I feel for Greg O’Connor as the full destructive weight of low quality political journalism starts to focus on him.
When I became my party’s Justice Spokesperson I got the Parliamentary Library to feed me catch up criminology. I’d spent 20 years in commercial law. I badly needed to understand what had happened to turn the courts into awkward apologies for authority, from the oases of calm judicial and establishment confidence they were in my early practice.
But when I began to apply and discuss the findings of research, instead of the idealist fantasies that pass for policy analysis in public debate on law n order¯, I was immediately accused of ‘far right nasty populism’¯, and ‘playing the crime card’¯. The kindest comments would pretend to sympathise, asserting that as an intelligent man it must be hard for me to have to pretend to support criminal justice policies that just ‘pander to the worst in human nature’.
I was stunned by the complete media disinterest in the truth about crime rates. Literally no journalist ever reported on the thorough research behind our policy positions. None had the slightest interest in the astounding US success in cutting by nearly 90% the rampant vicious crime that the ‘compassionate’¯ elite from their leafy suburbs and gated apartments had decided was just a cost the poor must bear as a price of being in a diverse and caring society.
Few ever failed to add “far right” to any reference to me, in all the coverage of my criminal justice contributions. The fact that most of my policies were developed from hugely successful reforms of Bill Clinton in 1996, and explained in terms compellingly expressed by Tony Blair, made not a jot of difference to the ignorant media. They wanted only to report on the Punch n Judy show characters they’d invented to suit their dated class defined world view.
Greg O’Connor may never escape the stupid badging he is getting now, as some kind of policy Neanderthal, forced to tone down and live down his experience-derived understanding of policing. I know, for example, that his fresh thinking on marijuana is genuine, not something forced from him by dopey liberal Labour colleagues. He has been pondering the costs and benefits of the long prohibition for a long time. We discussed the pros and cons long before he challenged Peter Dunne in Ohariu.
Whether, of course, Labour wishes to be branded as the “soft on marijuana party” for this election is a matter that should legitimately be decided by the Party, not Greg. But the continual smug assertions that Greg is somehow learning in that area to dissemble, to pretend to views he does not hold are just normal media moral snobbery.
And even if that were not the case I’d be surprised if Greg was silly enough to think that dope policy will help him in Ohariu. Dopers may think that Peter Dunne is an icon of flopping expediency, but he too has been among the most consistent of liberal¯ members on drug matters. It is ironic that he was forced to appear to dither over medical marijuana.
If Greg O’Connor and Peter Dunne were to debate drug policy outside an election period I’d be surprised if anyone but experts could predict the difference. But Mr Dunne is far more experienced at saying what he thinks his audience wants to hear, however non-sensical.
Whether that will save him will be one of the most interesting questions for this election