Sunday Star Times Loses Its Memory

In taking a whack at Maggie Barry's putting her hand up for the National Party's Botany candidacy, and almost every other journalist who's had a go in Parliament, the Sunday Star-Times editorial gives a once-over-lightly dismissal of some of the world's great leaders.

"Most celebrity politicians don't have a show" said the headline yesterday for the traditionally anonymous editorial in the Sunday Star-Times (SS-T).

The text mirrored what the paper's stablemate, the Dominion Post, had penned on Saturday (an increasingly irritating habit these two organs have adopted over the weekend, where content is repeated, which makes those of us who buy both papers feel somewhat ripped off).

Barry, having resigned from her Radio Live slot, has joined the National Party and put her hand up for selection as a candidate for the Botany by-election. Personally, I'd rather poke my eyes out with firesticks than represent the National Party, but I rate Maggy Barry, and I say good luck to her. I do think it's a case of pearls before swine, though.

However, the SS-T had a little hissy fit about "celebrity journalists" crossing from one estate to the other (my words, not theirs). "The record of celebrity journalist-politicians is not encouraging."

The writer went on to list Pam Corkery who was "witty...outrageous...had the common touch...came from the left, no bones about it...But it soon became obvious to everybody...that she wasn't suited to the parliamentary game or the wider war of politics. She had the sense to realise this, and soon quit."

Melissa Lee -- a former broadcaster -- is praised for her thoughtfulness and intelligence, ethnic appeal (that wouldn't be difficult, surely?). But then dismissed because of her lamentable fiasco in the Mt Albert byelection. "Her career prospects seem dim."

Denis Welch (who never even got to Parliament, for heaven's sake), was "rather unimpressive" as a Green contender. Phil Twyford has "not made much of a mark yet either". Well, neither have many of the last intake, many of them not journalists.

To be fair, Fran Wilde gets praise for "one outstanding thing in her career" -- the Homosexual Law Reform Act. And George Gair was "talented". But in the end their success is dismissed because -- wait for it -- "neither...had a long or especially distinguished career as journalists before they became politicians."

And, of course, yours truly comes in for her share of ribbing, and not for the first time in the SS-T editorial. Whoever writes it seems to enjoy teasing me. Hey, if you really, really want to steal me away from the Herald on Sunday, why not have your people call my people?

Deborah Coddington "came from the right and made no secret of the fact. She too was articulate, stroppy, convinced of the correctness of her own views, and straight-talking."

Now there's an odd thing. How queer, to be convinced of the correctness of your own views. Would you hold, and articulate views, if you were convinced they were incorrect? Does the writer of this editorial believe his/her views are wrong? Yet allow them to be published anyway? What sophistry.

Anyway, the vein continues that DC seemed an ideal Act candidate but "she didn't thrive in parliament either."

Now I beg to differ. If you take the meaning of "thrive" to be "gain in wealth or possessions", then the writer is correct. My second marriage broke up in Parliament, so I did become financially and materially worse off.

However, if you take the second dictionary meaning, that is, "to enjoy or be stimulated by something", then he/she is totally wrong, because my three years as an Act MP were three of the most stimulating, and exciting years of my life. I did make some changes for the better to people's lives. I know this because they are still in touch with me personally. Some of those changes were to do with sexual offending laws, and only required Orders in Council. They weren't shouted from rooftops, but they didn't need to be. They were very personal, and done with the quiet assistance of then Justice Minister Phil Goff. So I did thrive. But I'm still pleased I decided not to stand again.

But there's a record that needs to be put straight here, one I hope Ms Barry will heed and not let this shallow editorial put her off her dream.

Perhaps the editorial was written by some baby journalist at the SS-T, while all the seniors are still on holiday, so we shall forgive them. But they haven't done their homework.

Great leaders, both here and in Britain, have come from journalist backgrounds.

Sir Julius Vogel, the eighth Premier of New Zealand, moved to Otago in 1861 and was a journalist for the Otago Witness. He founded the Otago Daily Times, and indeed became the first editor of that still august organ.

He was not premier for long, 1873 to 1875 and again in 1876, but shame on any New Zealander who has not heard of him, and double shame on the editorial writer at the SS-T for not knowing he founded the Otago Daily Times.

Moving overseas, in Britain Lord Robert Cecil was three times Prime Minister serving a total of 13 years. Before entering Parliament in 1853 he travelled to New Zealand (commenting the Maori made better Christians than the Pakeha). He was a regular contributor to the Saturday Review, the Standard, and the leading intellectual journal of the times, the Quarterly Review.

But maybe Lord Robert Cecil is too obscure for the SS-T. Maybe someone more well known?

How about Winnie? No, not Peters.

Sir Winston Churchill, no less, was a journalist of sorts -- a foreign correspondent -- in 1899 covering the Boer War. Like Melissa Lee he too was later dismissed -- they called it his wilderness years -- in the 1930s when he repeatedly warned of war with Germany. Then in 1940 he became Prime Minister. In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A celebrity politician who didn't have a show?