Is politics a game?

Parliament is not like NZ’s X-Factor; the marketing and bitchiness do not make up for an absence of talent.

Politics can seem like a light entertainment to insiders. Apart from the incredible expense, in these benign times, its a show that is relatively harmless.

Despite their skepticism, voters like the idea that politics is a serious field conducted for their benefit, and at their discretion.That’s why they get uppity when politicians are found rorting or cavorting.

So it’s a serious mistake for politicians to outwardly express their sense of the business being akin to a game.

Labour Leader David Shearer has made two such misjudgements recently.

Yesterday he said about an up coming by-election:

“Labour will campaign relentlessly to once again earn the trust of the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti. We will organise, mobilise and terrorise our political opponents. …

“Let the games begin,” says David Shearer.

I forgive the first paragraph, although it makes the cardinal sin of seeing politicians as the instigators, rather than the listeners. I believe the sentiment is aimed at what will motivate its grass-roots support. 

But the notion that campaigning is “games” treats the voters, and the role of politics in our cultural life, with disdain.

Shearer did it again in the middle of the ridiculous furor over Aaron Gilmore.

He said Labour would bring “popcorn and coke” to Gilmore’s valedictory speech in Parliament.

The idea that the leaving speech of a harassed and bullied MP was light entertainment, is abhorrent.

There’s no doubt that politics has a great amount of theatre within it. But it’s theatre with a dramatic purpose; establishing society’s values, and its willingness to share and help.

Seeing just the stage lights and make-up seriously underestimates why the political script is written in the first place, and why people watch the drama.

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