In many ways Alasdair Thompson reflects a leadership style that once existed but has had a resurgence under this National Government. The sort of arrogant, bullying behaviour that Thompson continually displayed when confronted with legitimate requests for evidence was embarrassing enough but it took some very old fashioned sexist comments to fully expose the man and provide some real media pressure. Thompson's inept handling of the whole situation meant that his attempts to explain himself and apologize dug an even deeper hole and only served to support Catherine Delahunty's bill even further.
The passion and media attention given to this whole incident is was fully justified given the position that Thompson holds but it concerns me that there is a lack of media consistency when we have been confronted with similar ineptitude by other figures of authority. The aspect that has been lost through the whole menstrual saga is that this is not just an example of one man's ignorance, but it represents a pervasive leadership style that is common throughout our government and not just amongst the men.
If we set aside the emotive nature of Thompson's statements and look at the bare sequence of events we will see something like:
- Something is suggested that challenges the position of government or business interests
- A dismissive and arrogant response
- A legitimate challenge to the response, often asking for evidence
- A bullying, evasive response that often includes the questioning of motives or the character of questioner and refusal to provide convincing evidence.
In the case of Thompson, the real indignation felt by the female interviewers meant greater tenacity in their interviewing style which ultimately revealed the true nature of the man. But sadly this passion and tenacity has been lacking from media when we have been confronted with similar ignorance and arrogance from our politicians and leaders regarding issues I regard just as important.
When Education Minister, Anne Tolley, has been challenged regarding the legitimacy or evidence behind her National Standards we see a repeat of the pattern above, yet no strong media response. Apparently the fate of all our children and the respect of our teachers doesn't deserve the same scrutiny.
When John Key was questioned in the BBC interview he made some outrageous statements regarding New Zealand's environmental situation and questioned the credibility of respected scientist (Mike Joy). Mainstream media again were notable by their absence, while blogs had a field day. The public remained largely ignorant of the truth behind the interview and Key continues to ride high in the polls.
Surely when any business or political leader expresses opinions that are obviously out of line or lacking in evidence, they deserve robust media attention. Key and Tolley's abuse of power and misrepresentation of facts, which directly relate to the state of our education system and our environment, deserves the same intense scrutiny that Thompson received. The issues may not have the same personal connections but the potential damage that will occur under such questionable leadership is surely more far reaching than than anything Thompson could achieve.