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

Claire Trevett: Odd outbursts all round in huge week of change

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The departure of John Key and rise of Bill English as Prime Minister prompted some unexpected reactions. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The departure of John Key and rise of Bill English as Prime Minister prompted some unexpected reactions. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The departure of John Key and rise of Bill English as Prime Minister prompted some unexpected reactions. NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to skip down a mine shaft - a promise English must surely be tempted to accept.

Labour leader Andrew Little ventured into an area which was hitherto the preserve of Key - discussion of his private parts. Back in 2008, Key kicked off his reign by revealing he had a vasectomy.

In an apparent attempt to emulate success, Little announced on Tuesday he had a "well-padded behind". The confession was prompted by questions about how he would handle the Otago Rail Trail cycleway he intended to do over summer. Little answered with some detail - a bit too much detail.

English was so shocked at his resurrection that he found himself quoting poetry - although he was quick to say "no" when asked if a poetry reading would feature at every press conference.

National MPs began by wandering the hallways ululating and rending their sackcloth over the departure of the dear Leader.

After a mourning period of one day, they moved on to sharpening their elbows in preparation for the upcoming jostling for position.

It was the year in which leaders toppled like skittles in New Zealand.

Key followed a succession of former Labour leaders heading for Parliament's exit signs - Phil Goff fled to Auckland, David Cunliffe on his way to a consultancy, and now David Shearer heading off to South Sudan.

Of them all, Key was the only one who could leave without some resentment at the treatment meted out by his party, caucus and the voters.

There was little fanfare around Shearer's departure, partly because it happened very quickly but also because Labour has long feigned amnesia over Shearer's time as leader - a time when it did him down only to lose 10 points in the polls, from which it has never quite recovered.

Shearer is off to do work more dangerous, more difficult and more worthy than being a politician in New Zealand. His job comes with a squad of 30 bodyguards and armoured vehicles.

He surely deserved a bit more than cheap wine at the press gallery party as a farewell. Labour didn't even give him the dignity of waiting until he had left before they started picking over the bones in his Mt Albert seat.

But Shearer moved on without even a public sniff of bitterness and with words of support for both Labour and leader Andrew Little.

By way of marking the occasion, MP David Clark did tweet a picture from inside caucus of Shearer talking about his new job.

At the edge of the picture was a screen with a tantalising glimpse of the caucus agenda - usually a tightly held secret.

Item One was "apologies". Those have got Labour into trouble in the past. David Cunliffe was too fond of them while Andrew Little was not fond enough and so will end up in the courts for defamation next year.

Item Nine was more intriguing: "Good Ide" was visible. What might Ide be?

Was it "Ides of March," signifying another coup?

Was it "Good Ideologues", a way of rewarding those who exhibited true allegiance to the Labour faith?

Was it a rendition of The Darkness' Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time by Shearer at his last caucus meeting?

Or was it "Good Ideas", the slot in which caucus members played show and tell with their Eureka moments?

High-level sources have since revealed it was the Good Idea Award - a longstanding item on Labour's agenda which must surely have undergone significant stress-testing over the past eight years.

Back in National, the culling was under way. On Sunday, English will set out his new Cabinet. He has begun with a bit of a honeymoon period courtesy of a strong performance at his initial public events. That will make his job easier.

For some there will be a return to ululating and rending of sackcloth, albeit at their own fates rather than Key's this time. They are already falling on their swords in anticipation.

But perhaps the most sorrowful bunch after the events at Parliament this week were the PM's protection squad. In the space of a fortnight they have gone from holidays in Maui to holidays in Dipton.

- 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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