So, who's the politician of the year?

by gabeatkinson / 13 December, 2012
From sublime to ridiculous, aided and abetted by the ubiquitous Kim Dotcom – that’s the spectacle Parliament has presented us this year.
They’ve tried, they’ve failed, they’ve got away with murder or been pinged for petty atrocities, and sometimes they’ve even done a good job – but it would be grossly unfair to say our MPs have bored us during 2012. On the contrary, to invoke a term favoured by Prime Minister John Key, it has been one big rolling maul of surprises, some of them beyond wacky – from the sublime (such as Parliament’s willingness to legalise gay marriage) to the ridiculous, (list MP Brendan Horan claiming a mandate to remain an MP after being sacked from his caucus). We’ve even learnt about our leaders’ secret and inner lives. Who could forget details of “Planet Key”, where the golf links are eternal, but there are no toilets so no one has to worry about underpaying the people who clean them; or the 007 lifestyle of John Banks, who thinks so little of jumping out of helicopters to attend champagne parties with international billionaires that such trifles simply fade from his mind?

It’s important to encourage our leaders, so if they can’t always actually lead us in any meaningful sense, they at least keep trying to figure out where they’re going wrong in an entertaining way. Herewith, some pats on the back.

John Key/by Chris Slane

The Pam Corkery Diploma for Diction:

John Key, whose offer of support to the United States “in that context” was misheard by the State Department as “in that conflict”, thus briefly committing us to war.

Speech of the Year:

Parekura Horomia’s treatise, during the Mt Maunganui Borough Reclamation and Empowering Act Repeal Bill debate, on the difference between two similar Maori words, tiko and teka. “Tiko is about excrement, and teka is about embellished fibs, a lot of [which] originates from over there [the Government benches]. We need to ensure that we can differentiate. This bill … ensures that we appreciate that excrement going into the sea is not a good thing. It doesn’t matter who tikos, Maori tiko or Pakeha tiko. But God forbid if I was out there trying to get paua and kina and something that came out of Maurice Williamson’s body came flowing past. That’s how dastardly this excrement is. What comes down from the bottom has got into the water!”

Apology of the Year:

David Cunliffe/by Chris Slane

The one David Cunliffe didn’t make for the leadership coup he didn’t hatch with colleagues and people in the wider Labour Party, including on the floor of the party conference and by refusing to endorse the leader on national television, because, “Crikey, dick!”, it was all a figment of everybody else’s imagination.

Campaign of the Year:

Tau Henare’s mission to become the next Speaker. He has lost weight, given up smoking, taken up a gruelling exercise regime, moderated his anarchic social media blurts and even stopped making boorish interjections in the House. He has massively out-lobbied the job’s other avid suitor, Maurice Williamson – though both men would probably agree to a Fight For Life wearing pink sequinned onesies if it would get them the gig. Meanly, the Government seems determined to give the job to Primary Industries Minister David Carter – who doesn’t particularly want it – so as to free up Cabinet space for promotions.

Sledge of the Year:

Paula Bennett/by Chris Slane

“Zip it, Sweetie”, from Paula Bennett to Labour’s Jacinda Ardern. Patronising, yes; sexist, aha; disrespectful, absolutely. But it caught on quicker than Gangnam Style, which goes to show that authentic Westie argot is great ammo.

Spooky Karmic Comeuppance of the Year:

Just a week after causing ructions by mocking a radio DJ’s “gay” red shirt, John Key is forced to wear the Asean summit’s traditional conference leaders’ costume: a very bright, iridescently glowing, figure-hugging pink shirt.

The Joseph Ward Prize for Mathematics:

David Parker, with Labour’s affordable housing policy. The finance spokesman was 600% out in his costings, compared with his inter-war predecessor, who accidentally promised to borrow $70 million instead of $7 million. But Ward was re-elected, so stick with it, David. As they say in the movies, if you build them…

Long Bow of the Year:

Parekura again, hosing down moral panic about hungry schoolchildren: “They might be trying to keep trim!”

