Can you spot what's wrong with this newspaper advertisement?

JAMES DANN, who was Labour's Ilam candidate, has tweeted this interesting newspaper advertisement from Labour list MP Clayton Cosgrove.

While the advertisement looks vaguely 'Labourish'  that's where the similarities end.

There might be a big tick for Clayton, but conspicuously missing is a big tick for Labour. Also missing is the Labour Party logo.

And just to stress a little bit more that Clayton has nothing to do with Labour, one of his supporters declares:

'I'm not party political, I just want  to see Clayton Cosgrove elected as the MP for Waimakariri...'

Last week Cosgrove  defended his 'personalised  campaign'  arguing  that  he was 'chasing  the party vote as well as an electorate win.'

But this newspaper advertisement suggests that campaigning  for the party vote was very much a low priority for Cosgrove.

James Dann has tweeted: 'When someone gets in on the party list, twice, whilst not campaigning for the party, someone needs to say something.'


In the aftermath of the Labour Party's crushing election defeat and the demise of Internet Mana, is there any hope for the left?

IT WAS NOT so long ago that Sue Bradford walked away from the Mana Party. The catalyst for her  resignation was, of course, the alliance of convenience that Hone Hawarira  and his supporters  had cobbled together  with Kim Dotcom and his newly formed Internet Party.

She warned that it was huge mistake for the Mana Party to hitch  its political fortunes to that of the German multi-millionaire.

Although it would be  fair to say I've had some political differences with Sue (mostly during her time in the Green Party) I've always respected  her integrity and determination. I knew that her decision to pull the plug on her involvement with the Mana Party would not have been taken lightly.

Her decision though provoked the ire of others.

Chris Trotter, in a particularly unpleasant column,  lectured that she should of have abided  by  'Mana's democratic decision-making process' and stayed with the party.

He pompously went on to say: ''an unkind commentator might draw his readers’ attention to the extraordinary condescension involved in a middle-aged Pakeha and former Green MP setting forth the correct moral path for a party dominated overwhelmingly by young, marginalised Maori.'

Trotter, who has castigated me regularly over the years  for my 'unrealistic' and 'far left' politics, rushed to embrace Internet Mana - at one stage even describing it as 'revolutionary'.

His old mate Martyn Bradbury of The Daily Blog wrote:

A Labour-Green-Internet MANA majority is a genuinely exciting prospect, and one that progressives would be foolish to ignore if they really want to see the back of John Key.

Other individuals and groups on the left   also rushed to the side of Internet Mana. This included  Socialist Aotearoa,  the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), Fightback! (Workers Party) and the Unite Union.

There was never  any  political consistency or coherency to this support. Socialist Aotearoa, for example, had formerly claimed that Mana was a 'anti-capitalist party' and that it was a hub around which a working class movement would grow.  It quickly ditched this view for the resources that Kim Dotcom was offering. Class collaboration became the only game in town.

This has proved to be a huge strategic error.

It would be nice to think that groups like Socialist Aotearoa and the Unite Union will learn from this experience. But this is by no means certain.

Chris Trotter has blogged  that 'the left' has some hard thinking to do. Personally I think Chris Trotter has a helluva  lot of hard thinking to do about his own politics. This though may result in him moving further rightwards because I just can't see moving to the left.

Meanwhile Martyn Bradbury says he's taking some time off to reflect on the electoral disaster. He has  written:

There need to be voices from the left who can redefine what progressives need to do to end this terrible, terrible Government, but today I don’t think I’m one of those voices.

I think he shows some honesty here. At this early stage anyway.

The maddening and frustrating thing is that all of this mess was avoidable.

While I don't pretend to have any special political insight I like to think that I  - and a few others -have again been  vindicated in our  long held view that if the left is  to make any progress at all there has to be complete honesty about the Labour Party and what it represents. There also has to be an honesty about the continued enthusiasm of certain  parts of the left to make deals with political forces that are no friends of working people.

Speaking from a  purely personal standpoint I have my doubts that much of the left is capable of the sort of honesty that is required. The hard questions are just as likely never to be asked, never mind answered.

Despite three consecutive election defeats for Labour, the left is well capable of repeating the same old mistakes in 2017. I hope I'm proved wrong.


Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner claims there are only thirty homeless people in Christchurch. But does she know  all their names?

