I'm tough. I'm tough on crime.
I get hot under the collar just thinking about crime. The sweat runs down my chest and coats my thighs. It gets so that I just have to rip my shirt off, and my pants, too.
But I place a great store in maintaining dignity, so I leave on my shoes and socks.
"Caucus," I said this morning, "let me tell you something. Let me tell you how it's going to be from now until the election.
"It's going to be me getting tough on crime. It's going to be me squaring my jaw and looking firm, and resolute, and no-nonsense, while I pander to every single conservative prejudice and fear."
No one caught my eye.
"I need everyone to back me on this," I continued. "We need to provide a united front. We need to stand together if we're going to appeal to good, decent, law-abiding Kiwis as well as every available creep and bigot."
Some of them looked the other way.
"Oh," I said. "My shoelace is untied."
I bent over, and there was pandemonium.
I'm tough. I'm tough on gangs.
Gangs belong in prison, and their families belong at the bottom of the heap, their welfare payments cut off, their children sent to school without lunch, and their children's children doomed to have so few opportunities to escape the cycle of abuse that their only choice will be to join gangs.
I'm tough. I'm tough on sweary bears.
That's what I called University of Auckland criminologist Dr Ron Kramer, the academic who criticised my well thought-out law and order discussion document. I don't apologise for it. He used bad language and he should know better.
He also used big words. He said, "It's just pure political rhetoric. This kind of criminalisation just stigmatises and creates a permanently excluded group of individuals from society."
I'm tough. I'm tough on John Campbell.
Sure, he can sit there during our interview on Breakfast and cite this academic paper and that academic paper which argues against the effectiveness of my law and order discussion document.
And he can ask me if I can cite one academic paper, just one, that supports the policies and thinking in my law and order discussion document.
But that's not going to make a scrap of difference to the reality of the situation. Gangs will continue to deal methamphetamine and bring misery to people throughout New Zealand.
Those people don't really care about academic papers. They might not even care about John Campbell.
I'm tough. I'm tough on myself.
Every day I take a good long at myself in the bathroom mirror. I run the shower, and size up the reflection of that person looking back at me. And my whole political life flashes before my eyes, a life of backroom handshakes and secret promises, a life of identifying weaknesses and planning lines of attack, a life of meaningless discussion documents and desperate, aching ambition, and I ask, "Do you even know who the hell you are anymore?"
And then the mirror steams up, and I hop in the shower.