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MARC MY WORDS – 11 March 2005

MARC MY WORDS – 11 March 2005

Alexander, the talent scout………..

You always know an election is on its way when the argy bargy of debate in Parliament ascends in shrillness and descends in tone. Everyone takes on a new haircut, a new suit (or gets the old one dry cleaned), a bright new look-at-me tie, and brushes up on a bookl of clichés. Politicians sharpen their pitches as they sharpen their claws…looking suspiciously like a pack of foxes developing a keen interest in the welfare of chickens. And seasoned politicians start spending more time adjusting their smiles rather than their policies.

It would be comforting to believe that elections were really about the issues. If only our elected reprehensibles (sorry, representatives) would articulate clearly and without self aggrandisement the current state of play and their visions for the future. In truth it comes down to a combination of perceived voter self interest and satisfied expectations, and popular like or dislike for particular politicians. The media is there to help!

A number of observations could be made, even at this early stage. Despite Helen Clark’s lack of empathetic connection with the voting public, she has a strong team to cover personal deficits. The list of competent lieutenants runs deep. Phil Goff, Paul Swain, Michael Cullen, Pete Hodgson, up and coming Damien O’Connor; all are safe pairs of hands. Lianne Dalziell is much too competent to leave on the back burner, and there is the ever popular John Tamihere, clearly a vote magnet, whose full potential has yet to be seen. Then there’s the luckless Benson Pope who is a bit like political muesli of Metamucil: tastes like boiled carpet but gets the job done. Despite the number of assaults on Labour (the NCEA fiasco, Foreshore & Seabed legislation, the debacle of 111 Police calls, the PC twaddle of prostitution reform, Civil Unions, and smoking bans in private establishments), her Royal PMness has run a tight ship, raising damage control and spin to an art form.

Now to the National party. Don Brash is smart but clearly has no instinct for political survival. In his role as leader he has clearly been cast as the night watchman in a horror movie, who, after seeing the monster, matches his demeanour with an uncertain life expectancy. He will be seen as expendable after the next election. He will go on following his party simply because he’s their leader. National’s experienced talent on the front benches is scant, resembling a thin broth rather than the hearty look of a government in waiting. Even so, there is some budding talent that needs time and experience to germinate; John Key, Katherine Rich, Simon Power (despite his unfortunate ‘we’ll even go to hell with the Americans if we have to’ utterances), and Judith Collins who can smile with utter sincerity knowing she has wiped her fingerprints from the knives thrust into the backs of others (just ask Lianne).

The Greens do have one thing going for them and that is an internationally recognised brand. Every time co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons rises to regale us with a minute’s wit and wisdom it is sandwiched between fifteen minutes of tedious intellectual vacuum. Irrespective of who sit in the Green seats they will always be a beacon of hope to those who talk to plants, jellyfish and bees. Unfortunately the Greens believe the conversation is mutual. It is hard to judge their talent pool because they really aren’t like the rest of us. In one sense their neo-tribal anti-capitalism replaces the part that religion used to play for normal people. As dangerous as their policies are to modernity, to their credit Greens are polite, well-meaning and never get involved with the nasty side of politics. Probably good neighbours if you don’t mind the fragrance of recycled macrobiotic compost Nevertheless if you are what you eat…then it explains a lot about Sue Kedgley.

Ah, now .Winston; if you see a bandwagon on its way through town, he is already on it. You could get the impression that NZ First should be re-launched as Winston First. After Ron Mark, can you name another of his 12 disciples? What about Craig McNair? Having listened to one of the longest five minute speeches from him recently I confess to looking forward to his silences. And they manage to get misquoted! Even being generous, you’d have to say that the party’s future post-Winston is about as bleak as a turkey’s at Thanksgiving. However he does bring a certain vaudeville quality to Parliament and though he is personally charming and witty, accepting an invitation for a night out with him is like accepting a drink from an urologist.

Under the stewardship of Captain Hide the ACT party resembles the Titanic hunting down an iceberg. With countless millions spent on their election campaigns, clearly disappointing their backers, the clever ones like Stephen Franks and Muriel Newman must be shopping around for a new home. National would be smart to take them and so beef up its brain trust. Even Roger Douglas has moved on. The truth is that ACT has disappointed on nearly all fronts. Amidst scandal and rumour they appear as lost souls wandering in the wilderness of Parliament. They are rudderless, directionless and in the end pointless. They talk of being the party of influence but really…they are the party of effluence. They are the lost luggage of politics that no-one wants to claim.

That’s everyone...almost. Remember Jim Anderton? Yes, he’s still hanging on. He’ll be back after the election but without his paperweight Matt Robson. Not much can be said for both, other than they haven’t done much. For some inexplicable reason the Wigram electorate has a soft spot for Jim (even though they did dump his wife from the City Council). It’s hard to understand his support since he has all the warmth of a pair of dentures grinning from a glass of water. There’s no accounting for taste.

And that leaves: United Future. We have not always got it right but in recognition of that, we do something about it. Accused of being poodles and lap dogs to Labour we have actually been their guide dogs. Extreme positions on issues may get the column width in the newspapers but real life operates on commonsense and integrity. Peter Dunne has both in bucket loads. So much so that the rest of us get tarred with the same praise.

Instead of moaning and griping about how the world isn’t, United Future gets on with the job. Peter Dunne has been the only politician who has been a Minister in both Labour and National cabinets. The point is, a starving man doesn’t care which side of politics the chef is from. So really, whether Labour or National, who do you think they should work with? Parties of extreme vision or the guy that gets it dunne. Peter Dunne.


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