IT HAS BEEN estimated that there may be as many  as 7000 homeless people in Christchurch.  Such is the  severity  of  the housing crisis in the city that some overseas workers  -attracted to Christchurrch  by the promise of work in the building industry - are now having to stay at the Methodist Mission. It can't even cope with the growing  number of local people who are desperate for somewhere to stay.

Central Christchurch MP Nicky Wagner is entirely unconcerned though. The Associate Earthquake Recovery Minister  has told the  NZ Herald that there are only thirty genuinely homeless people in Christchurch

How has  she arrived at this figure?

According to Wagner you are not homeless if you happen to have somewhere to sleep. If you are  sleeping in a garage, in overcrowded conditions or perhaps even in a cardboard box, Nicky Wagner thinks you  have never had it so good.

Wagner's view on what constitutes a 'home' is in direct  conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services...'

Merely having somewhere to sleep does not constitute adequate housing.

Wagner is one of the country's wealthiest  property-owning politicians. She owns directly or is linked to companies which own $25.3 million worth of property.

Wagner's property wealth comes from eight commercial buildings in Christchurch that are owned by David Wagner Holdings Ltd - a company in which she is a joint shareholder and her husband David is director.

She owns a  family home in Christchurch and an apartment in Wellington. She has a 'holiday home' in Picton which is owned by a trust.

Wagner won't be living in a garage anytime soon.


 Mike Hosking and Seven Sharp do a hatchet job on the 'Moment of Truth'.

I WAS SURPRISED that Seven Sharp chose to cover  the 'Moment of Truth' event. I assumed that, true to form, it would have far more important issues to cover  - like hair products or grapefruits, for instance

That said you wondered why Seven Sharp  even bothered  to cover the meeting because it clearly wasn't interested.

Right from the off,  Mike Hosking announced that Seven Sharp was 'reluctantly'  covering the 'Moment Of Truth' -  even the simpering co host Toni Street visibly squirmed at this point.

Hosking then suggested  that the whole issue was not one of  mass surveillance  but one of 'mass manipulation'.

That's right. If you were one of the fifteen hundred or so people  who packed the Auckland Town Hall or one of the many  hundreds who could not get in, or one of the thousands who watched it on the Internet,  Mike Hosking says you were all 'manipulated', presumably by the dastardly Kim Dotcom.

As well as being grossly insulting,  Hosking's hypocrisy  reached new heights. This is a man who works  for a radio station, Newstalk ZB, which has promoted and defended the Key government for the past six  years. This is a man who works for a station that railed against the 'nanny state'  of the Helen Clark government but now is  apparently entirely relaxed about the state intruding into the private lives of all of us, via the methods that Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden have outlined.

And, of course, this is the  man who has consistently backed Cameron Slater who has sought to manipulate the New Zealand political process in the notorious ways that Nicky Hager has outlined in Dirty Politics.

If Mike  Hosking wasn't bad enough, Seven Sharp  sent Heather du Plessis-Allan to  provide live coverage of the event. This is the woman who did the now infamous PR puff piece on Cameron Slater.

Echoing the Prime  Minister, she described  the timing of  the 'Moment of Truth'  as 'cynical' . Apparently having a political  meeting during an election campaign is to be frowned upon.  Especially if it might cause difficulties for the Prime Minister.

She could of said, that in an age when politicians avoid the scrutiny of public meetings like the plague, this was a return to better days. She could of mentioned that this was, by far, the  biggest political meeting of the election . But she chose to say that the timing of  the meeting was 'cynical'. She has clearly been taking lessons from her partner Barry Soper - who works for Newstalk ZB.

Her astounding powers of  political analysis led her to conclude that the vociferous clapping and cheering indicated that it was a 'left' crowd. An alternative interpretation is that it was the reaction of a large  crowd of  New Zealanders who are concerned about what is happening  to their country and are  glad that they have people  like Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden fighting  their corner.  They certainly can't expect New Zealand's media cabal to do that.

But  the agenda of Heather du Plessis-Allan was clear. She wanted to pigeonhole  this as a meeting of a bunch of lefties, somehow removed the concerns of everyone else. At this  point I heard the voice of another National Party Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, shouting at a heckler, 'You're not a proper New Zealander!'

Meanwhile Hosking claimed he had read Edward Snowden's article and basically said there was nothing in it. This is also what he said about Dirty Politics.  Hosking is now so ideologically blinkered and so determined  to defend the Key government at all cost that he is no longer a member of  the fourth estate but a de facto member of the Prime Minister's office.


Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald is attacked by the Prime Minister.

