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Sludge Report #141 – Negotiating With A Spider

In This Edition: Negotiating With A Spider - Discussions On The Tuffet - Speaking Of Spiders, Of With Her Head

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging, and occasionally finely balanced. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - to subscribe...

Sludge Report #141

Negotiating With A Spider

Little Miss Muffet
Sat On A Tuffet
Eating Her Curds And Whey
Down Came A Spider
And Sat Down Beside Her
And Frightened Miss Muffet Away
- Traditional Nursery Rhyme

The trouble with beginning a political column with a nursery rhyme is that you then have to reconcile it with the point you want to make about politics.

And in the case of the tale of the tuffet, while we all know who the spider is, who is Miss Muffett?

Are the curds and whey GM or GE-Free? And does this nursery rhyme help us understand anything about the current political situation?

If truth be told, the main lesson in the cautionary tale of Miss Muffet is a reminder about the nature of spiders, i.e. that they are scary.

Meanwhile from the spider’s perspective the tale teaches that if the spider wants to make friends with Miss Muffet, then it shouldn’t sneak up on her.

Finally perhaps the most important point the tale tells us is illustrated simply by the fact that we instinctively know – just by reading the headline to this report – who the spider is.


Discussions On The Tuffet

That said, at this early stage in the discussions on the tuffet, nobody appears to have been scared away by the spider, yet.

Meanwhile Miss Muffet is no longer alone with her curds and whey. She has been joined by Peter Pan, a friendly chap who appears to have the ability to levitate (and possibly walk on water), and who has eight small children in tow.

This morning Miss Muffet and Peter Pan were the draw card on Radio New Zealand’s nine-to-noon show, debating whether their respective parties, the Greens and United Future NZ, might work together when negotiating with the spider.

Miss Muffet appeared as keen as mustard to get down to business with Peter Pan. Once bitten twice shy, Miss Muffet pointed out that last time round on the tuffet her companion had left with the spider before her eight legs had even hit the tuffet.

The spider had then kept her new friend prisoner for most of the term of the last Parliament, until, just prior to the election she dismembered him and promptly swallowed two thirds of his limbs. All that remained now was a trophy head which the spider was keeping in pride of place in her parlour, and which was occasionally sent on tours of the provinces to remind all the people just how tough a nut the spider-in-chief really is.

But Peter Pan was having none of this discussion about any shortcomings in the personality of the spider.

In fact Peter seemed to be positively looking forward to the moment when she would drop down and recommence discussions with him on his ideas for the future of Never-Never Land.

One almost got the impression that the Spider had already dropped in, earlier in the morning, before Miss Muffet arrived. If so, the spider appeared to have made Peter an offer he felt was too good even to contemplate discussions with Miss Muffet on the side.

Peter’s explanation for his sudden bout of arachnopilia was that, rather than talk to Miss Muffet about the composition of her curds and whey, he preferred at this stage to discuss with the spider the issues he and the children had in common with her.

Both Miss Muffet and Linda Clark did their best to convince him that at least considering some of the spider’s personality flaws might be in his interest, but Peter appeared to firmly have his eye on a future in Never-Never Land, in the company of the spider, and possibly without Miss Muffet around at all.

In the circumstances Sludge can only feel fearful for Peter’s children.

Once introduced to the spider’s charms they may all too quickly acquire their own dose of arachnophilia, and then before Peter knows his tuffet has gone, his children will be answering him back at Never-Never Land caucus meetings with the wise words of the spider in chief!

In addition his argument that talking to the spider first, and alone, makes sense is seriously flawed.

There can be little doubt that the spider is far more likely to make concessions towards his and the children’s demands if he works with Miss Muffet.

In his defence, perhaps the fact that he has so recently discovered that he can fly has Peter convinced that he will be able to escape the spider’s clutches should she turn on him.


Speaking Of Spiders – Off With Her Head

This morning’s other major development on the political front involved another spider altogether.

Also on Nine-to-noon show with Linda Clark this morning was former National Party president Sue Wood, loudly defending the democratic institutions of the National Party, and indirectly the career prospects of National Party spider-in-chief Michelle Boag.

The most important thing for the National Party in this time of pain, said Wood, was to stick to the democratic constitution and leave Michelle alone for now. In such difficult times process is all that remains, and therefore process should be slavishly adhered to.

Sue, a PR practitioner who has possibly learned many of her tricks from her eight legged friend, sounded very convincing. Her plea of mercy on behalf of Michelle was delivered not only in dulcet like tones, but with spider-like adherence to the script.

Sludge notes that Sue Wood’s intervention at this stage in the post-election end-game is a clear indication that the National Party’s spider-in-chief is now playing a rear-guard survival game.

While she has put it about far and wide that she will, “almost certainly”, not stand for re-election in a year’s time, “almost certainly”, is not the same thing as, “won’t”. And the difference is especially stark when spoken by such masters of the art of weaving word-webs as Sue Wood and Michelle Boag.

And if Boag’s position is given even a cursory examination, this latest line of argument makes very little sense.

Why, if she is planning on stepping down in a years’ time, would she want to continue in office for now?

Wouldn’t it be far better for everybody to, to use her own expression, “sweep out the dead wood”, the under-performing president, and build a new future with a clean slate?

It stands to reason then that Michelle has no intention at all of stepping down in a year’s time. She is planning on hanging around if she can, but she can’t admit it yet. Not just for a year, but for the next election.

And as the arachnophobes and arachnophiles line up in their opposing lines to do battle, the spider-in-chief is now holding nothing back.

Sue Wood, Ailsa Smale and Murray McCully have so far come to her defence.

Just why they have done so is a mystery that only a fellow spider is likely to understand, and therefore in Sludge’s opinion the remnants of the National Party ought to bring this chapter to a close swiftly.

As the Queen of Hearts once remarked to Alice, “Off with her head”.

Anti©opyright Sludge 2002

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