John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: MPs bask in reflected glory of Olympians

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And the gold medal goes to ... Murray McCully.

It would be unfair to accuse the Sport and Recreation Minister of basking in the reflected glory of the country's Olympic heroes. But listening yesterday to him speaking to his parliamentary motion congratulating the New Zealand team, it was impossible to ignore the feeling that there is only one political winner from the consequent late winter boost in national confidence derived from the two-week sporting and patriotic binge - National.

And National can thank McCully for contributing to that. If he won the top award in yesterday's Parl-ympics, Winston Peters got the silver for his touching tribute to Valerie Adams. Her face, he said, spoke volumes after she came second in the shot-put, but she had taken defeat "like you would expect a New Zealander to take it".

Peters also mentioned the "years of gruelling physical training, mental determination and resilience and above all sacrifices by themselves and their families". But was he talking about the athletes or the years wasted by journalists in trying to get straightforward answers to questions posed to the New Zealand First leader?

The Greens' Kevin Hague might have taken the bronze for political correctness for being the first MP to mention the Paralympics.

But he was easily overhauled by Housing Minister Phil Heatley who got the bronze for the worst case of guffawing at something said by an opponent.

His setting of a New Zealand, if not world record began during ministers' question-time with Heatley noting Labour's housing spokeswoman Annette King had credited a visit by him to a block of Housing New Zealand's flats in Auckland's Symonds St as resulting in the tenants getting new lino in the entrance.

While Heatley was "delighted" at the thought of the residents enjoying their new flooring thanks to his efforts, a check of his diaries had revealed he had never visited the block.

King then got to her feet to ask whether the tenants had been confronted by a Heatley imposter. Or was it a "linocut' of him? This atrocious pun provoked an extraordinary response from Heatley with him emitting a gargling-like "ahhh ... ahhh ... ahhh ... ahhh". It sounded like a cacophonous mixture of a strangulated Father Christmas shouting "ho ... ho ... ho" and a braying donkey.

Heatley may now be dubbed the Minister of Silly Noises .There will not be a repeat, however. Agreeing with Labour that Heatley's unique contribution to democracy was "unusual", Speaker Lockwood Smith ruled it out of order.

It was not the only "unusual" performance of the day. Swooped upon by reporters outside Labour's morning caucus meeting, party leader David Shearer confirmed he was going to give his MPs a "rev-up" following last week's lapses in discipline.

When it came to rev-ups, however, Shearer was more than pumped. He was testosterone with legs. The judges would have demanded a drug test. It would have been positive. But it would have been legal. Shearer was merely exhibiting the side-effects of one of the strongest drugs of all - power, or, in his case, the preservation of it.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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