Rodney Hide: More than Gilmore let us down

Aaron Gilmore's night out spotlit inadequacies of our parliamentary system. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Aaron Gilmore's night out spotlit inadequacies of our parliamentary system. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Aaron Gilmore has been and gone. He went from total obscurity to poster-boy for the democratic defect that we can't summarily sack list MPs.

I didn't mind his going. Being an MP is a very privileged position and it probably does some good to toss the odd one overboard between elections. It keeps the remaining MPs on edge and satisfies our primitive urge to see someone in authority brought crashing to earth.

Aaron certainly provided the opportunity to let rip. His failings and shortcomings filled newspapers, TV and radio news. Those who had the need vented good and hard on Twitter, talkback and blogs.

The best was 3News. Mike McRoberts, solemn-faced, declared Gilmore "the most unwelcome dinner guest since Hannibal Lecter".

The serial-killer cannibal line wasn't a quip or a joke. That was 3News' anchor introducing the night's news that further detailed Gilmore's shortcomings. The next night, 3News repeatedly declared Gilmore something my editor won't let me repeat.

It was a glorious anything goes. We have to be so careful and so politically correct so as not to offend anyone but, for a week, we could all let rip on Gilmore.

On a scale of one to 10, Gilmore's alleged crime was hardly a 10. The waiter himself never complained, despite publicly being invited to do so by the Prime Minister. Neither did his boss. The facts of what happened on the fateful night were never established.

I have done far worse with a few drinks on board. But then I have always been lucky: I have never had to suffer a drinking buddy determined and able to make my bad behaviour the news for a week.

Then we had the constitutional point. That no one, including the Prime Minister, could fire Gilmore forthwith was presented as a failing of our Parliamentary system. He was a list MP. He had done wrong. He should be fired.

I am not so sure those calling for the summary power to dismiss list MPs would appreciate the consequences.

I had two list MPs in my caucus forever trying to dispatch me. If I had been able to fire them, I would have. And I would still be there. But that's hardly a satisfactory outcome for anyone.

If anything, MMP has made our MPs already too obedient and too ready to toe the party line. We don't want to make them even more the functionaries of the party. It's the mavericks who keep parties on their toes and shift leaders along.

Besides, the media show themselves more than willing and able to dump a list MP: they just need the ammo and the nod.

- Herald on Sunday

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