Way back in the ’60s, television reinvented the way election campaigns were waged. Today, one poor performance on “the box” can become political straw with which to break campaigner’s back.
The web is hardly replacement for telly’s reach, impact or entertainment at election time, but it can help the pre-election fact-gathering process and provide some useful or otherwise insights in party philosophies, agendas and personalities. As most of us these days seldom sight politician in the neighbourhood, it makes basic fact gathering little easier.
If you are one who worries about the authenticity, honesty or integrity of web-based information then caveat emptor rules apply when viewing political party websites, particularly in election year.
www.beehive.govt.nz This is the official website of the New Zealand Government. The site provides access to the Government’s press releases, information about all cabinet ministers and details about who is responsible for what. And, if for some reason you need photo of your current political idol, you can download it from here. There’s information about government initiatives, newsletters you can subscribe to online, like the one from Steve Maharey’s office, and there are ministerial contact details. useful resource for identifying who to lobby in the current Government.
www.national.org.nz The official website of the largest opposition party, the site appears to represent the rebranding exercise National is currently undertaking. It comes across as little tentative and unsure of exactly what it should promote. It lavishes attention on party leader Bill English, but there is mine of information on this site. That’s what I mean about not being too sure about its priorities. The question in my mind is: will visitors have enough patience? I always feel bit intimidated by websites with so many pages. Nevertheless, whatever you want to know about the party is probably there, including comprehensive history, which I personally found quite interesting.
www.alliance.org.nz The home page for the current Government’s principal coalition partner without any photos of theoretical Parliamentary Party leader and founder Jim Anderton. According to this website, he’s “non person” and has been written out of the script. Laile Harre is party leader, but all that aside, this is tidy enough website, less daunting than National’s site with lot more functionality. To find out where the “new” Alliance is coming from, then check it out. Bit short on listed members of Parliament though. Most of them are missing – guess that’s because they will soon be claimed by the Progressive Coalition Party.
www.greens.org.nz The Greens’ new website picked up number-two ranking in the Top 10 Hitwise January-March 2002 lifestyle-politics web category – and you can see why. It’s good looking site and, apart from Labour, the Greens are the only other party using audio and video footage to sell their message. The approach makes for greater interactivity and interest. Otherwise the offering is much of the same, policies, merchandise. Good to see little more creative use of the net’s potential.
www.labour.org.nz This is the website of the party in power, though Clark’s image doesn’t entirely dominate it. Labour, like the Greens, has tried to create an interesting party site. It has done good job and has certainly made better fist of providing information in more user friendly way than some other parties. Without wishing to sound repetitive, the site doesn’t really offer anything that distinguishes it greatly from the others, but information comes in bite size chunks. I found it more manageable and the design is smart. Pardon the cliche but this is an example of “sometimes less is more”.
www.nzfirst.org.nz The website for Winston Peters’ Party, NZ First. This could be called winston.com. Anyhow, while it’s fairly brusque sort of affair the NZ First site had some highlights. For one thing, it was the only party site that offered any sort of critique of itself. Oddly enough it came via the online version of left-wing commentator Chris Trotter’s NZ First conference speech. I have to take my hat off to NZ First for attempting to provide measure of believability by featuring morsel of self-criticism on its site. Peters’ own speeches and opinions are always entertaining and in their own very special way provide an insight into this unique political party. It’s no-frills site to be certain, testament to political survivor, though not necessarily his recipe for longevity.
www.act.org.nz The website for New Zealand’s radical right party, this is pretty thorough offering that is not too dissimilar from National’s. Anything you might want or need to know about the Act mandate is here, visually nothing groundbreaking but if you’re prepared to hunt around, you’ll probably find it.
Damon Birchfield is an Auckland-based freelance writer.
Email: [email protected]