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John Gardner: Time to take a holiday from being treated like an idiot by politicians

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We are just about to leave the country for six weeks and it will be a blessed relief. We are tired of being insulted.

Being away will mean we will be spared the daily displays of contempt with which our politicians treat voters. The evidence is overwhelming that they regard us as childishly naive at best and incorrigibly stupid at worst - although the wild and whirling Peters affair indicates that what politicians regard as overwhelming evidence may be different from the usual meaning of that term.

It is no wonder they believe they know better than the rest of us and when in office produce a raft of ill-considered knee-jerk legislation.

Take, for instance, Labour's crowing over Maurice Williamson's "own goal" in saying he would impose tolls of $50 a week that would eliminate any tax cut benefits. He actually said no such thing, but they think we are too dim to notice.

Take John Key and his running for cover over any policy that might just cause a tremor of public anxiety. Does he believe we are babies who must be constantly soothed and patted to bring our wind up if there's any discomfort?

Take the taped conversations at the National Party convention. Do the politicians, spinners and commentators really expect us to be shocked that politicians float policy issues?

Was it really such a mistake to let ideas that might just be controversial break the surface?

Only if you assume New Zealanders are incapable of understanding that politics is supposed to be about taking initiatives.

But it seems our leaders do think we are too thick or too delicate to tolerate intelligent political debate. "Not in front of the children" seems to be the maxim and like T.S. Eliot they seem to think humankind cannot bear very much reality.

They don't want to frighten us with the truth but clearly believe we will swallow any old fairy story. Each wildly misrepresents the other's policies and turns them into bogeymen in the apparent belief we are as easily deceived as "find the lady" punters.

Winston Peters' legal semantics resemble sleight of hand and Rodney Hide's claims that Act economic policies could make us all $500 a week richer ignore the political reality that their whole economic package has no show of being implemented.

It can be argued they don't believe what they are telling us. But if they didn't think we were simple enough to believe it, why would they bother with the ritual?

The case of Michael Cullen is slightly different. His weary air of intellectual superiority and political infallibility is not reserved for the voter. His basic assumption "if you disagree with me you are, by definition, a moron", is a constant.

But the rest of them usually manage to put on some show of treating the voter as a sentient human being.

But come election time and the truth is nakedly revealed. In their heart of hearts they think we are backward infants rather than thinking adults.

I'm glad to be freed from being treated with such disdain for a while. But then it will be time to bite the bullet and vote for someone who thinks I'm an idiot.

* John Gardner is a North Shore voter

- NZ Herald

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