John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Seasonal spirit ferments in House

Steven Joyce says he was wrong, Trevor Mallard trades compliments across chamber — it must be Christmas

Denis Roche. Photo / NZ Herald
Denis Roche. Photo / NZ Herald

Bah humbug! What would Scrooge have made of Green MP Denise Roche's solo rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful in Parliament yesterday.

Parliament Future? Or just more Greens whackiness? Roche somehow managed to stay in tune through the carol's five or six rewritten verses which took in Green causes celebre from SkyCity and child poverty to deepwater oil exploration.

Coming at the conclusion of a somewhat peculiar afternoon in the House, Roche's contribution wasn't that much out of the ordinary compared with what had come before on the last day of the parliamentary year.

It was a tribute to Speaker David Carter's tolerance and flexibility that he did not spoil the fun.

Indeed, such were the worrying levels of goodwill to all men and women evident in Parliament yesterday that National's Anne Tolley felt obliged to remark upon it.

She noted what seemed to be a rare confluence of the stars which had Labour's resident hard man, Trevor Mallard, agreeing with National's sometimes prickly Chris Finlayson.

The sudden outbreak of bonhomie had a string of MPs thanking or congratulating their counterparts across the chamber. And there were other examples of out-of-character behaviour. Steven Joyce admitted he had been wrong about something.

David Parker, Labour's acting leader, was positively Santa-like in serving up a patsy question to Bill English, the Finance Minister duly dispatching Parliament's equivalent of a full toss straight to the boundary.

Parker wanted to know what English considered to be his biggest failing as Finance Minister in 2013. "This question does test one's humility," replied English.

He went on to say his greatest failing in each of the five years he had held the Finance portfolio was to underestimate the damage done to this economy by the previous Labour Government and overestimate the ability of Labour members to understand that and apologise for it.

So pleased were English's colleagues with this response, they gave him a round of applause. This brought out the Christmas Grinch. After several repeats of the clapping, Winston Peters raised a point of order, complaining such behaviour was unbecoming of Parliament and the Speaker should look at banning the practice.

Entering into the Christmas spirit, Carter said he'd consider Peters' gripe and report back in the New Year.

- NZ Herald

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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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