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Paul Thomas is a Weekend Herald columnist

Paul Thomas: Face it, - Damien Labour's their natural home

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Damien O'Connor's outburst reduces the chances of a mass outbreak of hypocrisy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Damien O'Connor's outburst reduces the chances of a mass outbreak of hypocrisy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour MP Damien O'Connor's claim that his party is dominated by self-serving trade unionists and "a gaggle of gays" raises a number of questions.

Is "gaggle" a satisfactory collective noun for gays? It implies a connection between gays and geese, which is not immediately apparent.

Is O'Connor suggesting that being gay makes a person more likely to behave like a goose? If so, where's his evidence?

If we're going to borrow from the bird kingdom, surely the context - a parliament - means the collective noun for owls and rooks would be more appropriate.

If O'Connor is now accused of homophobia, will he use the tried and true defence that "some of my best friends are gay"? Will it still be true?

And does O'Connor know anything about the history of the Labour movement? After all, if trade unionists can't find a home in the Labour Party, where on earth are they meant to go?

National certainly doesn't want them, the Maori Party is even choosier, and Act, New Zealand First and United Future are effectively closed shops and too small to accommodate any more large, unruly egos.

That leaves the Greens, and greenies and trade unionists aren't a marriage made in heaven.

Of course, there may be more to this than meets the eye. After the Darren Hughes affair, O'Connor's bombshell may have been intended as a pre-emptive strike to neutralise the issue once and for all.

Now that he's outed practically the entire party, there's little risk of Labour being embarrassed by the sort of yawning gap between public moralising and private indulgence that did for Indonesian MP Arifinto this week.

Arifinto - like Madonna, Bono and the train-wreck formerly known as Lindsay Lohan, he goes by just the one name - represents an Islamic party which was the driving force behind Indonesia's draconian anti-pornography legislation.

He was forced to resign after being photographed watching porn on his laptop during a session of parliament.

Incidentally, in light of these revelations the plea in mitigation of our own political porn-fiend, Shane Jones - "I'm a red-blooded, robust dude; I've got a fantastic wife; I've got seven kids" - should perhaps be seen as a bid for the leadership of a Straight Labour splinter group. All he has to do now is find some followers.

Arifinto belongs to the long and inglorious tradition of politicians who say one thing and do another.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reason to resent the vilification he's been subjected to, since he's never pretended to be anything other than a lecherous old goat.

Many political figures have a strong claim to being the poster boy for the hypocritical tendency, but I nominate American Congressman Larry Craig.

A family values Republican and director of the gun nut lobby group the National Rifle Association, Craig scored a 96 per cent approval rating from the American Conservative Union and a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

His unbending posture on homosexuality extended to campaigning for a more severe punishment for an openly gay senator caught up in a gay prostitution scandal.

In 2007 Craig was arrested for soliciting an undercover cop in the men's room at Minneapolis-St Paul airport.

His explanation for playing footsie with the occupant of the next cubicle was that he adopts a "wide stance" while answering calls of nature.

This sort of thing happens so often that we're almost entitled to take the "methinks he doth protest too much" view whenever a politician attacks a particular orientation or habit.

Why do they do it? Is it a reflection of private torment, a twisted form of denial, or a ruse intended to throw the hounds off the scent?

Or are politicians so abject they'll victimise their own kind if they think it will work to their advantage?

The English satirist Auberon Waugh believed politicians suffered from a condition he called the Power Urge, "a personality disorder in its own right, like the taste for rubber underwear".

As long as people understood this and treated politicians as misfits who shouldn't be trusted too far or taken too seriously, democracy worked reasonably well.

On the other hand, Germany in the 1930s was an example of how it could all go wrong when people listened to politicians who claimed to have the answer to everything.

This may apply elsewhere but, whatever their other flaws, our politicians don't seem to suffer from the Power Urge. Or if they do, it's a comparatively mild form which responds to treatment.

As for O'Connor's complaint, it may be time to accept that slightly left-wing politics is like fashion, interior design, and hospitality and entertainment - something that gays just happen to be good at.

- NZ Herald

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