Colin Craig's defamation action against Russel Norman raises some interesting points.
It's unusual to learn libel details before a court hearing, the media wary of repeating them for fear of themselves being sued, but not so here.
Knowing Craig merely seeks an apology and having the whiff of a baby on board sign exponent about him, he's copped widespread commentator ridicule, the general tenor being that he should toughen up.
Norman insists he will not apologise. Surely Craig's lawyers have told him a court will not order this. Courts only demand people behave in a certain way when it's practical, such as if you contract to sell your home then change your mind, otherwise claims must be monetised.
As Craig cannot achieve his aim, why is he bothering? He says he was offended by Norman claiming he believed a wife's place was in the kitchen and gays in the closet. I doubt anyone believes that of him. When in a more robust political age I ran against then Cabinet minister Hugh Templeton in 1984, I claimed he wore lacy underwear.
Hugh ignored it, but not so Jim Anderton when I told a Christchurch radio station he wore a wig. Probably Jim was incensed when several women callers said it showed he cared about his appearance and such-like, suggesting they believed this. Jim promptly organised a lunchtime meeting in the Christchurch Square and on a platform, a doctor and police chief examined his head and formally declared his hair was his own. I then cited this as obvious police corruption and alleged the GP was in fact a plumber.
That's all good fun but there's a fine line between teasing and outright lying, the test being truth, significance and believability, particularly when it's said in jest, which given his morbid humourlessness, I doubt Norman's remarks were.
Craig is an easy target but had instead Norman directed his slur at me, then I would point out what I've long suspected, namely my absolute conviction that he is in fact a woman, but as I wasn't the target, I won't mention this. Certainly Norman's never denied it.
That aside I agree with Craig that political debate should be honest, particularly on things that count, which Norman's remarks did. Consider this. Driving to the office a week ago I heard David Cunliffe on the radio and was staggered as everything he said was a wilful deceit. First he lambasted the PM for not sacking Judith Collins given that he sacked Pansy Wong, for what he claimed was an identical offence. That's outrageous. Pansy Wong used public funds to pay for her and her husband's trip to Asia, solely to pursue her husband's business. Collins' case was vastly different, being one of principle and somewhat of a media beat-up.
Then Cunliffe explained he wanted to introduce capital gains tax as farmers and people trading houses are not liable for tax. He knows that's untrue. Given Cunliffe's already exposed deceit about his CV, his trust and other matters, one would think he would be cautious, but apparently not so.
In the office I received a call from a Labour MP friend and I expressed my concern at such dishonesty by someone who might be Prime Minister by year end. It's the same with his line about living in the worst house in the street in one of Auckland's plusher suburbs, he told me. In fact, he said, it's arguably the best, the previous owners being an architect and interior decorator who'd completely gutted it.
I cannot think of any prominent past New Zealand politician doing as Cunliffe does, to use his own clumsy word which he applied to the PM: "untruths". So I have sympathy with Craig's complaint although not with his pointless action.
"Stay away from X," I once warned Winston Peters at a party in my home. "He's awfully upset about something you said in the House a decade back," this over an alleged political appointment. Instead Winston immediately marched over and apologised for the hurt he'd caused, which hugely impressed the complainant and put the matter to rest. Norman should similarly be woman enough to end this issue and apologise given the obvious hurt he/she has caused.
Norman has form with this behaviour, typical of Greenies' hyperbolic apocalyism. He/she told television John Key wanted to destroy the environment, which he/she cannot possibly believe. But immensely more offensive was television then bringing on Simon Bridges in rebuttal. Given his barbarous butchering of the English language, I'd rather listen to lies than endure that.