Recently I wrote a blog post that sought to analyse the now-defunct electoral finance review process that was launched in 2008 after having been initiated by the Labour and Green parties. As well as causing a very healthy and robust discussion throughout the last week while I was on holiday, my analysis was also taken to task by Associate Professor Andrew Geddis of the Law faculty of the University of Otago, primarily because I failed to extend to him the courtesy of discussing my analysis with him before putting in on my blog. In the following blog post I therefore offer a total apology to Andrew and attempt to clear up some of the issues from the original blog post. [Read more below]
I arrived back in Dunedin today from my week on holiday and I’m emailing you (and posting this comment to my blog) to give you a definitive apology for the offence I’ve caused you with my blog post about the Labour-Green electoral finance review.
I was wrong to mention you in my blog without first checking with you. I have now deleted the three sentences in the blog that refer to you as the chair of the Expert Panel, as well as the photo of you. I hope you will accept my assurances that I never meant to cause you any offence or hurt with my analysis.
My mention of you in the blog post was not meant to suggest that I regard you as having been in any way a ‘patsy’ of the Labour Government’s political finance reform agenda. I should have been clearer about this.
In fact I regard you as an academic of extreme integrity, and I have absolutely no doubt that you (and your fellow panel members, whom I also have an extremely high regard for) would have worked incredibly hard on the panel to make the process as truly useful, democratic, and participatory as you could.
My whole post was meant to constitute an analyse of what the Government had done in setting up the review process – it was not about what the members of the Expert Panel then actually did. So to be clear, although my analysis of the democratic deficit involved in setting up the electoral finance review process pointed the finger at the Labour and Green parties, I did not mean to imply anything negative about the very capable and honourable experts selected for the panel. As I originally said in my post, you were definitely the best person for the job, as you are the country’s leading expert on electoral law.
I also regret mentioning anything about your prior views on the state funding of political parties, as you are quite correct that this is irrelevant, especially because I agree that you are obviously extremely capable of putting aside your own opinions as a scholar and educator.
If in the future I mention anything about you in a blog post, as a courtesy to you I will seek out your comments on it before posting it. I will, of course, post a blog response to your substantive points about the mistakes you say I’ve made in my original post (when I get time to consider them and match them against my notes on the electoral finance review process), but will get you to check my post before putting it online.
Hopefully I can attempt to convince you that I had no intention to impugn your reputation – but instead only to critique the disingenuous and democratically deficient part played by Labour and Greens in setting up the process.
I apologise if in my earlier apology in the comments section of the original blog post I might not have been clear enough. I certainly do accept your word on what happened while you were chairing the Expert Panel. If this wasn’t clear, it was probably due to my clumsy wording. I hope that you will re-read my blog post and realise that my critique was not directed at the members of the Expert Panel, but entirely directed at the politicians and their actions prior to you starting your work on the review.
I’m pleased to read your ongoing discussion with Chris Diack in the comments section of this blog post. Again, this reflects to me that you are a person that appreciates political differences and is always up for a debate. So I strongly hope that we can continue our discussions on issues of political finance. I also hope that you might continue to add your considered insights and opinions to the comments section of future blog posts that I write about issues of political finance.
Thanks also for raising some interesting questions about my role as both a blogger and an academic. To be honest, I’ve only ever received positive feedback about the symbiotic interface between my professional work and my involvement in the blogosphere. Everyone else who has ever emailed or spoken to me has been complementary about my use of the internet to throw ideas and research out there. So your objections are usefully refreshing, and I’ll properly consider them.
I’ve actually already been planning on writing two blog posts on these issues:  ‘New Zealand academics who blog’ – giving details and an internationally-comparative evaluation of local academic input into the blogosphere, and  ‘Why I blog’ – explaining my motivations for running liberation, what I’m trying to achieve, along with some of my lessons thus far. This post won’t quite be up there with George Orwell’s great ‘Why I write’ essay (!) but hopefully it will deal with some of the issues that you’ve helpfully raised. And perhaps one day I’ll be able to convince you of the merits of academic involvement in the political blogosphere.
But I’d also point out in response to your questioning of the concept of academic blogging that I actually make an effort not to make reference in my blog posts to my academic position – I think you’d struggle to find references to my job amongst my hundreds of blog posts. I don’t even use my university contact details on my blog – especially my university email address; instead I use my private email address in all blog-related matters. While I do provide a one-sentence reference to my job on the “about me” bio section of my blog, I consider this to be a matter of basic transparency etc.
Anyhow, now that I’m back in Dunedin, I hope we can meet up so that I can buy you a beer to help apologise for the offence caused.