Parliament wound up yesterday leaving just a sour taste lingering in the mouth. It was a most peculiar year, replete with villains.
The goodies were fewer in number and politics is not the chronicles of the Hardy Boys. The goodies don't usually win the day. Some have applauded the political canniness of those who dabbled in the dark arts of dirty politics and came out intact. I shall applaud the clean and the good in politics, a good that does exist but is too often forgotten in the murk. I shall reward decency. Decency, good jokes and those whose stocks have risen because their integrity or political instinct meant they had sense enough to stay clear of the fray.
Top of my pops is Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell, a gentle man who cries at happy news.
Flavell refused to let the Maori Party be dragged into the dirty politics furore, even at the cost of invisibility during the campaign. The Maori Party got a pounding. But it was less of a pounding than Hone Harawira got for all his efforts at maximising his vote. The Maori Party survived. Just as importantly, they did it with dignity. They live to fight another day and by golly, can his sidekick, Marama Fox, fight.
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Next up is Labour's David Parker, who proved nice guys finish last (or second to last) in Labour's leadership run-off. Parker's integrity is also his handicap. Sticking to his pledge not to take finance or deputy ended up being an own goal - he is now marooned with the rest of Labour's Davids on the mid benches, where Andrew Little has sent them for a bit of quiet reflection while he asserts his own stamp on the job. He seems quite content with that.
A close third is Kelvin Davis, who has returned just as decent a man as he was when he left. He has also returned more confident, and confidence makes for good one-liners. Davis' feat in seeing off Harawira is still being celebrated, mostly by those on the right. Davis marked it with a laconic quip that the much-vaunted Internet-Mana Party had turned out to be "all smoke and no hangi". Add to that the advice he claimed he gave to Stuart Nash over the leadership to "plant your corn early this year" and he is shaping up nicely indeed on the quick-comebacks front.
In National, Paula Bennett had a pearler of a year, all without getting tainted by the smearing around her. One person's loss is another's gain and Bennett was in prime place. As Judith Collins plummeted, Bennett soared - right up into Collins' seat on the front bench. In political terms, Bennett is Mohammed Ali - quick footed and hard to land a punch on. She picks her friends carefully and makes good choices - and that paid off.
Down in the smaller parties' ring, Winston Peters took out best in show for cockfighting. Parliament's rooster bristled his cockscomb and managed to see off the young pretender that was Colin Craig. If Craig was determined to cast himself in the mould of his maker and label Peters as past it, Peters tried to cast Craig as the cheap imitation rip-off. Peters won. Peters has his own peculiar brand of old-fashioned integrity. It is very black and white, just like his party colours.
A word also for the House's Sorry Sayer, Chris Finlayson. He is Parliament's most skilled apologiser after six years of delivering apologies to settling iwi on behalf of the Crown. But when he delivered his apology for dismissing select committee public submissions as "chit chat", his tongue was so far in his cheek he gave himself puncture wounds. It was, he said self-mockingly, a moment of "uncharacteristic flippancy". Finlayson can be arch and tries not to suffer fools at all, let alone lightly. But under it all, he does not take his responsibilities or democracy lightly. He is a good egg.
Finally, a big ups to our border control officials. They didn't stop Phillip Smith fleeing for Brazil but this week, they did manage to stop one dastardly villain from coming into the country. It had destructive tendencies. It could eat entire buildings. It also carried the parasite that can cause meningitis in humans. That villain was the Great African Snail. Officials were crowing about thwarting an environmental disaster on the same day Energy Minister Simon Bridges proudly unveiled the successful bidders for oil exploration in Maui's dolphin heartland.