MPs have headed off on the campaign trail with one last blast at their rivals, a couple of gags, and a few contrary thank-yous, including Bill English thanking Labour and Kim Dotcom for their contributions to National's re-election effort.
Speaking in the adjournment debate, English began in a serious mood, talking up the record of the National Government. Happily he was distracted by an interjection and got into the real business. He misfired at first, having a joke at the expense of Murray McCully, whose staff had failed to open an email advising that a Malaysian diplomat would invoke immunity. Mr English thanked his staff, saying their jobs included "making sure every email is opened".
English finally remembered his real target: "I want to thank the Labour Party for dumping David Shearer. By now he would have been really good. I want to thank them also for selecting David Cunliffe. As he said himself, 'people will make up their minds when they get to know me'. And they've got to know him."
His next thank you went to National's arch-nemesis, Kim Dotcom. "For a man who set out to rid this country of John Key he is doing more than anyone except David Cunliffe to make sure John Key stays."
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Cunliffe responded with a reminder of the 21 per cent National achieved in 2002 under English's leadership. "And I want to extend the hand of friendship to Steven Joyce because he and I have something in common. Neither of us want to see Judith Collins as Prime Minister."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei spoke about Planet Key, the Prime Minister's utopia where there are multiple golf courses but no toilets. She said she'd also found there was no need to stop dairy intensification there. "The rivers are safe from pollution, because just like the people on Planet Key, the cows ... don't shi -- mmy either."
If NZ First leader Winston Peters is considering opening his arms to National, he didn't show it, reserving most of his address to slating National.
But the debate had a serious edge. Race issues that had been bubbling away were condemned by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell, United Future leader Peter Dunne and Mana's Hone Harawira, who was in the unusual situation of having to boast Mana had more Pakeha candidates than Maori to prove his was not a race-based party.
The best gags went to Labour's Grant Robertson, who had uncovered the selection list of the Team Key First XV. It included former Act MP John Banks "whose season came to a premature end after his cabbage boat got marooned on an island of arrogance and wilful blindness. Likely to shift next season to a new club: the Paremoremo Pirates." At prop was Judith Collins, who "tried to ingratiate her teammates with her provision of halftime milk" but ended up kneecapping herself. Maurice Williamson was openside flanker: "After a promising start ... for the Rainbow Warriors, he was escorted from the field during a game against the police."
There was a touching farewell between the old warhorses Tau Henare and Trevor Mallard, albeit on Twitter. And retiring Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia got the last word in against Hone Harawira without saying a thing. She pointedly left the chamber for the final time in the middle of his speech.
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