Thursday, 24 September 2015

Moments of Truth Launched


Moments of Truth: The New Zealand General Election of 2014, edited by Jon Johansson and Stephen Levine, was launched in a packed upstairs bar at the Backbencher on Tuesday 22 September 2015. Victoria University’s Deputy Vice-chancellor Engagement, Professor Frazer Allan, opened proceedings; Kim Hill gave a witty launch speech that included some apt editorial advice; and Jon had the right of reply on behalf of the editors:

Ladies and gentlemen –
On behalf of Stephen and myself, I would like to welcome you all here tonight, and thanks to Victoria University Press and The School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations for hosting tonight’s launch.
 We would like to express our gratitude to Fergus and his team at Victoria University Press for their continuing support of the election series, a collaboration that we enjoy and one that has now produced five election books, beginning with the publication of Left Turn in 1999. You make it easy Fergus, so thank you.  
A special thanks to Kyleigh Hodgson, our copy editor. She makes us want to be better men … at least with our grammar. Thanks, also, to Chris Slane, who has produced another brilliant cover, and a special mention to Timothy Vaughan-Sanders, who compiled the index. Anyone who has done one knows what a unique task it is – so, salute Tim.   
Accompanying the book once more is a comprehensive DVD, complied by Corin Higgs. It offers a permanent visual record of our last election: leaders’ debates, party addresses, campaign adverts, the ‘Moment of Madness’ and so on. We are very fortunate to have Corin compile the material for us, not least because his heart, if not always his mind, is in Chicago, with his beloved Cubs.  
Also included on the disc are the fruits of our esteemed colleague Emeritus Professor Nigel Roberts’s lifelong fetish for billboards: upright ones, struck down ones, wretched ones or wrecked ones. They’re all part of Nigel’s family and we thank him for sharing his album with us.
When Stephen and I sat down to plan the post-election conference, and the book that would flow from it, we were most conscious of our responsibility, as first explainers, to compile for future researchers a comprehensive ‘book of record’ of the 2014 election.   
Prime Minister John Key reinforces our view in his chapter when he says that ‘it is important to reflect in a more considered way on important events like elections’ and that ‘academic scrutiny’ is an ‘important function’ of our democracy as well as something that ‘strengthens it’.
To this end we believed it essential to offer the major participants – our party leaders – the opportunity to talk, reflect and write about their election triumphs and their frustrations. You’ll see in chapters 5 through 13 how well they took it. Stephen and I think it doubtful that campaign books elsewhere could boast such open, forthright opinions from party leaders as Moments of Truth offers its readers.
We also believe that the perspectives of the media – heavily involved in the election event as observers – as well as the analyses of political practitioners, and we students of politics, have their place in scrutinising our democracy, and in explaining our present condition. In this essential sense, Stephen and I see Moments of Truth as our contributors’ book and we are content to have played a small role in facilitating their wonderful collection of insights about where our country’s politics is at.  
We thank you all. And we will come calling again …
Lastly, when commemorating our politics department’s jubilee in 1989, Dame Margaret Clark – to whom we have dedicated this book – discussed the role of political scientists: first and foremost as educators, but also as engaged citizens, participating actively in the society in which they live and work and breathe. Margaret concluded: ‘In short, political scientists have endlessly scrutinised and commented on what government is doing. It does not make for popularity. On one thing at least our politicians are bipartisanly united: they deride and scorn political scientists. Perhaps we have done something right. Perhaps we have tried to guard the guardians.’     
MMP has extended Margaret’s thought; it still rings true, and Moments of Truth, which analyses so well a maladaptive and bizarre moment in political time, represents a lasting testament to not just the 2014 election but also to the simple idea that in politics, as in life, every single one of us can do better.
Dr Jon Johansson (on behalf of Professor Stephen Levine)

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