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New Zealand

Short Story of a Labour Candidate


“I’m as born an optimist as Chippy himself”: Vincent O’Sullivan imagines a Labour Party candidate, essentially campaigning for themselves with a snowball’s chance in hell


I was born the week Norman Kirk, that Leviathan of Labour, died. It is obvious Nature intends me to follow in his wake. Should the New Zealand public have similar good sense, I’m home and hosed. If not, I am simply hosed.

A politician is a citizen who believes he has the skills or the right to tell other citizens what to do, whether that is replacing the national flag with a golf shirt logo, to tell another culture their destiny is to behave like yours, or advising the poor in South Auckland to just toughen up, eat more Big Macs, and leave the subtleties of nutrition to the gym-trim waistbands of Epsom. If I might generalise again, the very word politician is a capacious tent that covers former school bullies, future consultants, a slew of mental afflictions, and gifts as various as milking the till, as it was called during the time of the First Labour Government, or having it off on the ministerial couch, which lead to Mr Speaker’s ruling that stiff hardback chairs be mandatory furnishing. Although in all fairness, endorsed by all parties, there is consensus that under no circumstances, and sworn on the graves of departed leaders, no member I have had the privilege of working with is susceptible to perks, bribes, tax fiddling, doing a good turn for mates, groping at annual conferences, or bad-mouthing a fellow MP. Good God, as if I’d stay for a day in an outfit that tolerated that!

[You will find that at times I set in square brackets what I do not publicly declare. What privately I think of the hundred kilos of condemned veal who is standing against me. With his one deep conviction, that less should be given to those who have little, more should be given to those who have much. The polls don’t altogether favour me, would you believe it? But the thought of him! I love democracy, but as the courts will tell you, love isn’t always easy. At the moment, comrades, it is rockshit hard.]

But to the nitty-gritty. Talk is cheap, policy is what the electorate hold dear. Apart from agreeing with all calls of Caucus, as promptly as I would to the calls of nature, I might assure you that I am blessed with a flexible moral sense, that would never bind me to wishy-washy consistency from pre-election promise through to post-election delivery. A trustworthy politician is nothing if not reliably inconsistent, should loyalty demand it. I can think of cases where refusal to change lanes, simply on moral grounds, has almost brought governments down, would you believe that? The fuckers.

Now back to me. When it comes to representing the total community, my credentials are impeccable. Four of my great-grandparents were from the four component countries of the United Kingdom, one set happily married, the other serial adulterers. Another four from a vastly variegated whakapapa in both Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu. A cousin with a gift for genealogical research has assured me how overall our family tree is hung thickly with an equal number of teetotallers and chronic pissheads, men of the cloth and rabid atheists, incorruptible lawyers and loosely principled aunts with artistic interests, pacifists and those who frothed for a knuckle on Friday nights. Say whatever else about me, few can claim to descend from a more foolproof background. Putting it frankly, I am pretty much what most would aspire to, breeding-wise. The average Kiwi bloke.

You probably have as good or as vague a notion as anyone of what my party’s current policies are. I’ll merely mention a few of my own proposals which I intend to bring forward to party caucus post-October. I have good reason to believe these will win considerable support. So, to clear the brushwood from my forest of Good Ideas. We all have our own agendas, whether loudly declared or held close to our hearts. We are all familiar with those movies about escapees from institutions, or the ambitious mutterers in the lounges of Oldies Homes, who are suddenly struck with the desire, late in the day as it is, to venture where they never dared in their younger years to tread. What they so missed and now intend to rectify, becomes their Bucket List. What I now propose is inverse regrets. A Fuckit List. My own invention going back to my school days when we were expected to be excited by The Bone People. I read 20 pages and said Fuck It. The happy consequences are still with me.

