My first political memory would be from when I was 6 or 7, somewhere in the second term of the 4th Labour government. Things always seemed pretty bleak when I was little, we were always just scraping by. There must of been a story on the tele about job cuts or something. I turned to my parents and said “bring back Muldoon!” My folks – a teacher and social worker – took the time to explain that no matter how bad the current government was, we didn’t want to go back to the Muldoon years.

I don’t usually read the Press editorial, cos y’know, blood pressure etc. I gave it especially wide-berth when I saw they were writing about Russel Norman’s speech in which he compared Key to Muldoon. Other people have covered this already, such as Andrew Geddis who did a great job. However, I did feel the curious urge to read the Press’s take, and wasn’t disappointed by how disappointed I was. 

I have to question the main sentiment that runs through the editorial, i.e. Muldoon was so bad, and nothing compares:

But the memory of the toxic nature of much of what happened under Muldoon is still strong to those who lived through it, and to many who heard of it later. And they know perfectly well that nothing done by the present Government can remotely be compared.

I’d be interested to read back through some of the Press editorials* from the Muldoon period to see whether they look back so scathingly on the era. I can’t imagine that a masthead which is as conservative as this one would have been championing the Springbok protestors. 

While the paper generally maintains a very conservative editorial line, it sometimes manages to let a principled editorial slip through the cracks. This one was titled “Black day for democracy in Canterbury“, and slammed the extension of the ECan dictatorship. These are their words, not mine:

“That the Government has prolonged this system – it is called dictatorship – is deplorable and foolish.”

“But tolerance of Czar Brownlee is now less, as the problems of the rebuild grow and greater input is desired by citizens.”

“Those are the justifications of every tin-pot dictator, echoing the sentiments of Suva.”

Key’s legacy in the city that had the misfortune to birth him doesn’t compare to that of the politician he is on the record as admiring. His government’s simultaneously iron-and-ham fisted rule will leave a wave of mutilation that even Piggy Muldoon would shudder at. With 30 years distance, the editorial team of the Press can see fit to condemn the legacy of Muldoon. I hope it doesn’t take them another 30 years to realise that Key and Brownlee’s dictatorship in Canterbury should have it’s own circle of political hell.

* my grandfather, Norman Macbeth, was editor of the Press in the mid to late 1970’s, so through some of Muldoon’s government. I would have love to have talked to him about what he thought, but he died when I was 10

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