Friday, March 30, 2007

The Baubles of Office

This massive tome (600 pages + DVD) from Victoria University Press tells more than most of us will ever want to know about the New Zealand General Election of 2005.
But if you are a political science student or work in politics then clearly the book is absolutely essential reading.
Liberally sprinkled with graphs and maps, detailed indices, appendices and notes and with a most impressive array of contributors it is a superb piece of academic publishing. Although, having said that, I would have to say as a layman that much of the book is readily accessible and indeed some parts are totally fascinating. I especially enjoyed the contributions from Jane Clifton and Kathryn Ryan as well as Pita Sharples' summary of the Maori Party situation.

Here is the copy from the back cover of the book which I think is a fair summary without too much of the puffery that publishers often employ.

“The Baubles of Office” is the story of a cliff-hanger election, New Zealand’s closest yet under MMP. For nearly two weeks no one knew who had won, Labour or National. On election night it was Don Brash who was cheerful and elated, Helen Clark who seemed grim and shaken. New Zealand acquired a government only when Winston Peters ignored a last-minute written appeal from the leaders of four other parties to come to a meeting to agree on terms. Instead, he met with Helen Clark and became the country’s Foreign Minister – accepting ‘the baubles of office’ that he had so openly disdained in a major campaign address.

The contributors to this book include political party strategists from all of the parties elected to Parliament. Rodney Hide, upset victor in Epsom in 2005, tells how it was done. Media personalities, including Radio New Zealand’s Kathryn Ryan, describe what it was like covering a campaign where the likely winner changed with every new poll. New Members of Parliament – the Maori Party’s Pita Sharples and Labour’s Shane Jones – speak about their first campaigns, successful beginnings to new political careers. Listener and Dominion Post political columnist Jane Clifton provides her usual witty and insightful observations, describing MPs both new and old, brought into Parliament by the 2005 election.

The book includes first-hand accounts of the campaign from United Future’s Peter Dunne and Labour Cabinet Minister Steve Maharey, new Green Party leader Russel Norman, and the National Party’s campaign manager Steven Joyce. Academic commentators frequently seen on New Zealand television – including Therese Arseneau (TV3), Jon Johansson (TV One; Sky TV), Colin James (TV One) and Nigel Roberts (TV One) – offer their perspectives on aspects of the campaign, including National’s mischievous use of billboards, the involvement of the Exclusive Brethren and Don Brash’s use of rhetoric on sensitive Treaty issues.

The book is distinctive as it includes a special DVD containing a package of the campaign’s audio-visual highlights. These include excerpts from the televised party leaders’ debates as well as the leaders’ opening night campaign addresses. The DVD also exposes New Zealand political parties’ advertising and marketing strategies, with excerpts from TV ads from the 1999 and 2002 campaigns as well as from 2005. The DVD also includes photographs of many of the party billboards used during the campaign, including those of the National Party (on which the cover design is based).

ISBN 0 86473 539 1 (ISBN 13 9780864735393)Paperback includes DVD600pp, 210mm x 148mm $49.95

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