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The Briefcase Blog: Winston Peters Privileges Show

The Briefcase Blog – John Bowie

The Owen Glenn & Winston Peters Privileges WOW Show

The Capital’s WOW week preview got away to a terrific start with a circus-like display in Parliament’s privileges committee rooms. The theme for the two-day event was a US congressional committee hearing – think the Iran Contra hearings if you can remember them. Largely a male-only affair it was standing-room only for the first entrant, a soberly attired Owen Glenn whose ploy was to come with an attractive accessory (no, not Geoff Harley) and he scored well as a result, getting a perfect 8 out of 10. The performance was heartfelt, edged by a mannered testiness, which blunted the parliamentary cross examiners as the lawyers in the fold, lead by the rough hewn Russell Fairbrother, counterbalanced by the wheezy peskiness of Dail Jones, saw Glenn see them off with considerable effect. The non-legal Attorney General Dr Cullen took a cue from Kavanagh QC, a show he loved evidently, as he pushed hard but to little effect on the issue of whether Glenn knew he was talking with Winston Peters or not. A tough line, Doctor.

Winston’s Less Fine Hour

By contrast, Winston Peters’ performance commenced with a high degree of highly nuanced politicking which may have resonated well if only it had been followed by an equally accomplished handling of his cross examination. A three out of 10 I’m afraid Winston. Drama descended into farce and then to pathos as we could see a politician who’s been on borrowed time for most of his career slice a whole chunk off a block of credibility no one thought he had in the first place. It was like watching a Britney Spears’ comeback. He was all over the place, dredging up ghosts of Wine Boxes past and hammering the theme that Dr Geoff Harley, whose evidence-coaching skills were honed at the Wine Box hearings according to Peters’, was back to his old tricks with Glenn’s evidence too. “His DNA and blood are all over it,” he said colourfully. A raft of legal characters get bit parts or leads in the Peters play, from his blood brother to Peter Williams, Gary Gottlieb and of course the hapless Dr Harley.

The Judges Decision Please . .

The Privileges Committee is a powerful one, albeit operating via party political interest and amid a rush-to-judgment process that may do little to serve the natural justice it is there to protect as much as Parliament’s privileges. The range of penalties that may flow are significant, from censure to imprisonment, and who knows in a highly charged political atmosphere and a swirling cocktail of ongoing accusations just what may result with this imbroglio. A mess to be sure. Looking down from the second floor, which incidentally erupted with hearty laughter on a number of occasions with audience-members joshing and joking with one another during Winston’s answers, I was mostly impressed with the state of Peter Dunn’s bouffant and the perfection of Winston’s coiffure.

Boris Johnson and the London Lawyers

Talking of good hair, I’m a fan of Boris Johnson with all his eccentricity and fun. But he’s got London lawyers’noses out of joint by ignoring the profession – a major economic contributor to his city – in his new International Business Advisory Council, a body set up to improve London’s role as a place to live and work. Some observers think it’s a fitting snub to a profession with an over-inflated sense of self importance. Others chide Boris for placing such esteemed practitioners of commercial nous as British Airways on his board.


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