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Lyndon Hood: On The NZ First Chorus Line

On The NZ First Chorus Line

By Lyndon Hood

A greek chorus might have something to teach NZ First

I am something of novice reader of parliamentary press releases, but from time to time I see something that I am sure would interest even the most grizzled veteran. For example, I was intrigued to note that Winston Peters had written audience responses into his Budget speech:

So here is an Education Minister who put the future of thousands of our children at risk. Is he a weak link?

Everybody – Yes

Should he go?

Everybody – Yes

But wait there is more...

Here, I thought, is somebody with a high degree of confidence in his own importance. That, or a "leader" who knew he gave 12 other people their scripts beforehand. Maybe both.

In the end he sounded not such much like a consummate rabble-rouser as the guy leading the cheers for the ref. after the rugby. Over the course of six repetitions of the theme, it got a bit tired.

Peters may have opened up new escalation of parliamentary warfare. History will decide whether this approach best considered as well-organised interjection, barracking, or an evocation of the style of rally popular among other modern nationalist anti-immigration parties.

What I feel it lacked was a proper sense of theatre. For one thing, even unprepared audiences are capable of a far larger repertoire of responses than the "Nothing!" and "Yes!" that Peters credits them with. If I could suggest one classic example:

You see this Minister just doesn’t know which Tom, Dick, Yossef, Ahmed, Osama or Ying Tong is actually here...

Man with towel on head appears in the back benches.

Everybody – Behind you!

Man hides.

I don't see anyone there. Are you making fun of me? We have passed on many of these cases and...

Man begins sneaking up on Peters, waving a big curvy sword

Everyone – Behind you!

Repeat ad lib.

This approach has its limits; clapping-if-you-believe-in-fairies is unlikely to be popular with the bulk of the opposition, and while everyone could probably manage a "When do we want it? - Now!" then answers to "What do we want?" would show an inconvenient lack of consensus and could, in some cases, last for several minutes.

If, however, you are able to brief your chorus line in advance, the possibilities are endless. To get the ball rolling, I suggest, as an appropriate compliment to the tone - and indeed the layout - of the parliamentary theatre, an actual Greek chorus:

There is a party that brings New Zealanders – both young and old – hope for a better future. And when the election is over, this party will begin the process of putting in place its policy programme for the future. That party is of course New Zealand First. And the halls are filling all over the country because help is on its way.

Everyone – King, I say it once again,
Witless were I proved, insane,
If I lightly put away
Thee my country's prop and stay,
Pilot who, in danger sought,
To a quiet haven brought
Our distracted State; and now
Who can guide us right but thou?

That last bit's a quote from Sophocles' Oedipus. I've always said the classics have a lot to teach us.

****** ENDS ******

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