JUST A cursory review of Glenn Greenwald's track record will reveal that the Pulitzer-winning journalist is in no one's pocket. But that was what  the Prime Minister snidely accused him of yesterday. He described him as being in 'Dotcom's pocket'.

Greenwald, who is presently in New Zealand, has been the target of criticism not only from the political establishment  but from fellow journalists. He  has described American journalism as 'neutered and impotent and obsolete.'

Greenwald outlined to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! the response of the American  corporate media to his reporting on Edward Snowden’s leaked National Security Agency documents:

“We knew that once we started publishing not one or two stories, but dozens of stories … that not just the government, but even fellow journalists were going to start to look at what we were doing with increasing levels of hostility and to start to say, ‘This doesn’t actually seem like journalism anymore,’ because it’s not the kind of journalism that they do. It doesn’t abide by these unspoken rules that are designed to protect the government.”

He could well have been talking about the New Zealand media. John Key and National Party have enjoyed a benevolent relationship with the mainstream media, a relationship that Nicky Hager exposed in Dirty Politics.

It is illuminating to compare Key's hostility toward Glenn Greenwald with the affectionate relationship he has with certain mainstream journalists and, of course, with the continued loyalty  he demonstrates for sleaze merchant Cameron Slater.



Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch gets all worked up...

CHRIS LYNCH hosts  the 8.30am - midday weekday show on talkback station Newstalk ZB in Christchurch. He is the only local host on a station that is mostly networked out of Auckland.  He also fronts a show on local  television station CTV called Lynched which I criticised some months ago.

I think this was the first time I was critical of something Lynch was involved in. I have let other things  slide by  like  the time when he  thought it was appropriate to say 'good riddance' when a local homeless man died when the house he was squatting in went up in flames.  I'm also not keen about his habit of putting on a camp voice when he's conveying views he doesn't agree with.  I thought we'd long since past the days when talking like Mr Humphreys out of Are You Being Served? was considered clever and funny.

In the last few days  I've been critical of Lynch both here and on Twitter. I criticised him for his unwarranted attack on Sue Bradford  and I criticised him on Twitter  for stating that he didn't think that increasing  the level of benefits would alleviate poverty.

Lynch seems to be a sensitive soul.

Local  Labour MP Ruth Dyson, who I don't know and have never met, retweeted one of my comments. This prompted Lynch  to demand of Dyson why she was engaging with 'nutcases' like me.

Ruth Dyson obviously didn't know what Lynch  was banging on about and replied: 'Who is Steven?'

Lynch, who appears to have a problem stringing together a coherent sentence, then tweeted to Ruth Dyson:

Your senior party official think hes s nutcase so why communite with nasty people'.

I have no idea who this 'senior party official' is.

Anyway, I leave the last word to @ShitAkhilSays  who had this to say about Chris Lynch on Twitter: 'He's mad because he's the only person in 2014 who's still trying to rock that Justin Bieber haircut'


John Key and David Cunliffe debate who will be a better manager of the free market economy. The loser is all of us.

WHILE I EXPECTED LITTLE  FROM EITHER John Key or David Cunliffe, watching the third 'Leaders Debate' was still dispiriting. It had me reaching for the remote on several occasions. I persevered only so I could write this.

This wasn't so much a contest of ideas, of ideologically defined visions of alternative New Zealand's, but rather a debate about management styles. You can either have John Key continuing  to run New Zealand Inc or you can give David Cunliffe a go. Either way we are still  wrapped  in the neoliberal straitjacket. When you so desperately want someone to go charging the citadels of capitalist power, we are instead expected to make do with fiscally responsible  David Parker and his marker pen and whiteboard, calculator at the ready. Big ideas have been reduced to technical arguments about tax.

Cunliffe tried to get passionate - and it looked scripted to me -  about  decreasing child  poverty but I couldn't even detect a  whiff of even the mildest  Keynesianism  in the policies he outlined. For business interests,  Cunliffe and the Labour Party will be a pleasure to work with - but it'll be thin gruel for most of us.

Labour supporters might wax lyrical abut an increase in the minimum wage but Labour also plans to raise the retirement age, has no intention of stopping deep sea exploration for oil and has been conspicuously silent about how it will improve the lot of welfare beneficiaries - other than vague calls abut creating more jobs.  For working people and the poor there are a lot of booby prizes in Labour's cupboard but, apparently, we're supposed  to just take our medicine in order to get rid of John Key.

