoral future?

Labour deserves a whole lot better than this sort of "defence".

Chris Trotter said...

To: "K"

Oh, and in response to your quip about "most members" wanting Shearer.

Well, I dare you (and the people who share your views in the Party) to put that contention to the test by allowing the Labour membership a vote on who should be the party leader.

Are you really so sure your man would defeat David Cunliffe? After all, even David Shearer admits that if the leadership contest had been decided at the December 2011 round of membership meetings - he would have been soundly defeated.

Brendan McNeill said...


Radio NZ is really the voice of the Left, perhaps with the one exception of Jim's show, and he is about as politically neutral as it's possible to get.

We have Kim Hill on Saturday mornings and Chris Laidlaw on Sunday mornings, bleeding left wing sentiment over the airwaves.

It's nauseating for most thinking New Zealanders who pay taxes to support this nonsense.

Rather than complain you should rejoice. As I have said before, the left has won the ideological debate in NZ, the conversation now is just about who does socialism more efficiently, Labour or National.

It's heart breaking for those of us who are at least halfway towards personal responsibility and self / family reliance.

Anonymous said...

@ K - your problem begins with your assumption that Labour is a 'left' wing party. It is not.

Labour adhere to free market capitalism. Don't take my word for it, ask Trevor Mallard ;) Or John or Josie Pagani, or any Labour flunky who isn't too scared to mention the dreaded 'C' word.

@ Chris - you are a bit unfair in your critique of Nat Radio and Kathryn Ryan. Hooten is picked because he is the only articulate, informed right-winger around at the moment, but he makes it a bunfight by ranting over everyone else. Ryan tries to control that, but short of a choker lead on Hooty... ;)

Perhaps Nine to Noon could try Bryan Crump's system of rotating monthly comentators to get a greater range of left- and right- views (Crump uses it to cover a range of science and foreign nation topics).

My pick for the left would be Unite Union's Mike Treen - articulate, informed, and more than capable of out-ranting Hooten :)

Mad Marxist.

thegreatgonzo said...

@Chris: certainly "the left" has struggled somewhat on NtN since the departure of Laila Harre, and Matthew Hooton seems too close financially to many from the right to offer a truly critical perspective. Perhaps both slots should rotate? Stephen Franks seems to have worked his way through the various right-wing parties, not sure who else they could dredge up though...

@Brendan: surprised you can drag yourself away from Fox News long enough to listen to a state broadcaster!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi thegreatgonzo

I had a good chuckle over your fox news jibe.

By way of good hearted reply, I have found 'the worlds smallest socialist radio station' for your entertainment.

Well, that's its claim anyway. Plenty of red on the website.



John Wellington said...

I have been concerned for some time now about the quality of the "left" commentator - far too often Hooten makes some outrageous statement which is not challenged by the "left" rep, this is even more obvious when Ryan herself ends up challenging Hooten on the comment although with no real enthusiasm or follow through.

We need someone who will really argue the case and challenge Hooten on his worldview

Anonymous said...

Hooten represents the right very well because that is whats he stands for. He is a totally committed right winger and understands where that puts him in relation to any issue.

Neither Josie nor any other Labour party person can represent the left because they don't know where they stand most of the time and they certainly don't understand what it means to be left.

Anonymous said...

Nine to noon is a pretty dreadful programme even by Red Radio's standards. The same 'experts' are trotted on regularly and there is no rocking the boat and little on current issues even. To say that Mathew Hooten is right is pushing it more than somewhat.
The true test comes when anything to do with the TREATY is being discussed and then you would think that the whole world agrees with Katherine Ryan.
Poor quality radio by any measure!

Tim Selwyn said...

On one broadcast Ryan even made the comment to Pagani herself after hearing a particularly right wing speel: "And you're from the left!?". Everyone is aware of the problem incl. the host - you're certainly not alone, Chris.

Alex said...

@ John Wellington - You nailed it. In the media these days you are allowed to be proud to be rightwing, but sneered at if you are proud to be leftwing.