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

Claire Trevett: 'All together now' in parliamentary echo chamber

Prime Minister John Key told Opposition leader David Cunliffe to 'sit down, sunshine'. Photo / Marty Melville
Prime Minister John Key told Opposition leader David Cunliffe to 'sit down, sunshine'. Photo / Marty Melville

Parliament this week was brought to you by the letters ARROGANT and TRICKY and the colour Green.

At caucus on Tuesday, Labour MPs were clearly given the edict that if they described their opponents as "arrogant" enough, it would be true. So in Question Time, there were interjections of "so arrogant" and a flurry of tweets from various MPs. Iain Lees-Galloway took to it with the most relish after Prime Minister John Key told Opposition leader David Cunliffe to "sit down, sunshine". Lees-Galloway thrice tweeted that it demonstrated the PM's arrogance.

Around the same time, Cunliffe, Clare Curran and Chris Hipkins were also tweeting about the various displays of "arrogance" emanating from the Government on issues ranging from teachers and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the way he spoke to Cunliffe.

Cunliffe also issued a press release criticising the Government for refusing to release a copy of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

"This is another example of the Government that has stopped listening to New Zealanders and is arrogant and out of touch."

The next day, Grant Robertson produced a press release accusing Steven Joyce of "breathtaking arrogance" for changes to university councils. He used the word "arrogant" twice, including in the headline, and slipped in "arrogance" and "high-handed" for good measure.

Speaking in the debate on Tuesday, even former leader David Shearer was doing as he was told, getting the phrase "arrogant and out of touch" into his speech three times. Ruth Dyson matched his record, while Phil Goff and Moana Mackey managed to wedge "arrogant" in twice.

There is nothing subtle about it. There was a slight hint of "are we there yet?". The word has peppered Labour's attacks regularly since it entered Opposition. So far it has failed to stick.

Labour's approach appears to be hoping that the populace will eventually see the light. This week, their cause wasn't helped by the fact that the freshest image of Key in the television viewers' eyes was of him playing beer pong at the Big Gay Out rather than beheading the poor and downtrodden.

National's caucus, meanwhile, has fixed on the word "tricky" to describe Cunliffe. Key started it quite a while ago, after revelations Cunliffe had glossied up his CV a tad. It popped up again after Cunliffe gave a speech to party activists and unionists redolent with promises of socialism, only to rush outside and tell the media that it all depended on whether there was enough money for it.

Key hauled it out again after Cunliffe announced Labour's policy to give $60 a week for newborn babies, while conveniently forgetting to mention it did not apply to those on paid parental leave.

The rest of his caucus has picked up on it too. Attorney-General Chris Finlayson normally relies on his own inventive knack for insults, but even he was settling for "tricky" this week. The champion was Todd McClay, who trickied at a rate of one per minute by slotting 11 into a 10-minute speech, including dubbing Cunliffe "Tricky Dicky".

National's aim is to try to drive home the perception that Cunliffe cannot be trusted. Labour's is to try to convince voters that Key has fallen into the habit that afflicts many long-term governing parties of thinking he knows best.

While all this was happening, the Green Party and NZ First were occupied with another word: Dotcom.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman had visited Kim Dotcom and asked him not to stand his Internet Party in the election. Norman's reasoning made sense. If Dotcom could not get more than 5 per cent, every vote he did get would be wasted. Given most of that vote would come from the left, that would benefit only Key because it would take less to get a majority. It is no surprise Dotcom was open to this argument, given his sole policy platform is to bring down Key.

What is more puzzling is why Norman bothered. Talking somebody out of standing runs counter to the Greens' usual stance that MMP is a democratic Mardi Gras and voters should have as wide a choice as possible. It has railed against deals cooked up by other parties.

Nor do the Greens stand to save many votes by talking Dotcom out of it. At first glance, the answer to the question appeared to come down to that filthy word: money. Were the Greens hoping they had found their own Daddy Warbucks?

But no, the Greens run donations through an ethical filter and Norman insisted he would argue against accepting any from Dotcom.

As for NZ First leader Winston Peters, he has spent much of the week criticising National for its lack of transparency for refusing to play show-and-tell with the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Yesterday, he continued to claim it was nobody's business whether he had ever visited Dotcom and that the PM was "widdling in the wind" by saying he had.

- 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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