It's a stark indication of the lack of choice in this election that Green co-leader Russel Norman is now talking of how the Green's could work with the National Party. Wow. That's fighting talk.

And in the entire debate there  was not one mention of perhaps the pressing issue of our time - climate change and the deepening ecological crisis.

Yet only yesterday it was  reported that a surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin  has reported that  globally averaged amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 396 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, an increase of almost 3ppm over the previous year.

 Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO. had this stark warning: "We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board.We are running out of time."

As Naomi Klein writes in soon to be published book This Changes Everything,  the root of the planet's crisis  is a predatory economic system, driven by the motor of profit. While Naomi Klein and progressive political currents speak of transforming the economic order  David Cunliffe and John Key talk merely of pulling the levers on a machine that is already out of control and which threatens to take us all down with it.


The real 'Dirty Politics' is a representative democracy that is neither representative or democratic.

THE ISSUES THAT DIRTY POLITICS has raised go much further than the machinations of Cameron Slater, Judith Collins, David Farrar and friends  whose activities Nicky  Hager's  bestselling book has so thoroughly exposed.

These issues are symptomatic of a far wider malaise that  none of the parliamentary parties can solve because they themselves  are part of that malaise; a representative democracy that is neither representative or democratic.

Over three decades of this  country being under the iron heel of neoliberalism has seen the further emergence of an ever more unresponsive  and essentially collusive political system where all the political parties are implicated in defending and upholding the neoliberal  model of economic organisation. To talk 'of 'left' , 'right' and 'centre' politics in this context is misleading to say the least  because there is  not one political party, without compromise, that  has set its face firmly against the economic orthodoxy. It is sadly indicative of the regressive  times we are living in  that a so called 'left wing commentator'  can describe a crowd chanting  'F**K YOU, John Key'  as 'revolutionary'. Or that Russel Norman and the Green Party are still described as 'left wing' by mainstream commentators despite the fact that Norman has stated that the Green's are 'more pro market than the National Party',

It is this insular and remote environment , where the political system has  become detached  from the public sphere, that people like Cameron Slater and Jason Ede have been able to operate in relative impunity -  exactly because there because there is no meaningful  public accountability.  We have seen the establishment of a political apparatchik that owes its allegiance to those who seek to dominate us. The 'great unwashed', like you and me, have been shut out.

Those of a more  liberal bent  might have fondly thought that the fourth estate would act as the democratic brake on the excesses of those in power. But the media  has  become so thoroughly embedded in the machine that while we might thoroughly despise Cameron Slater, only a  few  short steps behind him are other  equally determined defenders of the status quo like Mike Hosking, Sean Plunket and most of the NZ Herald's columnists.

Indeed Slater's bitter remark that some of the journalists going after him  now are exactly the same journalists who, in previous times, have been happy to use him as a source of news stories is undoubtedly true.

And journalists and commentators who like to think they are 'liberal' or 'left wing' are not blameless either. 

While they have thoroughly castigated Slater and his political allies their so-called  'solution' is that we again put a  faith in a  failed representative democracy and vote for a capitalist-friendly Labour-led government. Just like last time. And the time before that.

As comedian and activist Russell Brand said last year:

The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don't think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty...'

The only thing  that is certain that will come out of this election is that nothing much  will change. 'Vote positive!' is the call but the fact is that we are being offered as much choice as a Stalinist one party state. That is the real 'dirty politics'. The difference is that the political elite would rather not talk about this because, then, the game really might be up.


Naomi Klein's new book This Changes  Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate is published  on September 18. Klein writes  that it is capitalism – not carbon – that is responsible for climate change and the ecological crisis. It is a book that won't be embraced by Russel Norman and his pro-market Green Party.

NAOMI KLEIN'S  new book is This Changes  Everything: Capitalism  Vs the Climate and it may be her most provocative book yet. The author of No Logo (2000) and The Shock Doctrine (2007) says the book has an 'unashamedly radical thesis at it heart':

'The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.'

Many mainstream environmental groups will be uncomfortable with this book because she bluntly criticises  them for having surrendered to the demands of capitalism.

She dismisses  pro-market solutions proposed by people like Russel Norman and the Green Party because '“dealing with the climate crisis will require a completely different economic system.'

She says that  so called alternatives  like technological innovations, cap and trade schemes and so-called  'clean energy', are, at best, 'band aid solutions'. She  says  they have also had a negative impact on the environment.

Klein says, for instance, that carbon trading programs simply allow manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet.  Carbon trading has become simply another profit-making  vehicle for market capitalism.

