Once in a Blue Moon


david cunliffe and grant robertson

“This is essential legislation that has attracted a lot of debate, much of it alarmist.”. So said the PM as he opened the third and final reading of the GCSB Bill. This from a man who alarmingly dropped the al-Qaeda word into the debate on More FM’s Breakfast Show. This from a man who disarmingly said on Campbell Live that emails can’t be accessed and then alarmingly modified his patent falsehood in a media statement next day to the New Zealand Herald. In the same debate, Bill English made short work of the critics. “The Human Rights Commission did not read the legislation” said Bill with a straight face. Chris Finlayson made an even shorter, shriller shrift on it, accusing Dame Anne Salmond of being “shrill and unprofessional”. So much for any and all opposition: alarmist, shrill and unprofessional to the extent of not even reading the legislation. I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that those unalarmist bastions of professionalism and unshrillness, Peter Dunne and John Banks saved us from ourselves, ignoramuses all, and voted with the Government to enact the new laws. Next time, those slouches in the Law Society, the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission will know better than to cross swords with these political paragons, these virtuosos of virtuosity, these gate-keepers of democracy. Only their self-interest outshines their national interest. Or should I say National interest. Last I heard, Banks has yet to face his day in court on those alarming election fraud charges. Alarmingly,  we haven’t heard the last yet of Peter Dunne though.

The Privileges Committee met this week to hold an investigation into the inquiry of the leaking of a report into a report. Unsurprisingly, no one was any the wiser at the end of it. As Winston Peters noted, with some alarm, it was a farce. After $42 000 worth of investigation, the leaker remained, dare I say it in these much-surveilled times, Anonymous. All fingers point to Dunne. Did Dunne do it? Does it matter anymore? He stood up when it counted, for himself, and has even reconstituted himself into a proper Party again. There is a word on the street for willing sellers. It rhymes with ‘bores’.

Speaking of bores, David Shearer’s sudden departure from the Labour leadership was anything but boring. Perhaps it was a long time coming. Nice guys don’t even finish in politics, let alone finish last . The inexplicable durability of Banks and Dunne proves this. On Citizen A, I once referred to Mr Shearer as Dr Stumblebum. You have to be able to string words together in this business. As Key proved on Campbell Live, the veracity of these words is less important than the jet-stream at which they must be able to flow from a politician’s mouth. Poor David. Even his farewell speech contained a few stumbles. Nice man. Wrong job. Ruthless snake-oil salesmen (like our own PM) make for better casting. David was too ruth, if there is a word meaning the opposite of ruthless. Key may be a lot of things but ruth is not one of them.

Labour is now seeking a replacement: a new leader. Leading the pack are David Cunnliffe and Grant Robertson. Both are fluent speakers with political experience who can think on their feet and take the fight to National. Is David too polarizing and un-telegenic? Is Grant too beltway and….well….gay? Who cares! Both are better placed to focus and communicate the Left’s message than Shearer and therefore both pose a greater threat to the Government. One can only hope the selection process doesn’t devolve into an act of political self-immolation. Russel Norman for the Greens, Winston Peters for New Zealand First and Hone Harawira for Mana have walked the talk (and talked the walk) in Opposition. Love or loathe them, they have a clarity of purpose and expression that Labour has yet to find. When they speak, their ideas, like them or loathe them, cut through. You know what you’re dealing with. They have, shall we say, political eloquence. This is what Labour’s next leader must have if he is to unite the Party and the people and become our next Prime Minister.

At the moment, we endure political arrogance . In their own words: alarmist, shrill and unprofessional. Key’s political mismanagement so irked Judith Collins and Anne Tolley that they let their true colours show, criticizing the PM’s accessing of their private communications without their consent. Aside from the preposterousness of their claim, made on the very morning they voted to support the GCSB Bill into law, the fact of their criticism, contempt even, is a measure of the arrogance we currently endure. Its antidote is, as I say, political eloquence. Will we hear it over the next few weeks as Labour makes its choice? I hope so. With all my heart, I hope so.

On other fronts, there was a blue full moon this week.