Trevor Mallard's something of a contradiction. He's one of the mushiest guys you'd be likely to come across, he's loyal to a fault, particularly if you're part of the Labour tribe.

Speaker Mallard's changed the face of Parliament. He allows mothers to breast feed in the debating chamber, he embraces children around the place, even recently taking the hand of his six-year-old niece on the daily, awfully formal procession, led by the bearer of the Mace, from his office to the debating chamber.

This animal loving, third most important person in the country's pecking order even allows dogs into Parliament. So protocol in a personal sense is something that he tends to work around.

That's the soft side.

Advertisement

The other side of this man is as hard as nails, once telling rugby bosses to shove a bottle of the beer sponsor's product where the sun don't shine, having a knuckle up with the other political scrapper Tau Henare in the debating chamber's lobby after inviting him outside, and then a few years back remonstrating with his predecessor Lockwood Smith as he was being thrown out for the very same behaviour he's now facing.

The transgressions in the bear pit yesterday were about as vague as the comment that he alone heard, the Prime Minister being called a stupid little girl, a phrase National vehemently denies having made but one it obviously enjoys making while protesting its innocence.

So what was said that got under his skin in his battle with the Bennetts?

National's David Bennett is the sort of bloke who'd find it hard saying boo to a goose. During the cut and thrust of debate Mallard was telling the grizzlies of the time he got his marching orders from Lockwood Smith and Bennett interjected "but you weren't named."

"Withdraw and apologise," demanded The Speaker.

"What for?" inquired Bennett and the standoff continued for what seemed like an agonisingly long time before Mallard again and again made the demand before pulling a Dirty Harry declaring "I will name you," one of the most serious reprimands available to him.

Bennett saved his own bacon by finally complying and then it was his namesake's turn, aided by an intervention from the booming Gerry Brownlee asking how can one apologise without being told why.

Mallard remonstrated saying it was getting to the point of being ridiculous when all hell broke loose with the shriek of Paula Bennett's voice cutting through the rest, agreeing it was ridiculous, which immediately saw her being pointed toward the exit sign, becoming the first MP to be sent packing by Mallard.

Both transgressions seemed trivial in the order of things but they show the sort of pressure the Speaker's feeling - and he's not the first to earn the wrath of the Opposition and he most certainly won't be the last.