An outsider wanting to learn about political parties could do worse than check out the star power at their election launches.
The Maori Party, New Zealand First and the Green Party all launched their campaigns this weekend, each producing their own entertainment packages to warm up crowds amid the focus on policies.
New Zealand First’s largely elderly crowd in Auckland got one of their own generation to warm them up — crooner John Rowles — while the educated and sustainability-focused Greens provided actress Robyn Malcolm of Outrageous Fortune fame.
The Maori Party, keen on getting young voters to the polls, went for a younger feel at their Hamilton launch with respected Raglan reggae band Cornerstone Roots and colourful young adult dance group the Funky Monkeys.
For extra entertainment they added four unheralded rappers who just happen to be standing for Parliament, among them the party’s co-leader Pita Sharples.
Sharples’ words stressing the importance of keeping the Maori Party in the House went down well, though it was his ex-breakdancing parliamentary colleague Te Ururoa Flavell who showed the greatest skills.
The largely superannuitant crowd at NZ First’s campaign launch have probably never heard of Cornerstone Roots. Some may not have heard of reggae or hip hop either.
But they all knew the words when Rowles asked them to sing along to his 1960s hits. He even pulled out a new rhyme for his signature tune Cheryl Moana Marie — “vote for Peters, not Key”.
He ended with the Frank Sinatra standard (I Did It) My Way, and dedicated it to Peters — though given his poll position and the short five-week period until election day, Peters may instead join Rowles in singing If I Only Had Time.
Malcolm, who is the voice of the Green ad campaign, told reporters she was disillusioned with Labour and wanted to use her star power for good but “I would really rather you didn’t put me in the same subset as John Rowles if at all possible”.
The room was packed with more than 200 Green supporters, including families, and squeaking toys and babies’ cries punctuated co-leaders Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons speeches about how their party would give a better future to children.
The Greens’ music was also future-focused compared with NZ First’s blast from the past.
Singing at the launch was Jess Chambers accompanied by Age Pryor and Justin Firefly — performers whose biggest public platform in 2008 was the world music festival Womad in Taranaki, which this year promoted the very green concept of zero waste. Their song Island features on the party’s campaign ads.
More song, dance and celebrities can be expected when Labour and National open their campaigns next weekend.