For a brief moment, the nations of the world seemed united in a peaceful pursuit. The World Cup finale in Brazil captured the imagination of a global TV audience. Within days, catastrophe exploded into the headlines, sending shards of outrage, shock and grief across the planet as, by bizarre and gruesome coincidence, two storylines of recent world history, civil unrest on Russia’s western border and a Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner collided over the skies of Ukraine.
The wreckage lies in a war zone, as yet unsecured, with most bodies yet to be retrieved. Journalists and camera crews have freely roamed the carnage. With such unprecedented access to a disaster scene, their words and pictures are extraordinary, harrowing to view and horrific to read.
In the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise’s account, ‘Fallen Bodies, Jet Parts and a Child’s Pink Book’ , is stark and sombre: “Incongruously, given that the plane fell from more than 30,000 feet, many of the bodies strewn about in the smoldering wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were largely intact. A woman in a black sweater lay on her back, blood streaming from her face, her left arm raised as if signaling someone. Another victim, naked except for a black bra, lay on the field, her gray hair mixing with the green grass, one leg broken and her body torn. Many of the victims were still wearing their seatbelts, attached to pieces of the plane. One man, still in his socks but without pants, lay in the field, his right arm placed on his stomach as if in repose. Others had personal belongings nearby. A young man in blue shorts, wearing red Nike sneakers but no pants, lay with his arms and legs splayed outward, an iPhone by his side.”
Brutal. Shocking. Tragic. Historic. But not in a good way.
The extensive and graphic coverage of the disaster pushed all other stories, including Israel’s invasion of Gaza, off the front pages of the world. Same locally with political news. Which might be good thing. For Labour, the latest political poll is historic. But not in a good way.
In the NZ Herald, Audrey Young reports that ‘Labour slumps to 15-year low’. ‘National and John Key more favoured than ever for next government’ read the sub-headline. “Its 26.5 per cent support is a slide of four points since June. With just two months to the election, Labour could slip into the disastrous territory held by National in 2002, when it polled 20.93 per cent in the face of the highly popular Labour Government.”
So how is Labour taking the bad news? In the Sunday Star-Times, Steve Killigan claimed to have the inside story: ‘Skiing Holiday puts Cunliffe on slippery slope.’ The piece reads like a gossip column: “Labour MPS are disgusted by leader David Cunliffe’s skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider has told the Sunday Star-Times. As Labour hit a new polling low of just 23.5 per cent in the latest Stuff/Ipsos poll and data suggested those numbers would climb quickly if its leader quit, Cunliffe took a week’s leave to go skiing in Queenstown. That decision has infuriated a significant number of Labour MPs, the insider claimed. “A lot of MPs are really f….. off about it,” he said. “They are all working hard up and down the country, and f…… Cunliffe is on holiday. Guys like [Phil] Goff and [Annette] King and [David] Shearer, these guys really want it badly and they are working like their lives depend on it. And I think they are a little incredulous about what the guy is doing.” The insider said while Prime Minister John Key was also holidaying – in Hawaii – there was a “world of difference” between an incumbent prime minister enjoying 52 per cent support in the polls and an opposition leader trailing nearly 30 points behind. “It sounds a little treasonous, but the guy doesn’t want it badly enough. If he did, he would be working. I think it is disgraceful behaviour, and not the sort of behaviour becoming of a guy who wants to be prime minister.”
As I write, Labour is about to hold an emergency caucus meeting, so who knows? Is this election about to take another unforeseen twist? Stranger things have happened.
Doing his best to keep it a cliff -hanger, Kim Dotcom announced he would reveal all about the Prime Minister at a public meeting five days before the election. Some don’t appreciate his theatrical timing. In the NZ Herald, John Armstrong opined : “Memo Dotcom – Put up or shut up: The time has come for Kim Dotcom to put up or shut up, for this intelligent, canny but highly manipulative individual to front with his yet-to-be-made public disclosures which he boasts will blow John Key out of the water – and though Dotcom does not say it directly, presumably bring a rapid end to Key’s days as Prime Minister. Dotcom must now prove far beyond any reasonable doubt that Key has lied repeatedly when challenged as to when exactly he became aware or was made aware of the former Megaupload mogul’s existence. If Dotcom cannot or will not do that, he should zip it.”
In the same paper, Toby Manhire expressed a similar sentiment in “Dotcom’s delayed bombshell looks like a fizzer’ . “Five days before the election, we are to expect a bombshell. The brilliant, diabolical Mr Dotcom will stage an event at the Auckland Town Hall, at which he will produce evidence that his arch-nemesis, Mr John Key, did, after all, know about him before the eve of the famous testosterone-fuelled raid on chez Dotcom in January 2012. Dotcom will rise slowly to the stage through a smoke-filled trapdoor, wearing a purple velvet gown over a black zip-up top, gently stroking a Maui dolphin. The crowd will rise to its feet, gasping, as the Prime Minister is dragged into the spotlight by a bevy of burlesque dancers over a looped soundtrack of “why are you turning red, Prime Minister?”.
In Manhire’s view, “for all the theatrical appeal, it is unreasonable and wrong for Dotcom to withhold this supposed evidence for a climactic campaign spectacular. A big reveal in the final week of the campaign doesn’t only lend weight to perceptions the internet-Mana hydra is a Dotcom plaything, that the political party and the Dotcom defence are two sides of the same bitcoin. It also denies New Zealanders information they deserve to know. If Dotcom can prove that the Prime Minister has bare-faced lied, over and over, the democratic imperative is that he do so now. If Key is not fit for office on September 15, then he is not fit for office today. Dotcom should cut to the chase. Otherwise, the assumption has to be that the great Dotcom bombshell is an enormous political bluff.”
“If Key is not fit for office on September 15, then he is not fit for office today.” Few could argue with that.