National media muzzle frustrates local candidate

NATIONAL Party candidates are prohibited from talking to national media, Rimutaka candidate Richard Whiteside let slip today.

And for him, “It’s bloody frustrating”.

He has not been allowed to talk to national media about his local polls, which he says have him in the lead in a previously safe Labour seat, also contested by high-profile New Zealand First candidate Ron Mark.

Mr Whiteside (top, right) says the national picture of his seat has been distorted, because Mr Mark has been able – and willing – to talk to national media.

He has to wait for John Key to visit before the national media get a National view on the Rimutaka electorate – that it is winnable for National.

Jason Ede, the head of National leader John Key’s media team, initially said it was not true that candidates were restricted from talking to national media. 

When told our information came from a National candidate, he asked for a list of questions about the issue, before calling the reporter back to say: “Clearly you haven’t followed politics very much, have you, Sandra?”

He passed the query on to the National Party campaign manager, Jo de Joux.  Ms de Joux did not respond to email or telephone messages asking the National Party to clarify its policy on letting candidates talk to the media.

Wellington Central candidate Stephen Franks says if he is contacted by national media, he checks with party leadership before calling back.

“It’s frustrating for candidates, but I think it’s forced on us by the way modern elections are reported by the media.”

Mr Franks says if candidates’ views diverge from John Key in the slightest, or even talk about something he has not yet talked about, the media turn it into a story.

“The media don’t report issues any longer in a modern election, they report it like a sports match, who’s made a muck-up, who’s winning, who’s losing.”

Hutt South candidate Paul Quinn (right) did not believe there was a problem with restrictions on contact with national media.

“I’m pretty relaxed about it,” he says.  “We work through head office, no problems for me.”

Rongotai candidate Chris Finlayson (left) was on TV3 last week, and says he is not aware of  any restrictions in being able to contact national media.

“No one’s instructed me on anything,” he says, before referring the query back to National Party headquarters: “I’m just a humble soldier in the vineyard.”


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