John Minto is possibly the most revolutionary, controversial, interesting, intelligent, and principled person standing for public office at the 2011 New Zealand general election. This doesn’t mean that Minto is right about anything, but it does mean that he’s incredibly interesting and worth paying attention to. Minto has an incredible history of political activism – from essentially leading the 1981 anti-Springbok tour movement, through to political commentary, and union organising. After years of rejecting parliamentary politics, he’s now thrown his lot in with Hone Harawira and looks to be ranked #3 on the Mana Party list. So there’s a very real chance that the protestor could become a professional politician. But how would that work out? Could he really work harmoniously with Hone Harawira? Isn’t the Mana Party too much of a coalition of convenience between lefties and Maori nationalists to actually last? In fact, what exactly is the political nature of this so-far relatively vague party? What could he seriously hope to achieve, especially given that Mana seems to be isolated from the mainstream and from the main ‘left’ party, Labour? I’m interviewing John Minto today at 2pm as part of University of Otago Vote Chat – which you can watch live-streamed at www.bit.ly/ruN37y So what would you like me to ask him? [Read more below]
Some people have a very stereotyped view of John Minto as someone who is always protesting, always moaning, always rallying against the status quo and the Establishment. As always the stereotype is obviously based on some truth. He certainly has been a very active protestor – not just in 1981, but in all types of leftwing and progressive causes.
But Minto is also quite a public intellectual. His political commentary is often incredibly astute. His various blog posts, speeches, media opinion pieces are always deeply thoughtful. Most people probably disagree with him on most things, but it would be silly for any of his opponents to assume he’s unthinking, uninformed, or ignorant. Quite the opposite.
Hopefully in today’s Vote Chat we can have an interesting conversation about his views on wider politics in New Zealand, and not just the election. For example, in the past he’s been incredibly critical about the state of the political left in New Zealand – especially the tendency towards ‘identity politics’ to characterise (and weaken) progressive politics. He’s had particularly critical views on the role of feminism and Maori nationalism on the left, and argued for the left to take a more class-oriented approach to changing society.
So now that Minto is in the Mana Party, does he still take that approach? Or has he became a Maori nationalist? And to what extent has he had to bend his principles to be part of a parliamentary party? And why didn't he just join the Labour or Green parties where he might have had a real chance of 'making a difference'?
I’ll be asking him all about those things above. As well as that, I’ll be asking some of the usual questions that I’ve been asking other MPs – about gay marriage, inequality, issues of ethnicity, drug reform, and alcohol use.
If anyone has additional topics and specific questions that they want put to John Minto, please let me know – or participate on the Twittersphere in realtime (see details below). Of course, I may not be able to use all the questions you suggest, but it’s helpful to get ideas from others and it’s useful to know what topics you find particularly interesting.
The University of Otago Vote Chat takes place every week until the general election. The interviews occur in front of a public audience at the University of Otago Media Production studios, where the conversation is filmed for livestreaming on the internet and as a podcast for iTunes.
The intention is to make these political meetings rather different from the usual stage-managed and bland affairs that can happen during election campaigns. So there’ll be lots of challenging and quirky questions, and the MP won’t be allowed to revert to simply giving the usual well-rehearsed campaigning speech. The audience can help by heckling, cheering, or merely tweeting their reaction and questions to the Twitter feed – using the hashtag #OUVoteChat2011 – which will be projected up on the lecture theatre screen.
If you’re in Dunedin there is still the ability to come along and participate and/or watch – but seating is limited to about 45 or so – so turn up early. The Media Production Studio is on the 2nd floor of the Owheo Building, 133 Union Street East (Cnr of Union Street East and Forth Streets). You can see a map here:
If you want to watch the live-stream of the interviews, go to:
Eventually all the interviews will be available as podcasts to download from iTunes, but in the meantime you can also watch them on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/OUVoteChat
To keep up with all the detail, there’s a Facebook “Vote Chat 2011” page here: