There are certain things women notice more than men- such as how, Simon Bridges, during his first press interview as the leader of the National Party, didn’t pour his own water and instead gestured to his deputy, Paula Bennett, to do it for him.
Now, I’m definitely not a Jacinda-worshipper but I have a feeling she could listen to a reporter’s question and pour her own water at the same time- maybe it’s true what they say: women are better at multitasking.
The other thing I noticed was how Bridges never looked at his deputy or his wife as he thanked them for their support, even though they were standing right beside him. Maybe he was too nervous and just focusing on getting through his speech.
Talking about his deputy and his wife- was it really necessary to have them standing next to him for such a long time, silent and still like two decorative potted plants?
I know Bridges was just following protocols- but, as a viewer, I felt sorry especially for Mrs Bridges who must have been wishing to be at home with his three young children.
So, what else did I notice during that speech?
Well, I noticed what he said about Māori.
He said he believed “Maoridom was changing”.
We didn’t have to wait long to find out how he thought Maoridom was changing because he went on to say:
“I think clearly we are seeing Māori succeed in business, both small and large, and they are as aspirational as every other New Zealander”.
So basically what Bridges believes is that Māori are changing by being more aspirational.
Isn’t that a clear dog whistle to the racists who believe the failures of the Māori are due to their lack of ambitions and general laziness and nothing to do with historical wrongdoings and structural and institutional racism?
Listening to Bridges I was reminded of how John Key, when questioned about the cold and damp conditions of some state houses, used to repeat the story of his solo mother keeping their state house dry by regularly airing it and generally managing well by working hard.
National supporters loved John Key’s stories because it perpetuated the myth that, poor housing, like the one that killed two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne in South Auckland, was generally due to neglect and laziness of the tenants, and nothing to do with the systematic failure of the Government to provide adequate housing for their citizens.
John Key never failed to capitalize on being a state house kid- but what did he ever do for state house tenants?
Well, he planned to sell their homes – including the one he was brought up in.
You see, The National Party’s ideology is based on a neoliberal model that encourages individuals to own their success by ignoring their privileges and good fortunes and by feeling that they- and they alone- were responsible for their achievements in life.
The flip side of this type of thinking assumes individuals must own their failure.
In other words, if you fail, it is because you are a loser- nothing to do with, for instance, the sate failing to protect you when in their care as a child; or any of the other numerous misfortunes that many people suffer in the course of their lives.
I think having a Maori political leader is a very positive and hopeful step only if that leader uses his position and influence to dispel destructive stereotypes about Māori – not perpetuate them.
The disappearance of the Māori Party from the Parliament should be a stark warning to Simon Bridges that Māori would not hesitate to let their votes do the talking.