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

Claire Trevett: Politicians going for gold

MP John Banks. Photo / Mark Mitchell
MP John Banks. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Olympics is all consuming and to get into the swing of things, the politicians are staging their own version.

Unlike the real thing, theirs is not a contest of faster, higher, stronger. It is longer, certainly - a three-year event.

But other than the few who resemble sumo wrestlers, the competitors could not be likened to athletes "glistening like wet otters", as London Mayor Boris Johnson described beach volleyball players.

Their equipment is also less glamorous. Britain's Olympic cyclists have performance enhancing "hot pants" - heated to warm their buttocks and thighs before racing. The political equivalent is the hot seat and, as John Banks found out, sitting in it is not so much performance enhancing as performance destructing.

Banks was in charge of driving the team bus - right through the middle of the Local Electoral Act. He dodged and swerved, he did donuts and burnouts. He was a veritable boy-racer.

And when he was caught and accused of reckless driving for failing to report donations from Kim Dotcom and Sky City lying on the roadside, he claimed his licence did not require him to wear glasses and he had not seen them.

Prime Minister John Key did rhythmic gymnastics, dancing on the head of a pin over whether Banks' failure to declare donations he had solicited met the ethical standard Key expected from his ministers.

Key pulled out his prop - the Cabinet Manual - and said it only required ministers to have acted ethically while they were ministers, not beforehand. He went on to say that the police decision not to lay charges showed Banks had clearly complied with the law.

But his routine had a twist at the end to try to please the judges - Key said that the very same law Banks had complied with was an ass which any fool with a bus could drive through the middle of and therefore required changing.

Meanwhile, Labour's Trevor Mallard was talking big in the build-up to his own contest with Banks. He tweeted cyclist Greg Henderson's twitter photo of the giant basketball thighs of German mountain biker Robert Forstemann and the slighter but still muscled t Andre Greipel and modestly observed his own thighs were "between the two".

When he and Banks went head to head it was not in cycling but fencing. Mallard raised his epee and lunged, asking Banks whether the curriculum for charter schools would include lessons on comprehension so students would learn how to fill out documents such as mayoral donation returns in a truthful fashion. Banks parried well, saying it would include teaching students to be wary of Labour politicians who sought to scalp tickets - a reference to Mr Mallard's Trade Me behaviour.

Mallard tried again, asking whether the curriculum would have a segment on ethics and whether it was unethical to lie to media. Again there was a convincing riposte from Banks, who said the ethics section would include teachings not to sign a painting one had not actually painted - as former Prime Minister Helen Clark had.

Touche to Banks, and it was down to the track and field for Labour leader David Shearer's third attempt at the poll vault.

His run up was smooth, but he launched off only to discover the Green Party had chopped off the bottom third of his pole and taken away the safety mat before he landed.

Meanwhile, NZ First leader Winston Peters was also in the gymnastics - in his case verbal gymnastics. He said his caucus of seven would not vote for the gay marriage bill and instead wanted the issue put to a public referendum.

The "for" was ambiguous, making it unclear whether NZ First would not vote at all, which would help the chances of passing the bill, or would vote against the bill, which would impede it.

Pushed further, Mr PetersP went for the perfect score from gymnastics judges, saying it was all perfectly clear: NZ First would not vote for the bill.

By mid-week Peters, Shearer, and Key were all on a cross-country of sorts, flying to Samoa to celebrate its 50 years of independence. Alas, they were knocked out in the first heat, for the political version of cross-country means making other countries very cross indeed.

In this the gold medal went to US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his international tour. Last week, he angered the United Kingdom with a swipe at the organisation of the London Olympics and this week, Palestinians, comparing their economy unfavourably with that of Israel and crediting "culture" rather than economic sanctions for the difference.

In other events, Education Minister Hekia Parata was on the beam in gymnastics after some backflips over class sizes. Justice Minister Judith Collins was struggling on in the marathon of alcohol law reforms, which now rival the Hobbit trilogy in terms of ever-increasing length.

National MP Maggie Barry aimed for a swan dive but did a belly flop by suggesting Labour's Jacinda Ardern was unqualified to comment on paid parental leave because she had no children.

Back in the fencing arena, Mallard was taking on his second competitor - National MP Jami-Lee Ross. Mallard, his epee dulled by his contest with Banks, said Ross had three first names and no surname at all. The lunge was so weak Ross didn't need to parry, proving the truth of another Olympic axiom: thighs aren't everything.

- 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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