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Dr Bryce Edwards lectures in political science at Otago University. He describes himself as a left libertarian without party affiliation.
After working as a public servant in the UK and then for deputy prime minister Jim Anderton in 2001, he earned his PhD from Canterbury University in 2003. His thesis, Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation, argued they had evolved into highly professionalised but unhealthy vehicles for ambitious politicians, denying voters meaningful choices.
Dr Edwards achieved some prominence in 2008 as a left-wing political commentator. After that election, his main research project was a scholarly assessment of each party’s campaign, applying a theoretical model about party professionalisation and cartelisation. Précis can be found at his blog, liberation.org.nz.
Through this work, Dr Edwards found that nowhere in New Zealand was there a compendium of all media coverage, advertising and blog posts that make up a modern election campaign.
For 2011, therefore, he decided to compile this information each day, so it would be available at one place for future researchers.
Every afternoon he also emails the information to 500 academics, students, journalists, bureaucrats and PR people, together with his interpretation of the day’s events. It’s also published each day on NBR Online.
This daily chore quickly overwhelmed Dr Edwards, who also teaches three papers, including an honours class, so he decided to employ a research assistant.
With no budget to pay the assistant he approached some dozens of organisations for sponsorship. In the end, the Public Service Association, pollsters Curia and my government relations and PR company Exceltium agreed to each chip in $100 a week. In return, our logos are displayed prominently on the daily update.
The Labour Party has cried conspiracy, given Curia holds National’s polling account.
Its campaign manager, Trevor Mallard, now a prominent blogger, says, and I quote him directly, that “Bill English funds Bryce Edwards.” He asks whether “Bill English signed the deal off or whether it was just a nod and a wink.” This would clearly be defamatory of everyone involved if it wasn’t that no one takes anything Mr Mallard now says seriously.
Mr Mallard’s friend and co-blogger, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, expanded the conspiracy, alleging, and I also quote her directly, “a very cosy relationship between [Cameron Slater], Farrar, Hooton, Young Nats and the non-Labour left.” This follows her attack on the Greens because they sought, as she put it, “to encroach on Labour territory”.
Labour has also rounded on Sir Peter Leitch, the Mad Butcher, who, after strongly supporting Helen Clark, now favours John Key.
Labour List MP Darien Fenton declared she was, and I quote her directly, “never going near him again.” While he was “good in the past” he had “gone way out on a limb.” When asked whether it wouldn’t be better to try to win back his vote, she replied, and again I quote her directly: “Why?” Ms Fenton is guaranteed to be re-elected as a list MP, at the expense of quality Labour people like Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash, who are both doomed.
At thestandard.org.nz, a blog written by Labour and union staffers and other leftist activists, the attacks on Sir Peter, who won his knighthood for services to philanthropy and the community, were even more vicious. One, defended on free-speech grounds by the blog administrators, was: “I wish the Mad Butcher would hurry up and die.”
The same Labour activists slammed TVNZ for broadcasting Sir Peter’s views, something entirely consistent with Ms Curran’s policy of greater regulation and control of the media. Labour’s Jacinda Ardern agrees, saying an “informed society” can only come from “public service broadcasting.”
In practice, we know what they mean by this: news content controlled by Wellington bureaucrats with a soft-left Labour perspective, and documentaries called “Wither the NZSO?”
Go the Warriors!
Such attacks on the Greens, left-leaning academics, the media and the popular Mad Butcher (in the very week his beloved Warriors will finally win the NRL!) suggest some kind of derangement syndrome caused by Labour’s fury at Mr Key’s popularity.
These people have learned nothing from their defeat in 2008. They despise the voters, whom they regard as ignorant and wrong. Unless such bitter and paranoid individuals lose influence within Labour, New Zealand won’t benefit from proper opposition until late 2014 at the earliest.