Stuff political columnist Andrea Vance maintains the pretence of objectivity until about halfway through her latest column, in which she analyses Christopher Luxon’s performance in his first couple of weeks as National leader.
Then she loses it, totally.
Turning to Luxon’s views on abortion, she remarks: “He claims to be pro-life, a phrase American conservatives use to cloak the underlying misogyny of anti-abortion legislation.”
Ergo, anyone who opposes abortion must be misogynistic. But hang on a minute. My wife opposes abortion. My sister opposes abortion. The head of Voice for Life, New Zealand’s main anti-abortion organisation, is a woman, as are many - perhaps most - of its members. Ten of the 35 MPs who voted against last year's liberalisation of the abortion laws were women. (My mother also opposed abortion and once exposed herself to howls of denunciation at a so-called United Women’s Convention for insisting on her right to say so.)
Does that make them all women-haters? Really?? How does that work? This is a case of simplistic sloganeering in place of rational argument. Either it’s dishonest or it exposes a limited intellect.
Now let’s go back to Vance’s statement and try reconstructing it. We could just as accurately say of someone who’s pro-abortion: “He claims to be pro-choice, a phrase women’s rights activists use to cloak the fact that abortion involves the extinguishing of a human life”. These arguments can cut both ways.
Vance goes on to say: “… where National has previously dabbled with fundamentalists it has not worked out for the best … just ask Don Brash”.
At first glance she appears to be implying that Brash is a fundamentalist. I’m sure that’s how most readers would interpret it. But although Brash was the son of a high-profile (and liberal, in the classic sense) Presbyterian minister, religion has never been part of his political pitch.
What’s more, Vance perpetuates the canard, popular among left-wing journalists whose memories don’t go back very far, that National crashed and burned under Brash’s leadership. In fact the exact reverse happened: in the 2005 election, he lifted the party’s vote by nearly 20 percent and came within two seats of dislodging Helen Clark.
I’m going to be charitable here and give Vance the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she was referring to Brash’s flirtation with the Exclusive Brethren prior to that election. But the public knew about that and delivered National a 21-seat gain anyway.
If that’s what Vance was talking about, she should have made it clear. If not, then the reference is misleading. Either way, it’s not a good look from a senior political journalist – but who’s surprised?