Naomi Klein's argues that we must break with market economics and move to an economy that is not based on fossil fuels, demands endless growth, and concentrates power in the hands of the 1 percent.

 In a speech she made last year, Klein said:

'...our current economic model is not only waging war on workers, on communities, on public services and social safety nets. It’s waging war on the life support systems of the planet itself. The conditions for life on earth.

Climate change. It’s not an “issue” for you to add to the list of things to worry about it. It is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts — telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability.'


Sue Bradford is the target of  flak for suggesting that  draconian  government policies are culpable for putting Work and Income staff under increasing pressure.

WELL KNOWN ACTVIST Sue Bradford copped a fair amount  of  flak for this tweet.  She was accused of trying to make political capital out of the Ashburton shootings which resulted  in  two people being  killed and one person seriously wounded.  One of her critics has been the principled and ethical blogger Cameron Slater.

Sue Bradford  later said  that  posted the message in the immediate aftermath of the Ashburton  shootings  and before she knew that there had been fatalities. She deleted the tweet.

Perhaps it could be argued  she  was unwise to make such a comment when the incident was so raw in the minds of the public  and emotions were running high. But I would note that talkback radio last night  was dominated by calls about the  shootings.  None of the callers, or the talkback hosts for that matter, seemed to think to think that it was inappropriate and insensitive to make politically charged comments about what had happened. What a difference a few hours makes - apparently.

Similarly on Newtalk ZB and less than twenty fours after the shootings, local Christchurch morning host Chris Lynch opened his show by attacking Sue Bradford for 'politicising' the incident.

He and his callers then  proceeded to politicise the shootings themselves  with Lynch declaring, at one point, that government policies could not be blamed for the shootings. He did not bother to explain why  he knew this  and seemed more intent on attributing the shootings to the alleged gunman's mental state.

What was largely ignored  in all this was Sue Bradford's observation which was this:

“The Work and Income office is the front line of the Government’s welfare policies. People are very, very badly affected by what happens there everyday. This is in no way excusing what’s happened. But I think it’s unfortunate that governments sometimes don’t understand or accept the risks that they put their staff under in implementing their policies.”

Indeed as the government's welfare policies have begun to bite, Work and Income staff  on the front line are having to cope with the consequences of those policies, namely  more and more angry and frustrated people, under enough stress as it is, responding to more and more  bureaucratic obstacles being put in front of them.

Auckland Action Against Poverty  commented earlier this year:  '...we find that people are often so distressed by their experiences with Work and Income that they will do anything to avoid registering for a benefit; won’t ask for what they desperately need in supplementary assistance; or are simply denied support altogether.'

Between July and September  last year, for example, nearly 2800   sole parents had their benefits cut by 50 percent because they supposedly were not doing a good enough job of looking for paid work - at a time of high unemployment and underemployment. How did this help the 270,000 children already living under the poverty line?

While we grieve at the death of the two Work and Income workers  let us also  not  forget the many welfare beneficiaries who are being driven to the wall by this government's  callous welfare policies. But it seems that some people would rather lash out at Sue Bradford instead.


Green Party co-leader  Russel Norman says he and the Green Party are more committed to free market policies than the National Party.

BECAUSE OF THE FURORE THAT is still being generated by Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, I doubt that many people took much notice of Russel Norman  laying out the politics of the Green Party this week.

Despite the media's lazy and inaccurate characterisation of the Green Party as a 'left wing' party, Norman reaffirmed the party's commitment to free market policies. Norman actually says he's more of a disciple of market policies than the National Party!  I don't think you'll see any mention of the Green's loyalty  to neoliberalism  in its election material though. 'We're more neoliberal than National!' would  not be a vote winner.

Or maybe it would. The Green's, after all,  have managed  to capture a  swathe of conservative supporters and Green activism has largely been reduced to  single issue campaigns  like agitating  for more public  transport. Nothing to frighten the voter from Remuera or Fendalton here.

Said Norman this week: "If you look at the Greens, or at least our policies, they are pro-market. Lower company tax rates, price signals for carbon - let the market resolve the issue."

Yes  the 'invisible hand' of the market will resolve our problems!

Norman's right wing views do not come  as a surprise though. He was enthusing about the 'power of the market several years  ago and he has not changed his tune. In fact he seems to be singing from the free market hymn book with an ever greater gusto these days:

 'The fact is my view, and the Green Party policy, is that markets are a really good solution to the big challenges we're facing in sustainability, so that's why we're very pro the use of market forces, whereas National are into state intervention, which is the exact opposite of the predominant discourse, right?"

