COMMENT: Apparently too many young people are going into politics. It's a problem because they don't have enough life experience, so they don't know how to behave. I can't believe such nonsense is getting any traction.
We've had young politicians for decades. Some have been among our best, and their youth has played an integral role in making them good. Youth, not always but often, comes with ideals, determination, energy, a lack of world-weary cynicism. Values we need.
The great Marilyn Waring, now a dame, was 23 when she entered Parliament as a National Party MP. Her colleague, Simon Upton, was also 23, and 32 when he was appointed to Cabinet.
Waring was one of the most influential MPs we've ever had. Through her resolute pursuit of her goals and the shining example of her own principled behaviour, she changed for the better the culture of both the National Party and of Parliament, and was all done and dusted by age 32. Upton had no trouble adhering to integrity in public life either.
• Premium - Covid 19 coronavirus: Simon Wilson on National and Act's Budget plans
• Premium - Simon Wilson: The things I learned from lunch with Todd Muller
• Premium - Simon Wilson's Auckland election diary: Lunch with Judith and Jacinda
• Premium - Simon Wilson: Why National is our biggest climate change threat
Before them, the always-dignified Sir Keith Holyoake began his parliamentary career at the age of 28. Later, on the Labour side, Helen Clark started when she was 24, in the company of many other talented young MPs. Richard Prebble, just one example, was 27.
Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye were 28, David Seymour was a relatively aged 31, Chloe Swarbrick, like Marilyn Waring, was 23.
On the other hand, for as long as I can remember, there have been older members of Parliament holding down safe seats, disgracing the office with boorish behaviour and clogging up every chance of progress. We can all think of a few, I'm sure.
Talented young people will be the making of this country, and it won't by any means be the first time.
Sir William Pember Reeves was 30 when he became an MP and only 37 when his Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 was passed. In a Parliament of old men, he legalised unions and gave them important bargaining rights, creating the world's most progressive industrial law.
Dame Fran Wilde was 33 when she became an MP and 38 when her enormously important Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 was passed.
At the same relatively young age the disgraced MP Andrew Falloon was allegedly harassing multiple young women with sexually explicit images, Reeves and Wilde were changing the world. Ardern was becoming Prime Minister.
Right now, Seymour and Swarbrick, in addition to everything else they do, are the leading campaigners for the referenda we're voting on in a few weeks. With issues like the right to die and drug law reform, would any older MP care as much? Have the courage to put themselves through so much pressure?
There are no MPs in Parliament more dedicated to hard work in pursuit of their beliefs than those two and, frankly, few who achieve as much off the back of that work.
The problem of the rogue MPs is clearly not a problem of the inherent dissolution of youth.
IS IT men? I can see that's a tempting argument. There are an awful lot of men we could probably manage not to hear from quite as often as we do. Apologies if you think I'm one of them.
So many men, still behaving so badly. Why? It's 57 years since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, 49 years since Ms magazine was launched by Gloria Steinem and others in America and 48 years since Sandra Coney and others launched Broadsheet here.
That's 50 years of feminism influencing every aspect of mainstream life. Demanding respect for women, teaching men we are not the kings of the castle. Allowing us to realise this doesn't mean the end of the world.
Quite long enough for there to be no excuse for any man, especially any male MP, to know they cannot behave badly. It's normal to understand that.
I don't think the problem is age or gender. It's bullies.
Remember the list? Hamish Walker MP, resigned for misusing private patient information and keeping quiet about it.
Todd Barclay MP, resigned for allegedly bullying his electorate secretary and other staff.
Jami-Lee Ross MP, still in Parliament but resigned from his party amid claims he bullied his staff and another MP. Ross is also before the High Court charged with electoral fraud.
A little earlier, Aaron Gilmore MP, resigned after claims he bullied restaurant staff. And most recently, Iain Lees-Galloway MP, resigned as a minister for supposedly misusing the power of his office. Andrew Falloon MP, his alleged sins outlined above.
BULLIES COME in all shapes and sizes. They don't become powerful because they somehow slip past the screening system. They're not aberrations. They are what the system is designed to find.
They are the system.
It's true in Parliament; especially, it seems, but by no means exclusively, in the National Party. But not only there. It's true in business, in sports, in cultural organisations and everywhere else too.
Bullies. With their cocky confidence and their determination to get their own way. With their low capacity for compassion, their lack of respect for people they think are inferior to them, and that's most of us but particularly women, people of colour, the poor and the vulnerable.
You're feeling hurt? You probably deserved it. The dignity of my fellow humans? Woke nonsense, or something.
Bullies need to be admired and they have a singular capacity to insulate themselves inside a circle of admirers.
Bullies treat other people as if their purpose is to gratify some personal urge or need of their own.
They are valued because they have an impressive ability to bulldoze their way to a result, regardless of the cost to others.
Above all, they are entitled: bullies believe they deserve all the rewards they can get their hands on because they are special.
Bullies are what way too many party selectors like the look of when they choose their candidates.
Too often, it's the same for company bosses and others.
Bullying is what senior MPs who are themselves bullies encourage in their junior colleagues.
Bullies are really common. Why? Because the chances are, if you're an ambitious person, or a confident person, or a needy person not afraid to push yourself forward, you learned from a very young age that bullying behaviour is the way to get what you want.
You may have learned it at home, and/or in the workplace, and/or in other organisations you have belonged to.
Most of all, you are likely to have learned it in school. For many schools, probably most, the tolerance for and encouragement of bullying is not what it was. That's great. But it's naive to think many have solved the problem.
Bullying sits very comfortably inside the personality types and behavioural norms we have for men, so it flourishes among us. Bullying reinforces the structures of male power. Men have a particular responsibility to acknowledge these things.
But it's not exclusive: There are lots of women bullies around too.
Bullying is so common that most of us, especially men, who have been ambitious have either just carried on being bullies, or have had to learn how not to be a bully.
I know this because I'm part of it. I know I've bullied people. I know it's a behaviour you learn and I know you have to unlearn it.
It's hard to do. You have to keep checking yourself. All the time.
Now it's that time again when we choose our leaders.
Personally, I think we could steer clear of anyone described as "a fine young man who knows how to get things done, and golly, he's a bit of a larrikin too".
Not because they're "young". Older people, if they're used to entitlement, make terrible bullies.
Not because they're a man, either. We have some fine male role models in Parliament right now, on both sides of the House.
It's the nods and winks implicit in those phrases "get things done" and "bit of a larrikin". You weak people just have to get out of the way. And, you know, boys will be boys.