Garth George: Horan row is a storm in a thimble

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Policitcs is a grubby business. Because, at bottom, it is all about the pursuit and practise of power, it is laden with self-aggrandisement, mud-slinging, point-scoring, one-upmanship and, unfortunately, riddled with hypocrisy, dissembling and circumlocution.

While we would like to believe that our elected politicians are men and women who have the welfare of the nation at heart, it is plain to anyone who has spent most of a lifetime studying politicians that this is rarely so.

To be fair, some certainly start out that way.

They enter Parliament starry-eyed and full of enthusiasm. But not for long. In no time, they are devoured by political party machinery and find themselves simply cogs in the wheel of power-grabbing and power-keeping.

And these days we have a host of unelected politicians who are in Parliament solely because they were appointed by a political party.

Even worse, we have whole parties in Parliament - the Greens and New Zealand First - which contain not one single democratically elected member.

It has always been my view that the MMP system inflicted on us since 1996 makes a laughing-stock of democracy and has had a deleterious effect on the governance of our nation ever since.

It is into this murky and labyrinthine atmosphere that NZ First list member Brendan Horan, of Tauranga, entered after the last general election.

Mr Horan, whose main qualification to become an MP seems to be that he was a TV weatherman, a surf lifesaver and a male model for swimsuits, has lasted just two years before the axe fell on him out of the blue.

We all know the allegations surrounding Mr Horan's decline and fall. His brother has publicly accused him of withdrawing money from his late mother's bank account, from TABs and from ATM machines near his office in Mount Maunganui, Auckland and Hamilton. Records also, it is claimed, showed numerous payments at takeaways and at video shops.

His brother alleges that some $85,000 is missing from his mother's bank accounts.

Mr Horan's response was that the allegations were "heartbreaking", that they were a family matter and that his mother would be ashamed of what had transpired. (That last bit, at least, just has to be true.)

"I've done nothing wrong and I'd rather just keep it within the family, and people will see in the fullness of time that this is just a fantasy and the allegations are demonstrably false."

But that wasn't enough for NZ First leader Winston Peters, whose own probity, it must be said, has more than once been questioned in his long and controversial political career. First he sent Mr Horan home to Tauranga to sort things out, then - acting, he says, on new "evidence" - threw Mr Horan out of the party and suggested he resign from Parliament altogether.

But Mr Horan has decided to stay in the House as an independent, a denizen of the crossbenches, deprived of any ability to do anything much except pick up his parliamentary salary and whatever perks are left to him - a not inconsiderable sum in anyone's language.

You can see where Mr Peters is coming from.

Not only was this an opportunity to ensure many centimetres of newspaper space and plenty of TV coverage, it was a golden opportunity to look good to his elderly constituency by acting swiftly on a matter which painted a deceased 87-year-old as a victim.

This whole affair is, in political terms, utterly meaningless.

It doesn't matter one whit whether Mr Horan stays or goes from Parliament.

If he stays he is powerless, if he goes there will be many panting to take his place.

It will not affect the governance of our country by one iota. It is, as these things so often are, a storm in a political thimble.

 

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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