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End of Court Report and Back Benches

  • June 27th, 2012

Last night saw the filming of the last episode of the Court Report, and this evening the last episode of Back Benches. Both are victims of the end of TVNZ 7.

I enjoyed my frequent appearances on both, for different reasons.

The Court Report treated serious issues as if it mattered whether lay people understood them. For a prime example, watch Robert Lithgow QC interviewed by Linda Clarke last week. I learned things about criminal trial procedure. The wrap party afterwards last night was a wake, because there can be no confidence that it will find another sponsor.

I loved Back Benches because it was a tournament. After getting over  resentment in my early months as a politician, at the triviality of many of the skills that matter, I enjoyed the tests of performance.  Democratic representatives in mature democracies have to master them. Ability in genuine debate was long ago replaced by the essentials of entertainment (be thick skinned, appear sincere but never earnest)  master sound bites (they trump knowledge), stay on message.

Tonight's last filming of Back Benches felt different. It was as raucous and irreverent as ever, but it did not feel as if it was going for good.

It was great to see an outstanding performance by Chester Borrows. He's nailed the medium. And to see Peter Dunne genuinely angry at the unfairness of the attacks on him for voting as he had said he would to his voters, in favour of the partial sell down of the energy SOEs. He was entitled to be angry.

But I was reminded of the lack of grace that so many politicians feel to be imperative, by the nasty dismissal of Sir Roger Douglas from baby Labour's great hope Jacinda Ardern.  I understood better, though felt sad to hear,her repetitive parroting of lines she surely cannot believe about the asset sales, presumably because polling has shown that Labour gets traction with them.  I've heard claims that Jacinda represents Labour's best hope for intelligent reappraisal of their tribal positions on matters they would be best placed to reform, like welfare. People point to time spent in Tony Blair's Labour apparatus as evidence of open-mindedness.

We did not see it this evening. Jacinda's unnecessary disparagement of  Sir Roger Douglas was disappointing. He is recognised by serious observers as New Zealand's bravest and most internationally respected political leader of the past 4 decades. John Key has done himself no credit with his eagerness to dissociate, but perhaps he had the excuse of political necessity. It is less forgiveable from junior leaders who have inherited power, and have yet to show what they can do with it. Good manners would be humble to a retired giant.  No such luck from Jacinda and Metiria Turei this evening.


  • RTB
  • June 30th, 2012
  • 5:29 pm

I too will miss Back Benchers but I have to add that I have been somewhat amused that people want a free to air govt funded channel and then have to either subscribe to SKY OR buy the free view gear to access it (we have the latter…too miserly for SKY despite their frequent attempts).
If they are happy to subscribe to one or other why do they not feel happy to write out a cheque to TVNZ/Govt to maintain CH7?

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