Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Of musical chairs and other absurd carryings-on

Shane Jones was perhaps the champion with his "flat earth" diatribe against the Greens. Photo / APN
Shane Jones was perhaps the champion with his "flat earth" diatribe against the Greens. Photo / APN

The parliamentary year ended yesterday, and so it is time for the school prizegiving.

For the middle year of a second-term Government, it was a surprisingly busy year. One David was displaced by another David in the Labour Party's game of musical Davids. The Maori Party also changed skippers, from Pita Sharples to Te Ururoa Flavell. Two support ministers resigned.

The Prime Minister spent much of the year overseas, from weekending with the Queen at Balmoral to Nelson Mandela's funeral. In between, he bailed up any national leaders he could find to ask for a tick in the box for the Security Council bid. It was a year of snapper, elephants from Sri Lanka, trout, byelections and spying, of rainbows over Pakuranga and seemingly dull middle-aged men surprising the nation by inspiring.

There were asset sales and NZ First's 20th birthday. There was sadness: we lost Parekura Horomia. There was happiness: the Tuhoe settlement. For some there was shame, for some jubilation.

The only constant was absurdity.

Oscar Wilde award for best insult

When it comes to insults, there are blunt instruments, and scalpels. There was no shortage of blunt instruments this year: Shane Jones was perhaps the champion with his "flat earth" diatribe against the Greens, description of John Key as the $50 million gorilla, and the "geldings" created by the Labour Party's man ban. But he wasn't alone. The freedom of Twitter saw Judith Collins replace Paula Bennett as champion of the blunt insult, sledging her opponents with zeal, including a commentary on how Metiria Turei's social conscience fitted in with her affection for Adrienne Winkelmann jackets. In return, she copped a fair bit. Even David Cunliffe eschewed the poetical lyricism of his past to refer to Ms Collins as a "trout".

Then there were the scalpels - intelligent but cutting insults delivered with precision. Former Labour leader David Shearer had a bat, responding to National's teasing about Labour's polling, noting "at least the polling is not going down as fast as Mighty River Power shares". But the best single insult goes to Finance Minister Bill English, who, after revelations Cunliffe's CV was a tad glossier than reality, observed that it was "a living document" - "like the Treaty, but without the principles".

Team NZ Award for Sailing Away

Act leader John Banks, who began the year responding to questions about "anonymous" donations he received from SkyCity and Kim Dotcom by claiming he had not come down the river in a cabbage boat. Alas, poor John, the courts were so intrigued by this new legal defence they decided to test it more fully in the new year, effectively writing the end of his political career, and possibly Act's. Even his role as Parliament's greatest defender of beagles cannot save him now.

Best sequel

This story was released four years after Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee rejected an invite from Labour's David Parker to go skipping through the national parks on the grounds Mr Brownlee had just seen Brokeback Mountain. After a photo circulated last week showing exactly what Mr Brownlee wore under his kilt, he found himself in the awkward position of having to answer a question which involved frequent reference to Peka Peka. This apparently titillated Labour MP Annette King, prompting Mr Brownlee to observe she was clearly intrigued by his donning of customary dress. He got a bit more worried when Grant Robertson also chipped in, saying there had only been one peka involved. Mr Robertson was quick to reassure him, informing Parliament, "I have no interest in his Peka Peka." For those spared the sight, the answer to what Mr Brownlee wears under his kilt was tighty whities, although one person did uncharitably observe he was in need of Weta Digital's special effects team.

Lorde award

For making it big internationally through one epic performance: Maurice Williamson for his speech on gay marriage.

The Boy George Karma Chameleon Award

David Cunliffe, for singing the songs of solidarity to the unions, only to go outside and add the fine print for the benefit of a wider audience: "If economic conditions allow."

Frankenstein award for best mythical monster

The "dirty pipe" at Fonterra's Hautapu plant, which turned out to be a broken torch. And the botulism the mythical dirty pipe created - which turned out not to be botulism, but only after causing massive damage to Fonterra and New Zealand's international reputation.

Nurofen award for causing biggest headache

Joint winners: Novopay and Kim Dotcom. Why are you turning red, Prime Minister?

Don Brash walking the plank award for missed photo opportunities

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy for his attempt to get the Prime Minister to hold a live electric fence in Chile.

St Peter award for martyrdom

Peter Dunne. He refused to show-and-tell his emails to the Henry inquiry into the leak of a GCSB report on the grounds of principle. While denying he was the leak, he quit as minister, saying he had shown bad judgment for even contemplating it. "I have acted extraordinarily unwisely, even stupidly, and I am now resigned to paying the price for that." By December, after the release of the privileges committee report into the inquiry, resignation was "both unfortunate and a hurried over-reaction".

John Doe award

Former National MP Aaron Gilmore for his "do you know who I am?" soliloquy to a waiter at a Hanmer restaurant. We certainly do now.

Twelfth Man award

Prime Minister John Key's memory. There were the big brain fades such as forgetting his role in the recruitment of GCSB boss Ian Fletcher. And the small: muddling up the Maori Party Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection candidate's name and calling him Ha instead of Na. Long names can be tricky.

Award for extra upstaging the stars

Conservative leader Colin Craig, who has an admirable technique for getting publicity - the promiscuous women, the need for evidence before discounting chem trails. The most unbelievable is perhaps his claim of not needing a nod from John Key to make it into Parliament.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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