The Battle for Wellington Central, Back Benches

November 10, 2011

This was the one we’d been waiting for, and with the excellent (for Greens) polling figure that came out in Wednesday’s paper (Fairfax), the Wellington branch and campaign team were firing hot.

James is a happy chappy

James is a happy chappy

The line-up was Grant Robertson, sitting MP for Wellington Central (Labour), Paul Foster-Bell, (National), James Shaw (Green), Stephen Whittington (ACT). And so the fun began.

There was high excitement after the experience of the Auckland Central Candidates on last week’s episode, and a little crowd-calming instruction by producer Damian Christie went a long way. There was a lot less shoving, barging and/or disruptive heckling, which is not to say that is was a quiet night, just a slightly better controlled one than the Britomart Country Club threw up. I ended up in a crush of very keen Young Greens, having gone over to talk to someone then found I couldn’t get back through to where I’d been discretely out of the way. Oh, well, the show must go on … and usefully, our Japanese visitor Hiroshi had need of some explanations and translations, so I was glad to be standing beside him in the final count.

Despite a rainy night, the bar was full to standing-room-only levels, and there was a lot of coreflute signs in the hands of youth wings of every party – except for ACT, who had a very hastily handmade wooden number, stencilled with their logo, with an authorisation written on in Vivid marker. Interesting, I wonder whose trust fund ran out of publishing funds at the last minute?

The first round was “Why I should be the MP for Wellington Central”, with social housing, economic growth and child poverty coming up for Robertson & Shaw, with some blustering from Foster-Bell posturing John Key as the saviour of the nation while avoiding supporting any actual policy, and then Whittington gave a set-piece reminiscent of his spiel at the WYFC forum last night.
Best quote from this round goes to James Shaw, once again, “twelfth level elven war-mage” (view from 4.56 mins to get this in context…) which provoked cheering and chanting from YG supporters, and even a risqué quip from Damian (5.19..). James’ suggestion for an ACT party sign on the Wellywood site was a close second (5.45…).

So as you may have guessed from the timing marks I’ve quoted, there’s a lot of very good moments stacked up in this episode. See it here on TVNZ7 On-demand.

If you’ve been enjoying Back Benches this year, despite my erratic posts, do also go to the petition to save TV7, which is the subject of cuts at TVNZ due to ‘budget restraints’ imposed by the overseas owners.
Public service broadcasting in Aotearoa/New Zealand is under threat of cuts and privatisation, it’s time to stand up and say we want it, we need it, and we’re going to fight for it, including by voting out this National Government on November 26th.

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