The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval:

David Parker/by Chris Slane

To National’s backbench, who have flocked to the private members’ bill ballot with a slew of hitherto undreamt of Grand Passions. While other parties’ MPs have indulged themselves with trivial reforms like marriage equality and feeding hungry children, Kanwaljit Bakshi, for example, seems to have immigrated to New Zealand a decade ago with the express purpose of repealing the 1915 Military Manoeuvres Act, which allowed the state to commandeer land for army exercises. Paul Goldsmith apparently lives to see the small print around emailed contracts tidied up. Tim McIndoe was jumping out of his skin for the chance to license scrap-metal dealers. Only a cynic would imagine the Attorney-General has a list of the chores forced upon junior MPs…

The Nicky Hager Prize for Peace in Our Time:

The New Zealand Parliament, for its new ruction-free early sitting times, which have almost done away with the aggro of urgency. MPs frequently meet early on Wednesdays and Thursdays to work through uncontroversial chores like Treaty settlements, unclogging the legislative timetable and doing away with the pre-holiday tantrums of all-night sittings. Means MPs can save all their testosterone for afternoon Question Time.

The 50 Shades of Grey Medal for kinkiness:

Anne Tolley, who entered fully into the spirit pioneered by Judith “Crusher” Collins when she introduced provision for convicted boy racers’ cars to be compacted in the scrap yard. To mark the first crushing, Tolley wore the style of high-heeled boot favoured by dominatrices the world over, and actually mounted the crushed car. The resultant TV footage may or may not have been submitted to the film censor’s office.

The Wikipedia Citation for Public Information Access:

A close result this, but the Accident Compensation Corporation’s regular drops of random clients’ details into the laps of complete strangers win out over Work and Income’s nosey-parker-friendly kiosks.

The Zip It, Sweetie Prize for Discretion:

The nation’s diplomatic corps and support staff who, despite being ruthlessly gutted as a departmental force by minister Murray McCully and chief executive John Allen, did not leak to Labour’s Phil Goff absolutely everything that crossed their desks.

The 101 Ways with a Pound of Mince Frugality Medal:

“Seven in one blow” goes the fairy-tale boast, nearly equalled by ACC Minister Judith Collins, who managed to parlay one mini-scandal – the resignation of ACC Minister Nick Smith over the mishandling of a claimant’s affairs – into a whole string of sequential and standalone scandals: the wholesale dung-out of the ACC board, an internal National Party grudge match, a humiliating defamation row and general high-octane fear and loathing that left no one in the vicinity unscathed – including her. Faced with the option of staunching the scandal flow by saying, “Yes, the ACC cocked up and it’s very very sorry”, Collins chose the warpath route instead, creating optimal recreation for the media, and bounteous billings for lawyers and PR consultants.

The That’s What We Pay Them For Certicate of Excellence:

To New Zealand First’s Richard Prosser, who at the start of every House sitting day, without fail, files several tweets giving an account of the most colourful and striking of the male MPs’ neckties.


Politician of the Year:

Kim Dotcom/by Chris Slane

Kim Dotcom. We haven’t actually elected him to anything, but, dammit, we probably would. The German internet tycoon-cum-bandit has played public opinion like a Stradivarius. To invoke the Dick Emery dichotomy, oooh, he is awful, but we like him. He has loomed like a novelty barrage balloon over the Government all year, causing serious attacks of amnesia in ministers, swooning fits among Opposition MPs and an outbreak of sucking-up to the United States among our police and security officials. Through judicious use of social media and shrewdly timed public appearances everywhere from Parliament to pantomime, the fun-loving on-remand defendant in a ginormous pending legal fight has been catnip to the media. His primary contribution may ultimately be as the subject – martyred or otherwise – of that test case, as it could set new parameters on intellectual property in the wild west of cyberspace. Meanwhile, only Santa knows if Big Kim has been naughty or nice – but he could give our politicians a masterclass in how to charm and manipulate one’s way out of the tightest, most ignominious predicaments.

Politician of the Year – runner-up:

David Shearer, for survival against all the odds. He has more lives than the proverbial cat – even more than cats that look like David Cunliffe. Shearer’s poll rating has actually been no worse than Helen Clark’s in the comparable phase of her Opposition leadership. But his bumbling infelicities have made him among the year’s most ridiculed politicians. In a move unprecedented in this country’s politics, the Labour Party changed its entire constitution with the tacit but unmistakable purpose of getting rid of him and he still came up smiling. Why? Because despite this being next door to an insult in politics, he is a very nice guy. The public is slowly warming to him, and the majority of his caucus colleagues have fought hard to keep him in the teeth of party collywobbles. Shearer is proof that sometimes it’s possible to reach that neat tipping-point at which a failure can be turned into glamorous underdoggery
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