Heather dpA wants our elections to be nice. Yeah nah

If you have seen the kinds of political attack ads that play on US television during the presidential campaigns you’ll know how nasty they can get.

One ad called Hillary Clinton a crook, another spent a long time outlining why Donald Trump isn’t fit to know the nuclear codes.

By contrast, our election campaigns are positively civil. A typical “attack” advert on New Zealand TV features some handsome kids rowing on a lake, music that sounds like Eminem and a two-second shot of the country’s most useless rowers crammed into a dinghy, dressed in the colours of the opposition parties. Ooooh. Mean.

And if that’s the way you prefer your elections – with a dash of decorum – it’s apparently time to brace yourself. We’re told attacks ads may pop up in this year’s election.

I can’t wait. ?It’s about time the gloves come off fully. ?As I am wont to say, politics is a dirty despicable game played by dirty despicable people. ?

To find the best and perhaps only true example of a political attack ad in this country you have to go back to 1975. During that election campaign, National Party leader Robert Muldoon commissioned the infamous Dancing Cossacks ad, painting the Labour Government as communists. Muldoon might have won, but he’ll forever be remembered as the guy who played dirty.

Since then, Nicky Hagar has been honing his own version of attack politics, developing a knack for completing book after book just in time for an election campaign. The latest, Dirty Politics, had virtually no impact on the popularity of those it took aim at – John Key and the National Party.

During the 2005 campaign, it’s possible the Greens did suffer after the Exclusive Brethren published pamphlets comparing the Party to communists. The Greens claim it cost the party a seat in Parliament. But – after weeks of the media getting stuck into them – the impact on the Brethren was much worse. And to avoid a repeat after that stunt, Parliament passed the Electoral Finance Act.

It’s hard to imagine us tolerating the kinds of TV attack ads the US public has grown accustomed to. But there’s the warning. Americans have grown accustomed. Perhaps the vitriolic ads that play nowadays started as mild jibes decades ago.

It’s impossible to rewrite our laws around advertising in time for this election, but they should be tightened nonetheless to avoid us eventually ending up where the US is now.

Remarkable don’t you think, that a journalist would be advocating for limitations on free speech? ?Once again, it is typical of the media wanting to run the country instead of reporting on what’s happening within it.

As for Hager’s remarkable capacity to publish books just before the election – why on earth would we want to stop that? ?He helped National win in 2014. ?No doubt about it.

The media totally misread how voters view his work. ?Long may it continue.

So, yes. ?More of it please. ? The voters, as always, are smart enough to figure it out.


– NZ Herald