Monday, September 29, 2008

The Burns Unit stands for Parliament


He's number 49 on the Labour list and standing for Christchurch Central. He has a profile and a photo on the Labour website, and his own website too.

It's Brendon Burns.

Burns is well known in Parliament, as he created the infamous “Burns” unit, which is the Labour government PR function in the Beehive. He doesn’t mention this in his profile. Funny that, you’d think being Helen Clark’s spindoctor would be something he would be proud of. The "Burns unit" is responsible for ensuring Labour MPs deliver publicity "on message", consider it the Labour Central News Agency (Pyongyang has the Korean Central News Agency).

Being a master of spin there is not a sign of it on his profile or his website. No, his instrumental role in spinning the Labour Party's message while in government is curiously absent - he will know why, because it isn't good spin!

He’s firmly on the left, as his website proudly proclaims his banal fights against privatizing water and contracting out the provision of council services. He likes making people pay for what they don’t use, and council monopolies spending ratepayers’ money. He also says “Helping Christchurch achieve a fibre optic network that provides high speed connectivity is hugely important.” I guess Telstra-Clear’s HFC network passed him by, or is privately owned so “doesn’t count”. “we need to insulate every home, no matter what the income.” So subsidising the homes of the wealthy too Brendon? “I also wants to ensure more low-moderate cost housing is built in Christchurch Central”. What’s stopping you Brendon? Go build some? No - he wants to spend more of your money as well.

Unlike all those below him on the list, he has a very good chance of getting elected this time round. Not because of his list position, which is just a bit high for that, but because Christchurch Central is a solid Labour seat. Tim Barnett had 52.6% of the electorate vote in 2005 - another majority MP, against National's Nicky Wagner on 29.3%. (who was elected as a list MP anyway). Now Tim clearly had some personal appeal, as the Labour party vote was 48.3%, with National on 30.5%, but you can't disguise this is a safe seat being handed to Burns on a plate as Tim is retiring.

So ask yourself this, how many Christchurch Central voters know about Brendon Burns? Labour's greatest spindoctor looks likely to waltz safely into Parliament after the election, it being unlikely Nicky Wagner can bridge a 22% gap this time round.

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