Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tea for Two


The so-called 'Teapot Tapes', a recording the "private" discussion between Johns Key and Banks last Friday, has made a lot of us ask the question 'what is a private conversation, anyway?'

We have all had that occasion in a public place - perhaps a cafe or a bus - where we've overheard details of someone's lives without wanting or needing to. Ears don't come with an 'off' button. We hear everything, and sometimes we hear things we'd rather not if given the choice.

A conversation in a public place is not private by any means. Most of it is waffle, granted, and we just don't care. Sometimes it leads to a funny story, tweet or blog, but on some level, we all understand that if you're saying it in a public place, it's not private.

So what about the 'tapes'? The difference between the examples above and the teapot situation is that the conversation was recorded. Whether it was on purpose or accidentally doesn't matter much, it exists now.

So how to view this?

Well, I would say unequivocally that the tapes should be released to the public.

Why? Well partially because it would allow us to go back to the actual political race. We could concentrate on policy instead of rumor. Wouldn't that be nice?

To be honest, if you're going to pull a publicity stunt like the one we saw on Friday (and that's very much what it was. You can tell because the cafe was filled with dozens of people from the media), then you have to be OK with things going a little awry. That's exactly what happened.

If you think back to the examples given at the beginning of this blog then you'll realise with the media presence in that cafe, with or without a tape, something was going to be overheard. It is stupidity to assume that just because they are behind a pane of glass, you can say whatever you like.

Which says a LOT about John Key if you ask me.

So let's assume that the content of the tapes is what the media have been not-so-subtly hinting at. One night watching Campbell Live and you could safely surmise someone said that the voters for NZ First are dying, and therefore Winston won't get back in. That's not a smart thing to say, but it's probably true. The worst thing about this one is that Winston will run with it, and it'll probably cost you a fair amount of the retired vote.

The other one is something about rolling Don Brash after the election. Again, unsurprising, and somewhat boring. This shows scheming, and it doesn't present much of a nice picture when you consider the whole point of the event was to get Epsom voters to vote for John Banks. But on the flipside, Epsom voters like John Banks, they don't like Brash. That could actually work in their favour.

Ultimately it is all a storm in a teacup. I just want us to get back to the real story because at the moment we are inflaming National supporters to rally around Key, and all the media attention is drawing the debate away from who has the best policy, which is kind of the whole point of this democracy thing.

We need to stop buying into the smoke and mirrors. There are a few big things on the line here. Can we please just have our curiosity sated and move on?

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