#Election2014: Of twitter, bad publicity and the north

It’s been an eye-poppingly strange election campaign.

It’s had huge implications for public relations in New Zealand, mainly because of the cash for coverage and dirty politics scandals which engulfed the blogging landscape. Things aren’t ever going to be the same in that department – and that’s a good thing.

Put that aside for a moment and three things stand out for me from this weekend’s election result:

1. Twitter’s an alternative universe
2. There’s new hope for Northland
3. There is such a thing as bad publicity

Twitter really doesn’t represent the views of the people of New Zealand.

It’s populated largely by people of the left-leaning persuasion, mostly urbanites. And if you spend enough time in there it’s awfully easy to start believing – if you’re centrist or remotely conservative – that you’re in a national minority. Up there in the endangered species rankings along with some of the rarer types of kiwi and the Sinbad Valley skink.

It’s a deeply uncomfortable place for anyone who doesn’t quite fit the mold. Group-think is common and at times it can almost feel like a lynch mob. God help the average Joe who dares to volunteer an opinion that differs slightly from the plethora of correct-thinking ‘influencers’ and pundits.

Before the election I tweeted:

Well, the gurning and churning even without that result was a thing to behold. This particularly bitter and ungracious contribution – referring to a group of (predominantly) Maori students who benefit from scholarships to a prestige Auckland school conducting a victory haka outside John Key’s home on election night – really made me question the amount of time I want to continue spending in that forum.

There’s hope for Northland’s economy.

With Kelvin Davis’ victory this weekend, and Te Tai Tokerau going to Labour, Northland has at last rid itself of the brooding, menacing presence of Hone Harawira and his Mana Party.

This was the man who cried loudly about The North being neglected and forgotten. Yet it was he who abused marae conventions and protocols to orchestrate ritual humiliation for the representatives of businesses who wanted to invest here. And it was he who oversaw the physical intimidation of such people. And it was he who encouraged protests against investment.

Much will be made of the fact that Hone had beaten Kelvin Davis twice before. And it’s already being claimed by the Internet Party that they lost it for Hone through their bizarre association with Mana.

But if Hone was as popular as he’s been made out to be he wouldn’t have been ditched. Especially as everyone knows that the Internet Party was just a scab on Mana’s kneecap which would have been scratched off within the first two weeks of the next parliament. The truth is that Hone’s particular brand of firebrand politics, while popular with the radical youth, was wearing very thin with moderates on the marae.

With Hone having been seen off and the Green Party having been put firmly in its place with just 10 percent of the Northland vote perhaps now, at last, the province can stand firmly behind the various initiatives developed to promote economic growth up here and we can say with a degree of credibility that we’ve never had before: “We’re open for business.”

There is such a thing as bad publicity.

I called it. Back in June 2012, while NZ was falling in love with Kim Dotcom, I mused about the spell he was weaving over the country, particularly those left-leaners in the media, and ventured that:

Like thousands of others I’m intrigued to see what happens next. Not least because I want to see how he prepares for the backlash, and how he avoids leaving us with the feeling that somehow – ever so gently and ever so nicely – we’re being manipulated.

Well, it turns out that he didn’t. Avoid leaving us with that feeling, that is. The impact of his ill-judged Moment of Truth has been discussed widely in other fora so I’m not going to repeat that here. Suffice to say that it appears to have been the final straw for patriotic Kiwis who wanted to send a message that our political system – as dysfunctional and hamstrung as it is – should not be toyed with and is not for sale. The result – the annihilation of Internet-Mana and possibly a significant fillip for John Key’s National Party.

It’s been an eye-poppingly strange election campaign. Perhaps now we can indulge in a little national reconciliation and get on with the job of making things happen around here.


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