I meet Cameron Slater and get to thinking about boring politicians

Dr Brian Edwards

On Sunday on The Nation Bill Ralston, Rachel Smalley and I had the pleasure of interviewing Cameron Slater of ‘Whale Oil’ fame. I hadn’t expected it to be a pleasure. Slater’s politics are at the opposite end of the spectrum from my own and his and his Whale Oil followers’ perpetual use of gratuitously offensive language had merely served to persuade me of their intellectual poverty.

Meeting Slater did not change my view of the morons who have made his blog the most widely read in the country.  (Nothing attracts a following like intemperance of thought and expression.) But it did change my view of him.

Cameron is highly intelligent, has a great sense of humour and is… well, I’m reluctant to use the word ‘charming’ so I’ll tone it down a bit and say ‘extremely engaging’.

And I didn’t get where I am today by not being able to penetrate all that ‘don’t give a f*ck’ bluster to recognise a capacity for being wounded that, needless to say, will never be confessed.

But what I really wanted to say is that I found Slater hugely interesting and entertaining. He is a character and we are woefully short of characters in New Zealand politics at the moment. In fact, in terms of personality,  politics in this country has never been duller.  

Where the two major parties are concerned ‘tired’ is the word that most readily springs to mind. The tone is set by their leaders. Shearer is plain dull. And, in the sense of something that was once shiny but has now lost its gloss, ‘dull’ will do fine for Key as well. I look at both of them and long for a Kirk, a Muldoon, a Lange or a Clark. I’d even settle for a Holyoake, Bolger or Shipley – leaders with personality.

And the front bench pickings are meagre as well. Tedium thy name is Steven Joyce, all too ably assisted by Gerry Brownlee, Bill English, Jonathan Coleman, Phil Heatley et al.

Labour does not fare any better – dull, dull, dull.

The notable exceptions in both major parties are women Judith Collins in National, Annette King in Labour. Both strong, both intelligent, both charismatic. Collins will almost certainly be Prime Minister of New Zealand one day; King should have led the Labour Party, but didn’t want it – a minor tragedy in my view for the party and the country.

There is in fact no shortage of forceful, charismatic women in Parliament; it’s the men who are the drones. Pondering suicide, Hamlet observes, ‘How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!’ Which is more or less how I feel watching Joyce or Brownlee on television. Could anyone be more lacking in verve, more mind-numbingly dreary? Well, let’s not forget Peter Dunne.

And the gender pattern is continued among the Greens. Yes, Russell Norman is both intelligent and articulate, but his flat, Aussie delivery and lack of perceptible warmth pale against the energy, vitality and passion of his co-leader Metiria Turei.

So who does that leave to rouse and inspire us, to infuse us once again with zest and enthusiasm for Parliament and politics? Where is the joker in this pack of dullards? Where he’s always been of course: hiding behind his naughty boy smile, up to no good, and waiting to steal all the pies.

Three cheers for Winston! Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.

Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media

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12 Comments & Questions

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Interesting that you long for a Kirk, a Muldoon, a Lange or a Clark. I’d even settle for a Holyoake, Bolger or Shipley – leaders with personality.

Personally I would rather long for a political leader with competence, vision, experience and proven worth in creating value for the country, rather than one who panders to the hewn cry of the dross that is now fast becoming the majority; until then NZ continues its slippery to slide towards the bottom of the OECD.

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Not "hewn cry"; it's 'hue and cry'. Other than that, you have nailed it.

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Jesus Brian or Dr Edwards which ever you demand to be addressed by; what world do you live in?

We live in a country struggling to survive in a globally competitive environment and you “long for a Kirk, a Muldoon, a Lange or a Clark. I’d even settle for a Holyoake, Bolger or Shipley – leaders with personality”.

How about putting the academic diatribe aside and focusing on the need for a leader with the rare qualities of vision, experience, and perhaps even an understanding of basic economics that the country really needs to reverse its acceleration to the bottom of the OECD. Your desire for some politician that in your eyes has a personality aka Winston Peters above true leadership qualities is a joke. Hitler had a personality, as did Stalin, Mussolini, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Castro, etc. etc; but for some strange reason no one seems to be drawn to them for their personalities, simply for their ability to get the job done for their country.

Your comments “who does that leave to rouse and inspire us, to infuse us once again with zest and enthusiasm for Parliament and politics? Where is the joker in this pack of dullards?” is exactly the reason why this country has no interest in politics.

In the real world outside of Parliament, the press gallery and the parliamentary entourage, the majority of us largely forgotten common people in the productive sector of NZ society (i.e. those that actually produce income for the country rather than paid from taxes collected by the government) can see through the veil of self-serving veil politicians; we don’t want people who are jokers; we want politicians who can see the hand that feeds, identify where the basis of the country’s cash comes from and make well informed intelligent decisions based on knowing that information for the betterment of New Zealand.

If you prefer a personality, it’s a bit late but you could have asked Jimmy Saville to lead the Labour Party; from what I am reading lately, he obviously had a charismatic personality.

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Blimey, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I clearly should be hung, drawn and quartered for wanting a little colour and personality in our elected leaders. But the flaw in your argument is the suggestion that colour and political skill are incompatible. Holyoake, Muldoon and Clark were all consummate politicians and leaders and all held office for 3 terms. Lange was brilliant and Bolger and Shipley no slouches. As for Winston, a wilier politician you could not hope to meet. But I wasn't entirely serious about him. Maybe it's time to reverse your humor bypass.

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" the majority of us largely forgotten common people in the productive sector of NZ society (i.e. those that actually produce income for the country rather than paid from taxes collected by the government) can see through the veil of self-serving veil politicians"

Oh that this were true! The problem is the majority of the NZ population doesn't see past the cult of personality. We elect our representatives based on the 30 second soundbites we see on TV. Just think back to the "worm debate" when Peter Dunne got 8 MP's elected by saying the words "common sense" over and over again?

Our voting public do not take the time to research party policies and I bet hardly any have read an election manifesto in their lives. People vote based on what they see on TV - on the news and in the "debates" that are just platforms for spouting more soundbites.

I agree with your point, that I would much rather have an intellectually capable leader who will do the best for our country - however one of the main characteristics of a leader is the ability to inspire and motivate - something sadly lacking in our current crop of politicians.

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Labour didn't need Jimmy Saville to lead them, Post-Helen Clark. They were blessed with an abundance of candidates -- Carter, Hughes, Robertson, Street, Chauvel, Wall. Heck, spoilt for choice.

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You've said it all AH.
I'm not surprised that Slater and Edwards hit it off. "Birds of a feather"
Neither have produced a darn thing to replace what they consume.
And both arrogantly believe that living off the production of others is their birthright.
Losers and wasters, both of them.

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Crikey you are bitter, take your medication and go to bed, oh and Winston for PM.

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Brian, flat boring people aren't capable of vision, that's the point. I know about aviation, it's well known that the best flying machines are the ones that ride on the edge of the instability envelope.

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As a fighter, yes, where agility is a prime requirement but not for carrying the masses. Bad analagy.

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Try the B-2

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Clark is less dull than Key or Shearer? Norman is intelligent and articulate? Obviously, I need to smoke the same weed you do.

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