One of the best antidotes to the end-of-year grumpiness came in the evidence even the Prime Minister was afflicted with it.
Her performance review of Act leader David Seymour as an “arrogant prick” has been the highlight of the last week of Parliament.
It was a rare slip of the Prime Ministerial mask, an insult glorious for being so succinct.
It was not intended to be overheard – she muttered it to Grant Robertson, assuming her microphone had already been turned off. He muttered his agreement - although that was less out of character for him.
A New Year’s Honour should go to whoever did not turn her microphone off in time, ensuring it was picked up.
People will be divided between those who think Seymour fully deserved it (either in full, or at least one of the arrogant or the prick portions of it), and those who consider it a foul of the positive and kind edicts she has issued in the past.
Seymour will take pride in it – as was evident from his joy in talking about it afterwards.
Soon after the Herald alerted Seymour to it, he was quick to stand up in Parliament and demand an apology, knowing full well it would not be forthcoming because the PM had left by then.
He then came out to speak to media about it and was asked to give his own assessment of his arrogance.
The PM had made it obvious he was getting under her skin and he wanted people to know. That is the primary goal of an Opposition MP. It was also him getting under her skin: not National leader Christopher Luxon.
That is also what will annoy Ardern the most about it – she let it be shown.
Far better to pretend the Opposition is nothing more than an annoying mosquito – and Seymour can be very annoying indeed when it takes his fancy. It is his job.
It is perhaps understandable why she let it slip: she’s had a year of it. It followed the Ombudsman’s report into MIQ – one of the problems she spent much of the start of the year talking about was making an unwelcome reappearance at the end of it. Seymour was questioning her about her ability to issue an apology.
Ardern subsequently did issue an apology – to Seymour.
That apology carried another magnificent oblique sledge.
He reported that she had texted him to say she should not have said it and “as my mum would say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it”.
The apology was not so much a “soz I didn’t mean it” as a “I’m sorry I got caught saying it but I did mean it.”
The year of Parliament wraps up tonight after the traditional final adjournment debate and then it is goodbye to 2022.
If the PM’s new approach to confronting her rivals continues we’re in for an entertaining year in 2023.
Alas, it is more likely simply a seasonal affliction as a fraught year comes to a close. Everybody is a bit prickly. Everybody is a bit sensitive about it all.
Ardern is not the first to throw the prick word at somebody on the other side, of course. Former finance minister, the late Sir Michael Cullen, infamously called Sir John Key a “rich prick”.
At least you can buy things with money. Arrogance is not such a great currency.