John Armstrong on politics
John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Sincerity sadly lacking in MP's platitudinous apology

Richard Prosser's so-called "apology" is not worth the glossy paper of Investigate magazine his insults against Muslims were first printed on.

Peters says Prosser has "hopefully" been given a kick "where the sun don't shine". Photo / Mark Mitchell
Peters says Prosser has "hopefully" been given a kick "where the sun don't shine". Photo / Mark Mitchell

Someone who was genuinely apologetic for causing such deep offence would have expressed remorse at the earliest opportunity. It took the MP from Badly-Got-It-Wrong-istan the best part of 24 hours to deliver an "unreserved" apology. Instead of true contrition, his confession conveyed all the sincerity of the kind of banal platitudes you would find on a 99c greeting card.

But what else was to be expected from Prosser the Tosser from Rangiora. We are not talking about some South Seas version of Salman Rushdie. Even the fatwa-imposing mullahs in Iran would recognise Prosser's musings as buffoonery. At least, let's hope they do for Prosser's sake.

Winston Peters' handling of the affair has veered from the pathetic to the feeble. The moment the story broke on Tuesday, the NZ First leader should have frogmarched Prosser into Parliament and ordered him to apologise. That would have pre-empted some of the subsequent criticism, thereby taking some of the heat and momentum out of the issue.

An apology needed to be made in Parliament to give it more authority to stem any damage to New Zealand's international reputation as a country high on racial tolerance and extremely low on religious bigotry.

But by the time Prosser got round to apologising to the House, Hone Harawira blocked him on the grounds that Prosser should instead head to the nearest mosque and plead for forgiveness there.

Prosser should also have been subject to caucus discipline, either in the form of censure or temporary suspension. Peters has instead circled the NZ First wagons. He is not someone who bows to media pressure. As leader, he regards loyalty to his troops as paramount - unless, like Brendan Horan, they are deemed to be beyond redemption. Prosser, in contrast, has made a "mistake".

Peters says Prosser has "hopefully" been given a kick "where the sun don't shine" which will force him to "to eat his meals off the mantelpiece for the next week".

A pain in the backside has thus ended up with no more punishment than a pain in the backside. There may be another reason for the lenient treatment, however. Dire predictions were made after the last election about the stability of the NZ First caucus. Peters has since lost one of his seven MPs. To borrow from Oscar Wilde, to lose one MP might look like misfortune, to lose two would look like carelessness. So Prosser survives, the moot point being whether he is any the wiser from it all.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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