Back in Bill English’s 22% election campaign in 2002, his leadership campaign team organised a standup in a bus intended to be crawling though peak-hour Auckland traffic to highlight to the accompanying media the problems of Auckland traffic that the National Party would fix in record time. Instead, it was the one morning that Auckland traffic worked, and the only thing that went in record time was the bus, sailing into the city with neither let nor hindrance from the traffic.
Mr 22% just couldn’t catch a break.
Neither can Labour’s Mr 25%.
Lulled by the stories from the media and his local MP, Andrew Little booked a standup with media outside a house he’d never visited, in a suburb he didn’t know, to tell the media a story he’d taken on trust.
This was the house selected by his team to tell the story of overcrowding in South Auckland housing. This was an example calculated to to elicit tears. They’d been told they were all of them, media, flunkies and fools, standing around handwringing outside a house filled with 17 people. Turned out that was nonsense. The house was not overcrowded at all.
A man came out to say he was the owner of the house and the claims had been greatly exaggerated… “They say there’s 17 people living here, it’s not true,” he said.
The media circus moved on, with Little still in the frame as ringmaster. Samiuela and Lupe Tukutau, the minister and his wife at the local Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in New Zealand, spoke alongside the Labour leader as, unable to find the overcrowding they sought in the wild, they headed back to see if they couldn’t find it in the local Labour office.
A lack of suitable housing was a huge issue in the South Auckland area, the Labour leader said [when they arrived back from the show]. "I'm told it's pretty much expected if you go past a garage someone will be living in it.”
A more diligent media would have begun peering into those garages.
A more questioning media might have asked the minister’s wife how much she and the minister take each week in tithes from their impoverished parishioners.
More insightful senior members of the media may even have undertaken some real investigation of the homeless numbers and overcrowding stories taken by everyone, like Little, on faith,
None of this happened. (Perhaps the overcrowded office took the ginger out of them?) Instead, they simply printed Labour leader Little’s conclusion:
"This is not the New Zealand that New Zealanders want."
It’s certainly not the media we want,or would pay good money for.
Nor, I suspect, is this the sort of performance Labour supporters would want: making a circus out of something they claim to know is a serious issue.
Housing in this city is no joke. It is seriously unaffordable -- as measured by objective indices.
Remedies to that seem utterly beyond the political classes who have caused it, and in some cases can’t even find it.