Labour’s one-act tragedy descends into circus of hand-wringing and song — with plenty of blood on the floor.
A gaggle of furrowed brows gathered at Parliament on Tuesday for a long, long, long meeting of the vanquished and angry. Now, notes taken in the Labour caucus room have emerged, having been hacked from the email account of some unwitting MP by my source, "Lambshank". The full document, as yet unverified, runs to several thousand pages, but here are the significant moments ...
DAVID CUNLIFFE calls us to attention. New whips are elected. A bit tense. But applause. And there's cake. Promising start!
DC speaks on confidence. The root of the word, he says, is the Latin confidentia, and it is right and proper that these discussions are confidential. The verb confidere is "to trust", and it is wrong and improper that we should be dwelling on secret trusts. Furthermore, he adds, he is no confidence trickster. The leader does not seek to lose a no-confidence vote, says the leader, unless circumstances should see the leader lose a no-confidence vote in which case the leader very clearly was seeking a no-confidence vote for the betterment of the party.
An hour passes. DC's ruminations on Latin are interrupted by several MPs demanding candid discussion of what went wrong. DC obliges. Several factors contributed, he says, before detailing at length and over some many hours the role of hackers, bloggers, inflatable little shits, wine bottles, disloyal scoundrels, Dirty Politics, moas, Moments of Truth, My Kitchen Rules, the weather, Aaron Cruden, everyone who voted Labour, everyone who didn't, and even the leader. All bear equal responsibility, he says. This is Labour. Socialise the fault! We-a culpa! He laughs. There is silence.
A voice from the back says, what about an apology? Another long pause. DC says he accepts responsibility. Another voice: But an apology! I tell you what, DC offers, I responsogise. I hereby offer you all a heartfelt responsogy. Silence, apart from the shlink-shlank of the knife sharpener.
Another hour goes by. Caucus agrees to convene an independent inquiry into the election performance. David Shearer sparks up an incense stick and begins strumming on his beloved six-string the chords to Milli Vanilli's emotional 1989 classic Blame it on the Rain. David Parker waxes his skis. Time passes.
DC invites each caucus member in turn to speak frankly and share a favourite holiday memory. Several raise questions about campaign strategy, first principles, core values, perceptions of the leader. I hear you, says DC, nodding like a windsock, before chuckling: I said no leaking, but if anyone needs to go, now's the time. Several MPs, most of them called David, leave to go to the bathroom. Louisa Wall rolls a netball up an access ramp and watches it roll back down, time after time. Hours pass.
DC reads poetry, including the early stuff. Grant Robertson praises Brodie Retallick's work rate. Jacinda Ardern braids Chris Hipkins' hair. From the hallway outside comes a bubbling excitement. It's the press gallery mixing sleeping pills with their energy drinks.
David Shearer returns from the lavatory to announce he must depart for New York to support New Zealand's bid for a back seat on the Security Council. He says the UN is on the brink of crisis, riven with rage and despondency as the United States launches strikes in the Middle East. It sounds like paradise. He goes. David Parker waxes his skis. Annette King curls up in a corner, deleting several hundred emoji-filled text messages from her cousin Chris. Time passes. The lights have gone out. The clock has stopped ticking. No one seems to care. Tributaries of blood flow to the middle of the floor.
Hours pass. Suddenly, a knock on the door. Those not yet dead or asleep sit bolt upright. Shane Jones pushes a trolley loaded with kai moana and cases of champagne. On the labels: "Third Term Grand Cru, 48%" and "Don't get too cocky au vin!" Jones has the wrong caucus room. Oopsy, etcetera, he chortles, exiting at pace.
Hours pass. DC bursts into song, but his voice is gone. Clayton Cosgrove chews hungrily on the calf muscle of a deceased colleague. Savage and Kirk, hanging on the walls, roll their eyes. David Parker waxes his skis. Hours pass, or is it days?
Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful.
Trevor Mallard looks up from feasting on a still-beating heart to make some arcane point about standing orders. Stuart Nash, dressed as a fireman, is lost in a copy of John Key: Portrait of a Prime Minister. David rises to his feet, waving his arms for balance, alive with passion. Or is it David or David or David, or what difference does it make really? The smell is unbearable. Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave. Several weeks go by. Summer, autumn, winter.
The door opens. I wondered when you'd be back, says DC. Let's finish this, he says, letting out a regal purr as David Shearer, returned from the UN, walks towards him, shoes squelching through inch-deep blood. Yes let's, says a voice. It seems to come from within Shearer's guitar case. The hinge creaks opens. Both men recoil. It is Helen. She fixes me with a stare. "You can put down that pen now," she says. "Let's move on."