The invisible election

UK-based NZ voters have struggled to find more than a handful of mentions in the papers. And those were hardly helpful

I cast my vote in the New Zealand general election yesterday, by fax. No pilgrimage down Haymarket to New Zealand House this time – just log on, print off PDF voting form, tick boxes, struggle with fax machine, turn fax machine on and off, press send. Easy.

But it’s just as well for the London-based voter that there are alternative sources of information on the NZ debate to the British papers – such as this very site. You’d never expect an election in the distant old colony to feature high or often in the news pages here, but this one has received even paltrier coverage than the usual breadcrumbs. It might be that people are more interested in the ballyhoo across the Atlantic. And the demands of the four horsemen of finance. And a pair of potty-mouthed BBC celebrities.

Whatever, for those UK-based Kiwi newspaper readers who find that, as one wise man once put it, “the eye cuts down at once” to “words which begin with Z”, there’s been little beyond the two rugby codes to alarm the heart of late.

Prize for most comprehensive reporting of New Zealand’s election goes to the Financial Times, which a fortnight ago managed this – but the stuff about the campaign is really an afterthought to an account of that big rate cut.

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail were each interested for one day only. Both, depressingly, coughed up the column inches for outbursts on immigration (take a bow, Lockwood Smith and Winston Peters).

A columnist in the Guardian, at least, deemed the race worth mentioning. Worth mentioning, that is, to remark that, much like elections in Canada and the Maldives, New Zealand’s democratic showpiece had “received not a single mention in the British press”.

Frustratingly for Z-spotting expats, New Zealand often only finds itself in British newsprint outside the sports pages in those gently mocking drop-dead hilarious items about trivial little stories in trivial little places. You know the sort of thing.

Well, I felt a minor (trivial little, if you like) bit of vengeance on behalf of all New Zealanders the other night. The lead item on the BBC radio news, Sunday night before last, told of an earthquake that had “hit” Herefordshire. The lead item. No one hurt. A mild quake. But, people, the crockery shook. Pah, thought one life-long Wellington Central voter. Pah.