Leader in waiting for change

June 20, 2011

Prime Minister John Key in July North and South:

“I was lucky because when I became party leader National was in an upswing and the Labour government was in its dying days. I critiqued the government, but was able to spend a lot of that time actually talking about our agenda – what we’d do in power.”

Contrast that with Labour leader Phil Goff seen as to eager to moan in the Manawatu Standard :

The problem here is that Mr Goff looks like he enjoys negativity, that he lies awake at night pondering new ways to be a wet blanket. He frequently comes across as a little too earnest, a bit too eager to moan.

Opposition parties always run that risk, and keeping the Government accountable is important, but Mr Goff will soon need to show he can do a better job in the hot seat than Mr Key. In that regard, he has a great deal of work to do.

John Key took over National as it was gaining support and he’s built on that.

Phil Goff took over a party which had just been thrown out of office after nine years in power. Its support had been falling for most of the last six and he hasn’t been able to turn that round.

John Key has a united caucus, happy to work with him to earn another term in government.

Phil Goff has a divided and directionless caucus. His leadership is safe for now, only because none of his colleagues want to grasp a poisoned chalice.

National is getting on with the business of governing and clearly articulating a plan to build a better New Zealand based on savings, investment and export-led growth.

Phil Goff and Labour aren’t particularly good at critiquing the government. Every time they look like they’re getting somewhere with that they’re sidetracked by sabotage from within, own goals or side shows. If they’ve got a plan they’re having trouble articulating it.

National is running the country.

Labour doesn’t look as if it’s capable of running itself.

John Key is the Prime Minister.

Phil Goff doesn’t look like a Prime Minister in waiting, he looks like a caretaker leader in waiting for the inevitable post-election leadership change.


Many happies North & South

March 15, 2011

The ag-sag had well and truly hit us in 1986.

We’d cut out luxuries and reassessed what were necessities. Magazines were definitely in the former category but a friend mentioned the launch of a new magazine – North and South.

I looked, I bought, I read and was hooked. My farmer and I gave each other a subscription for combined birthday and Christmas presents and we’ve kept on renewing it ever since.

The magazine quakcly earned a reputation for the quality of its  journalism and nothing in my working life gave me as much of a thrill as seeing stories I’d written published in it.

Founding editor Robyn Langwell had high standards and was rewarded with loyal readers whose judgement was backed up by the more than 200 awards North and South and its staff won in the 22 years she was in charge.

The March edition which celebrates the magazine’s 25th anniversary tells its story and looks aback on some of the people and issues which it has featured in its first quarter century.

Few people had computers when North and South was launched and there was much less competition for discretionary dollars. In spite of this it has respectable sales of 29,000 and a readership of around 300,000.

That increase from sales to readers seems high but our copies are passed among family and staff before being taken to the hospital so each magazine we buy is easily read by more than 10 people.

I don’t always read the magazine from cover to cover as I used to. But I still get enough enjoyment and satisfaction from it to justify continuing the subscription and look forward to the second 25 years of good education, entertainment and inspiration.


Tuesday’s answers

January 19, 2010

Monday’s questions were:

1. Who is North & South’s editor?

2. Who are the three main characters in A Town Like Alice?

3. Who is the founder and CEO of Ice Breaker?

4. Who was made a Dame for her services to children in the New Year Honours?

5. Who said,There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” ?

Kismet got 2 2/3.

Rob got 2 and a bonus for lateral thinking for 5.

Andrei got one and a wee bonus for giving Twain’s real name as well.

Paul got 2 2/3 and a bonus for satire for his answer to 4.

David got 1.

Lynley Dodd is a Dame but she didn’t get the honour in the New Year honours. She was given the title-less honour a few years ago and became a Dame last year when National reinstated titular honours.

As to the degree of difficulty – that always depends on whether or not you know the answers.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »


Monday’s quiz

January 18, 2010

1. Who is North & South’s editor?

2. Who are the three main characters in A Town Like Alice?

3. Who is the founder and CEO of Ice Breaker?

4. Who was made a Dame for her services to children in the New Year Honours?

5. Who said,There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” ?


The curse of opposition

January 18, 2010

Guyon Espiner ended his North & South column on his predictions for government initiatives in the coming year by saying:

Which brings us to Labour, well it doesn’t really, but I guess I have to mention them. Right at the end.

There. I think that’s accorded them an amount of space commensurate with their level of relevance.

That’s the curse of opposition, especially when you’ve been there a short time after a very long time in government.

It’s even more difficult when the new government and the Prime Minister are as popular as this National-led one and John Key are at the moment.

If Labour highlight a problem or propose new policy they’ll be asked why they didn’t do something about it when they were in power.

That’s if anyone takes any notice which isn’t likely when, as Espiner points out, they’re barely relevant.


Quoted or first hand, sexist comments aren’t appropriate

November 10, 2009

North and South was launched during the ag-sag when we weren’t buying anything we didn’t absolutely need. But a kind family member gave us a subscription for Christmas.

I used to read each issue from cover to cover, savouring every word. 

The standard of writing was so good I’d enjoy articles even if I wasn’t particularly interested in the subject.

Although the magazine is smaller now I don’t spend the same amount of time savouring the stories. But if the profile on Judith Collins in the November issue is anything to go by, at least some of the stories aren’t to be savoured anyway.

The writer keeps intruding on the writing and for some inexplicable reason feels the need to note:

One of the few previous profiles of her was in student newspaper Critic,  which took the time to not that she had “one of the few decent racks in parliament.”

