BOOKCASE: The baubles of office: the NZ general election of 2005

• Edited by Stephen Levine and Nigel S Roberts
• $49.95

This 600 page book contains everything about the 2005 election you could possibly want to know, and possibly great deal more. An exhaustive study, it is tribute to two indefatigable Victoria University political scientists, Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts.
They are continuing tradition of post-election conference and book started by the VUW political science department following the 1987 election, and have already edited similar volumes after the three earlier elections during the MMP era.
The book takes its title from Winston Peters’ election campaign comment. As Levine and Roberts write: “A populist disdain for the ‘baubles of office’ – professed lack of interest in whatever comforts may come from high position – was convenient way for Peters to attempt to quell speculation about which party, National or Labour, might be likely to gain his support after the election, but it was quotable remark that he was in due course going to come to regret.”
The Baubles of Office is impressive for its comprehensiveness right down to the DVD tucked into its front cover containing extracts from the televised leaders’ debates and political party advertisements, number of the billboards that played surprisingly influential part in the campaign, and the parties’ opening night election campaign broadcasts.
The book contains overviews of the election by the editors and that doyen of political commentators, Colin James; party functionaries provide partisan perspectives; the media coverage is analysed; major Mori, environmental and security issues are probed; and the election results put under high-powered microscope.
Among battery of academics, gallery journalist Jane Clifton provides lighter touch:
“Every election since MMP, the press gallery has looked forward to each new Parliament much as child anticipates new bits for Lego set. Not only do we get new individual toys which are fun in themselves, but each new addition to the set can utterly change the way the rest of the toys work – in ways we cannot predict, but have an awful lot of fun trying.”
For those who still hanker after the old FPP way of doing things, altruistically or in self-interest, the editors’ concluding remarks will not bring cheer when they write: “… the evidence about MMP’s impact on many different aspects of politics in New Zealand… suggest that MMP politics in reality is closer to the vision of its supporters than to the fears of its opponents, and that politicians and voters alike are making MMP more effective instrument of democratic politics with each election, and with every passing year.”
Not bedside read, but definitely valuable reference book for anyone involved in or concerned about politics and the political process in New Zealand.

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