No sooner had Jacinda Ardern described the Green Party’s internal processes as akin to the Squid Games did they deliver the next episode.
It came in the enthralling mis-sent WhatsApp message from MP Elizabeth Kerekere moaning about Chloe Swarbrick’s luck in having a member’s bill going through Parliament at the same time Green Party members were voting on who should go where on the party’s list.
Then came the real dynamite: “OMG what a crybaby.”
In terms of insults, it’s more Damp Squib Games than Squid Games. It doesn’t even require asterisks to print here.
Nonetheless, it resulted in the calling of an inquisition into this terribly serious matter and whether Kerekere was calling Swarbrick a crybaby or not.
Kerekere said she was referring to somebody else. But Swarbrick was speaking in Parliament at the time it was sent. If not Swarbrick then who? Kerekere couldn’t say.
Quite how the co-leaders managed to stay po-faced as they faced the media is unclear. Not for the Greens a mere apology and move on. That wouldn’t do at all.
Marama Davidson solemnly announced that it was a very serious matter indeed and there would be a full investigation into it. James Shaw was so shook up he forgot the Greens call their whips a “musterer” and instead called Jan Logie the whip. There will probably be another investigation into that.
There was the pantomime drama of Golriz Ghahraman and Julie Ann Genter reacting to the message in the background of Chloe Swarbrick on Parliament TV, while Swarbrick spoke.
There was a tweet from Wellington Central candidate Tamatha Paul, declaring herself Team Swarbrick. Genter retweeted it – and then undid her retweet. Thoughts and prayers for Swarbrick were issued far and wide.
The reason for all this drama is the Green Party’s list ranking process. It is a three-yearly time of turmoil for the party of peace. That list process sees the party and delegates put together a draft list. The Green Party members then vote on where they think the MPs and candidates should be – if they get enough members in their corner, they move up the list accordingly and someone else falls down.
MPs and candidates alternate between performing the courting dance of the Bird of Paradise and trying to slip a metaphorical knife between the ribs of their rivals.
There are secret agendas at play: Hence Kerekere’s cursing of Swarbrick’s luck. And hence someone promptly leaking the screengrab of it to the media – presumably motivated by a desire for Kerekere to get her comeuppance on that list and for another to benefit from it.
The Greens take a great and perhaps sanctimonious pride in staying above the petty squabbles and mud-throwing of the other parties. They do not weigh into side issues - they simply say, over and over again, that climate change and inequality are what matter and talking about anything else amounts to empty emissions.
Yet here they were, putting on their own production of Lord of the Flies.
The list process triggers the worst of human instincts - envy and ambition.
It also exposed the shock-horror news that not everybody in the Green Party likes each other and sometimes they moan about each other behind backs.
They are, in fact, just like the rest of us – prone to the same personality clashes and rivalries that exist in every other political party - and every workplace, team or group in the world.
It capped off a week in which there had been a lot of talk by politicians about focusing solely on the issues that mattered to New Zealanders, all the while mainly talking about issues that did not really matter at all.
For National, this exercise involves trying to get the Government on the ropes over something like a misbehaving minister – of late, Stuart Nash and Kiri Allan – and demanding the Government address it.
Having forced the Government to focus on its internal problems, National MPs then stand up in Parliament and talk at great length about how much the Government is focusing on its internal problems rather than on the issues that matter.
And having spent much of its own time trying to make the Government focus on things that don’t matter it then claims it has spent all of its time focusing on the things that matter.
The real issue on that front this week was not whether Swarbrick was a crybaby or Kiri Allan was overstepping the mark in berating RNZ for its treatment of her partner.
It was the Reserve Bank putting the OCR up by 0.5 points and the flow-on effects that will have on people already struggling to meet mortgage payments and feed the family. That should have been all any politician was talking about.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins himself needs to refocus. His main rival, National Party leader Christopher Luxon, has started rolling out policy.
Hipkins’ biggest move of the week was to announce changes to the rules for lobbyists. It’s important enough stuff - but that shouldn’t be your headline move in a week in which the OCR ratchets up again.
And if Labour’s ministers were not so regularly doling out material for National to use, Hipkins too could spend some time focusing on the bread and butter stuff he said he would.
In the end, it won’t be misbehaving ministers that decide an election either way.
It will be the judgment of the voters on whether Hipkins has done what he said he would do – or whether the other guy might do it better.
They will make that judgment based on the cash in their back pockets.
And on that matter, Luxon is no walkover. The economy has always been where his footing is surest and he demonstrated that again this week.
Hipkins will be hoping that by the time Parliament returns after a three-week break – and heads into the Budget month – his ministers will have realised that for themselves.
In the meantime, let us all focus on the bread and butter otherwise known as a hot cross bun.