But the bigger error is, quoted or first hand, a comment about a male MP, or anyone else, being well hung isn’t appropriate and nor is one about a woman’s breasts. It’s bad enough in a student publication (and for the record Critic is a magazine, not a newspaper). It’s even worse when in an issue of what has been a deserved winner of the Magazine of the Year title several times.

The writer makes another stupid observation further on:

Yes her parents were dairy farmers but they were not Daimler-driving gin-swilling plutocrats.

Were any dairy farmers in the 60s – or at any other time – Daimler-driving gin-swilling plutocrats?

This says a lot more about the writer, his attitudes and ignorance than the subject of the profile and it’s not the standard to which North and South normally adheres.

P.S. When I read the story I remembered Quote Unquote had posted on it. The comment from Cactus Kate is a gem.


What’s in it for us?

August 23, 2009

North and South editor Virginia Larson tells us in this month’s editorial she requested an interview with All Black captain Richie McCaw.

I wanted to find out what makes a leader out of a young man; what people and places shaped him in his childhood; how he bears the hopes and expectation of thousands every time he leads his team into the arena.

After some exchange of emails with McCaw’s agent, a final phone call came to this: “What’s in it for us?” said the agent. Well, there was no money, of course, and on the spot I couldn’t guarantee a cover . . . But didn’t he value a thoughtful, in-depth profile to be read by close to 3000,000 people . . .

Clearly, he didn’t. Access denied.

If the All Blacks, want to gain back the place they once had in New Zealanders’ hearts, the question isn’t what’s in it for them but what’s in it for us, the public.

My father and brothers weren’t interested in rugby, they preferred sailing. But radio commentaries provided a background to my childhood Saturday afternoons because my mother often listened to them, especially when her nephew was playing for University or Otago.

I didn’t watch a game until I was 17 when the prefects from Waitaki Girls’ were invited to watch inter-school matches at Waitaki Boys’. It didn’t really matter what was on, it was an excuse for an afternoon out of class and with boys.

A few excursions to Carisbrook when I was a student followed and there were also some late/night early morning parties when we crowded round a black and white television to watch a test from overseas. But the attraction was not so much what was happening on the field as the opportunity for fun with friends.

The next memory I have of rugby was 1981 and the Springbok tour. While some people a little older than I am feel it was a defining issue, I didn’t. I was in my first job as a journalist and reported on local reactions, and happened to be in Christchurch with friends when there was a test somewhere which we watched on TV, but it was not a major concern or interest for me.

I was overseas the following year, returned home to be married and have vague memories of gatherings with friends at our home or theirs to watch the odd test in the next few years.

It wasn’t until 1995 when we hosted an AFS student from Argentina who played rugby that I watched a live game. That was a World Cup year and the All Blacks toured New Zealand, stopping in provincial towns to meet their fans. I took our student who could speak only a little English, to meet them. His excitement at exchanging a few words in Spanish with Eric Rush and shaking hands with Sean Fitzpatrick brought home to me the strength of their influence and international reputation.

The Super 12 competition started the following year and we travelled down to Dunedin and Christchurch to watch several games. We watched a few NPC games  at Lancaster Park and Carisbrook too, including the one when Otago didn’t win the Ranfurly Shield and one when they did win the NPC competition.

Then what happened? The season got longer, the competition didn’t have the same attraction and frustration at the way rugby interfered with other functions grew. I’ve watched a few North Otago games but last year went to Dunedin only once for an NPC game, this year I half-watched a Super 14 game on TV and haven’t yet watched a test.

I know just enough about the game to sit through a match, but I need an emotional connection to enjoy it. I might have that with Valley which is our local team and North Otago, but I no longer have it with any teams higher up. I’d be hard pressed to name any Highlander or Otago players and couldn’t name more than a handful of All Blacks.

Part of the reason for that might lie in a comment from Graham Henry which caught Alf Grumble’s attention:

“. . . I guess the product’s not too great and that’s disappointing.”

When I read that I begin to wonder if Karl du Fresne really had been in the All Black dressing room when he wrote:

The meeting opened with a team official launching a withering attack on player A, who had been seen in a Durban bar wearing a non-approved hair gel. The player’s excuse – that he had a new executive assistant who had packed the wrong makeup kit – was contemptuously brushed aside.

Next, player B was fined for having turned up late at a promotional appearance to launch the ABs’ new personal fragrance range, evocatively named Scrum. . .

It didn’t used to be a product. The players were heroes but not plastic celebrities. They were real, grounded people connected to and respectful of the public who admired them.

At least some of the current All Blacks might still be like that. From what I know of Richie McCaw, who grew up in the HakaValley not far from here, he definitely is. But his agent has let him down and has also let rugby down.

When the agent had to ask, “what’s in it for us?”  and the coach talks about the product they’ve both lost sight of what’s important.

It’s not a product it’s a game. The All Blacks aren’t royalty who command attention, they’re players who need to connect with the public if they want to win back fans.

I’m writing this on Saturday evening. The All Blacks will be playing the Wallabies soon. I might turn the TV on to watch the national anthems and the haka and to see if I can catch sight of some people I know in the crowd because they happened to have important business in Sydney this weekend.

But I won’t stay awake for the game and while I’ll hope that New Zealand will win, that’s no more than I’d want if it was the national tiddlywinks team playing the Australians.

I’m over rugby which isn’t of any great concern if it’s only me. But it’s not. A lot of people, especially women, share my lack of interest and that ought to be of great concern for the Rugby Union who wants us all to get behind the World Cup.

They haven’t got long to get us enthusiastic again. They could start by realising that unless they can persuade us there’s something in it for us, there isn’t anything in it for them. A good first step would be for that agent to phone North and South to arrange a time that suits the journalist for an interview with Richie.


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