Russel Norman's  cuddly view of the economic beast  flies in the face of reality.

The fact is  a system that concentrates political and economic power in the hands of those who pursue the accumulation of capital without restraint is going to continue to demand expansion and growth.  The imperative to grow and accumulate in turn redoubles the economy’s impacts on the earth’s threatened ecosystems  as well as increasing levels of social deprivation.

Indeed we are confronted with a double whammy of a crisis. At the same time as we are confronted by a deepening ecological crisis, a social crisis is becoming increasingly obvious to all: the failure of capitalism to make good on its promise of raising living standards.

As the American philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky said last year, “In the moral calculus of capitalism, greater profits in the next quarter outweigh the fate of your grandchildren.”

This is a point that author and activist Naomi Klein elaborates  in her new book This Changes Everything,  which will be published next month.

She has signaled the themes of her new book in  several newspaper and magazine columns.

She says  that  the market has not—and cannot—fix the environmental crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by an even more  rampant capitalism.

She has made the point that such  is the magnitude of the ecological crisis that we now  need to ditch our  present  economic system. This, she says, is now no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather 'one of species-wide existential necessity.'

In his important article 'Green Capitalism: The God That Failed' Richard Smith writes:

...market-based efforts are doomed to fail, and a sustainable economy is inconceivable without sweeping systemic economic change. The project of sustainable capitalism based on carbon taxes, green marketing, "dematerialization" and so forth was misconceived and doomed from the start because maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, here and there, they might coincide for a moment. That's because under capitalism, CEOs and corporate boards are not responsible to society; they're responsible to private shareholders.

Russel Norman and the Green Party are having none of this though.  They  continue  to support the machine that is killing our planet.  That the Green Party can even be described as 'progressive' once again highlights the arid and conservative nature of New Zealand politics in 2014.


Britain's Channel 4 told the residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham that its new documentary would show the best of a working class community being hit hard by austerity. Instead Benefits Street helped label the residents as “scum”. Now the series is being screened by TVNZ.

IN A TRULY DISMAL  ACT  OF PROGRAMMING, TVNZ has begun screening the  British Channel 4 series, Benefits Street.

It  pretends to  portray the lives of the people of James Turner Street in Birmingham  but  the five part  series  was  condemned by the residents themselves.

The first episode of Benefits Street, which screened tonight, showed resident  Dee Roberts pointing at houses where people were unemployed or on benefits. But programme makers edited out the houses where she said people were working.

“They lied to us from the very beginning. We opened our doors and hearts to them and they violated us and abused our trust,” she told the local Birmingham media.

Another 'bludger' portrayed in the show is Nikita Bell. She has since  found work but was looking for employment when the series  was filmed. She also  felt  betrayed  by the makers of the series, Love Productions.

“They only showed the part with us laughing to make it look like it was all a big joke. They have betrayed me and everyone else. They told us it would be a show about community but it’s not.” she told The Guardian.

Owen Jones, the bestselling author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, writing in The Independent  commented:

'Benefits Street followed a now-predictable formula. Television producers hunt for unsympathetic examples of unemployed people – in this case, on a street in Birmingham; they portray them in the worst possible light; and they fuel the pervasive sense that people on benefits are feckless scroungers.... A healthy media would stand up to the powerful and wealthy. Not ours, though: instead it stands up to the poor and voiceless.'

Asked Jones: 'Where are the shows about the wealthy tax-dodgers who deprive the Exchequer of £25bn each year, even as millions have to both pay their taxes and be pounded by austerity? What about the bankers who plunged the world into economic catastrophe and continue to thrive as others suffer the consequences?'

All Benefits Street does is reinforce prejudices about the poor and unemployed. But demonising the victims  conveniently lets capitalism off the hook.

TVNZ, whose own limited  news and currents affairs has degenerated to the ratings-driven  tabloid level,  has largely  ignored the issue of unemployment and poverty in this country.  But  it is more than happy to screen  a sensationalist and fundamentally dishonest  British series that portrays the poor as feckless bludgers  and  not as they really  are -   the victims of the  British government's brutal austerity policies.

TVNZ  should explain why it is screening this series because it  can  do nothing but provoke a backslash against beneficiaries in this country - as it did in Britain, where the residents of James Turner Street were the victims of abuse and threats of physical violence.


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