Paddy Gower, TV3′s former political editor and now roving chief oversharer was recently interviewed by the former leader of the opposition Simon Bridges for his Generally Famous podcast. In this interview, Gower spoke about his former career as a head hunter. “I kind of thought that I really needed to take out an opposition leader, you know, and [David] Shearer was the one that was there.”
He was after scalps. He didn’t view politicians as people but as “amorphous”. So he was chasing people who to him, as a journalist, had no human form? This sounds as though he was playing a video game where you shoot people dead, but it doesn’t matter because they’re not real people. He admitted sometimes forgetting which stories were about working for a greater good and which were designed to take those scalps.
This is a dispiriting story. As is this: a scalp he would have taken was that of former justice minister Kiritapu Allan. As we all know, she crashed her car, her political career and quite possibly her party’s chances at the ballot box on a bleak rain-slicked night in Wellington. It is a sad scenario.
The right reaction came from the left: the Minister for Broadcasting and Media Willie Jackson, who looked close to tears, said the sorry saga was heartbreaking and spoke of Allan as “our girl”. Greens co-leader James Shaw also said it was heart-breaking. These were the right responses. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said politics was a game of “preying on the imperfections. It’s part of what we do here”.
The wrong reactions came from the right: Act leader David Seymour said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins had “a lot to answer for” for letting Allan return to her ministerial roles. It was a view echoed by Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon.
Really? This is political point-scoring in the stingiest of circumstances. Hipkins said the party ensured, after allegations of Allan’s workplace and private meltdowns, that she was provided with pastoral care. She wanted to return to work. She appeared assured and in control.
What was he supposed to say – “get thee to the loony bin!”? He’s a politician, not a shrink. She is a person. Not amorphous, not a scalp. Still, The Post’s Andrea Vance has reported that an anonymous first-term Labour MP told a meeting of MPs that the party had turned “a blind eye” to Allan’s obvious problems. Allan has since announced she will not stand in this year’s election.
You can’t turn a blind eye to Labour’s obvious problems. Clunk. Clank. Clunk. That’s the sound of yet another wheel falling off Labour’s campaign bus and rolling waywardly down the road. David Parker, the now former revenue minister, at his own request relinquished the role after Hipkins scrapped the wealth and capital gains tax propositions that Parker had been working on. It would be “untenable” to continue in his ministerial post, he said. He had tried to quit in a way that didn’t “cause any distractions”. Cue hollow laughter emanating from the PM’s office.
Because what Parker really said to Hipkins, in not so many words, is: “If I can’t screw the rich, screw you.”
He remained a “loyal” member of the Labour team. Yes, but which Labour team? The Be Kind Jacinda Ardern team he used to belong to? Or the new broom, clean-sweeping, tax-eating Hipkins team?
Kiss of death
Imagine, if you have the stomach for it, that you’re the co-host of RNZ National’s Morning Report, Ingrid Hipkiss. You arrive at work at grim o’clock and look at the morning’s interview schedule. You drew Winston Peters. Run, Ingrid, run. Lock yourself in a cubicle in the ladies’ loos and only come out When He’s Gone Away.
There is no point, of course. He will never go away. He’s a combination of Lazarus, the Terminator and the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Black Knight never surrenders either. He goes on fighting King Arthur even after his limbs are lopped off.
Peters is the same. His left arm – his Tauranga seat – was the first to go. “Tis but a scratch,” he proclaimed, more or less. When Peters and New Zealand First were reduced by election defeat to a torso with a head, Peters, like the Black Knight, probably considered the fight a draw. Peters is no big girl’s blouse.
Also like the Black Knight, you cannot win an argument with Peters. You shouldn’t even try. You could say “nice weather we’re having, Winston”, and he’d accuse you of not having got your facts right. He always gets his facts right.
When asked at NZ First’s campaign launch whether he stood by his accusation that Labour was a racist party, he said: “I don’t like racists.” There was cheering, apparently. He provided no examples of his former coalition partner’s alleged racism. “Let’s get the reporting straight,” he said during the illuminating-as-mud RNZ muddle. Of course, all interviews with Peters are about as illuminating as mud.
Hipkiss asked whether he had done the costings for the policy announcements made at the party’s launch, including, among other things, a dedicated prison for members of gangs, which would be designated terrorist organisations; a proposed reform of Pharmac; and an increase of $1.3 billion for the medicines budget.
Costings? Really, what a nerve asking the man who had been the country’s treasurer such an impertinent question! That he had been the treasurer was his answer to the impertinent question.
He may as well have said: “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about such matters.”
Ouch. Every political journalist in the country was thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Dann the man
Winston then had a swipe at Hipkiss’ co-host, Corin Dann. Talking a couple weeks earlier about the likelihood of NZ First returning to Parliament this election, Dann said he would not rule it out – adding “I hate to say it”, a throwaway line that would come back, boomerang-like, to bash him on the scone during Peters’ Hipkiss interview. Dann made an impromptu mea culpa. Well, he had to, didn’t he?
And the final score: RNZ 0, Peters 56. Ouch again, because you really don’t want to lose to Peters so early on in an election campaign. He’ll still be smirking about that win. He has only two facial expressions: smirking and glowering. It is hard to say which is more terrifying.
NZ First has ruled out going into a coalition with that devious Labour lot. Act leader David Seymour has ruled out working with NZ First, saying he couldn’t because, “I’m not Jesus.”
It remains unknown whether Jesus has ruled out working with Peters.