Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Politics is not about entertainment

In the past I've criticised the media for ignoring the substance of politics and instead focusing on "the game". There's a perfect example of this approach in Jane Clifton's Dominion Post column today, entitled Where's the fun in a straight answer?. The short version: Yesterday, the Speaker forced a Minister to give a proper answer to a question on notice. This meant that Question Time functioned as it should - as a mechanism by which the opposition, and through them, the people of New Zealand, could hold the government to account for its policies. But according to Clifton, this is boring. Question Time shouldn't be about answering questions, but the artful, witty, and snarky way in which they are avoided.

But while it can be entertaining, politics matters. The decisions the government makes about whether to allocate resources to health or education or tax cuts for the rich make a real difference to people's lives. Sitting there in her gallery bubble on her gallery salary, Clifton seems to have completely lost sight of that (if indeed she ever knew it). And her job as a journalist is to explain the difference it is making so we can make a political choice.

But I forget: Clifton isn't a journalist, but a gossip columnist.