Imagine, if you will, a lovely early spring day a few weeks out from the 2017 general election.

Tourists are on a bridge looking down upon a gorgeous river. A bit further on is a massive, pumping waterfall.

A young Chinese couple are showing their baby the view by doing a Michael Jackson impression. It's all dangling feet and giggles, right up until the moment another sightseer trips over a random backpack and lurches forward into the couple, instantly careening the baby over the side.

The crowd gasps; the parents scream. The infant hits the water and disappears before resurfacing a few metres downstream. Everyone freezes in both shock and horror.


Imagine, somewhat fortuitously, that Bill English just happens to be below, being interviewed by a TV crew, and witnesses the tragedy unfold.

Just as the child surfaces in front of him, and is moving steadily towards the waterfall some distance away, Bill has a tiny window of opportunity to save its life. He could be a hero. Just for one day.

What does he do?

His mind starts racing. The cameras keep rolling. He starts to take off his shoes in preparation to jump in. He loves kids. He's got heaps of them himself. But still, he doesn't jump in.

He wonders how this will look to the public. His mind's going wild. Is the baby truly worth the risk of catching some dreaded waterborne disease? Where's the nearest dairy farm? Is it upstream or downstream?

Where's Nick Smith when you bloody need him? He'd definitely jump in just to prove a point, that's for sure. Although it's possible Nick might be unable to save the baby because - like that time he did that stunt in the Manawatu River - he wouldn't put his head underwater, and sensibly so, Bill thinks. Never know what you might catch.

One thing's for sure, Bill doesn't catch anything, including the baby. He doesn't even get wet. He hurriedly tries to prepare a response for the waiting media. It needs to sound believable. His brain's swirling.

The inevitable question comes. "Why didn't you save the baby, Prime Minster?"


He takes a deep breath and says, "I'm not even sure that was a baby. I mean, even if it was, it was clearly a dispute between the parents and the baby, and I didn't want to get involved in that. None of us would come out of that looking good, would we? And even if it actually was a baby, and that's yet to be established, there isn't a baby now."

Is the baby truly worth the risk of catching some dreaded waterborne disease?

Now imagine the same scenario, same river, same baby, but another politician.

Andrew Little sees the baby come to the surface. The cameras are whirring. Here's his chance to become the next Prime Minister. What does he do?

He quickly strips down, but not before he realises he's wearing the grunds with Jeremy Corbyn's face plastered on the crutch. Christ, he thinks, I can't risk voters seeing that! They'll think I'm a closet left winger. He zips his trousers back up.

When asked why he didn't save the baby he replies, "Look, it wasn't because it had a Chinese-sounding name. And, anyway, that baby looked in pretty good shape right before it hit the waterfall. If it ain't broke, why try to fix it?"

This time James Shaw is the man on the spot. He is wearing an expensive blue suit and not for one moment does he consider jumping in. He calmly watches the baby drift past, turns to the rolling cameras and says, "Technology will save the baby. Technology will save us all."

Next up, Winston Peters. He doesn't notice a thing. He hears no ruckus on the bridge, nor the screams of the parents. Neither does the camera crew. They are beguiled by his rakish charm, his devilish smile, and the distinct possibility that he may say something priceless at any moment.

Later that night, when the piece plays on the news, you can see the baby in the background, gliding past at a reasonable clip towards the waterfall. And then over it goes, Trev.

The next day, Winnie is asked by the same journalist why he never saw the baby. Is his hearing and eyesight starting to fail with age? "Yours might be. Mine isn't. You were facing towards the baby. Why didn't you save it?"

Now, press replay. The baby falls in, the parents scream, the baby is heading towards the gushing cascade of water.

Suddenly, bursting from the bushes, Hone Harawira sees the child, dives straight in, grabs it, carries it to the side of the river, and hands it gently to a waiting human being - not a politician.

He's not done. He runs straight towards the crying Chinese parents, embraces them, and throws them over the side of the bridge.

They may've been meth dealers.