Let me begin then with Law and Order. Everyone has their own idea on how best to cope with the scourge of Ram Raids. This is mine. My gift for lateral thinking runs it along the same tracks as a proposal for enlivening more intelligent and gripping game shows on New Zealand Television, and thus do something as well for the depressing statistics of screen-induced infarction throughout the country after 9pm. Everyone wants a quiet decent peaceful life. Everyone wants excitement and revenge and well-merited gore. Why not bring such laudable desires together?

I approach crime and entertainment as an utterly Kiwi combination. How to diminish one, increase the other, in one brilliant stroke? Listen up. Instead of ludicrously inept sentences, as Act is so frothy about, let’s give the offenders a row of shops of their own. Fill them with contents so attractive that even a boy at Kings College, a girl from Diocesan, would drool to break a window for. Cigarettes galore. Top shelf alcohol. Gucci handbags. Tiffany & Co jewellery. Signed All Black jerseys. Then – this is the bit to wait for – then decommissioned police vehicles are provided for victims who may care to ram them into the new shops. See what I’m offering? Let the games begin! All free to air. Losers lose all. Legitimate shops restocked. Think there’ll be objections? Fuck it!

                                          VOTE FISHTAIL!

[I’m as born an optimist as Chippy himself, with that lovely biodiverse image he uses on the campaign trail, reminding us that of the many baby tortoises who scamper towards the sea from their sand-dune cradles, quite a few actually arrive. My electoral opponent, Big Nat as he calls himself, sheer bluff and blow by contrast. Claims to have 500 volunteer doorknockers working the electorate. Don’t think that bothers me. Just means the wife and the kids, and my wheelchaired dad, will have to put in extra hours. As I say while I’m shaving every morning, do I know a winner when I see one!]

As for Racism. Vandals. Another national scourge. I’ve the way to sort out these wankers too, believe me. Those who deface billboards, mock facial tattoos, scrawl graffiti, take off haka. Forget about fines, I say. The greatest punishment is shame. Something that is not even visible, but the world knows, and looks at you more with scorn than pity. Who survives that? So the accused is in the dock, imagine, a drunken lout, a die-hard bigot, an educated nasty. In the dreadful days, as historians will tell you, a judge would place a black cloth across his head, before the ultimate sentence. In our own enlightened times, the judge, in the dual inheritance of our happy isles, will set a ringlet of kowhai flowers about his head, as the sentence is handed down – ‘The Transfer.’

Simple. Compassionate. Beautifully symbolic. In the very spirit of the Tiriti. Your name is in the papers, yet you walk from the court as free as the next man who walks past you. For those who know the sentence, know it all. For the public know your arse now carries the unerasable tattoo of our Sovereign, that guarantor of our country’s legal might. The King is now posteriorly with you for whatever the term of the sentence may be, the punishment so chemically exact that it will vanish on the day the sentence runs out. For a serious offence, like publicly imitating Aaron Smith leading the pre-match ritual, King Charles III may sit with you for several years, insulting in turn as you have insulted. For provocative re-telling of Billy T. jokes, or parodies on Tik Tok, perhaps as little as three months. Whatever. Fuck it!

                                       VOTE FISHTAIL!

Like many citizens between Hamilton and the Cape, I live on stolen land, land rigged with shonky deals, or taken by an army our gracious Victorian Queen committed to protect us all. I accept I can’t put history to rights alone. But at least I might offer a little more about the Bill I propose to introduce for the environment, and its impact on the planet. You might even observe that my election poster, so mocked by many, is of a polar bear slipping from a small veranda of ice, with the words: ‘Help get on again with Labour’.

I come at this from a slightly different tack. I would introduce a Fart Tax for four and five star restaurants and hotels. This would be a demonstration of Labour goodwill to farmers, to lessen their own tax burden. The equivalent cost of a meal consumed in Parnell or Upper Cuba Street, would go at once to the Farming Retention Fund. What one might call the afterplay of gourmandising on caviar, truffles, Chateaubriand, also would be scientifically monitored, and a Michelin nasal rating entitled to appear in advertising. A fraction of the revenue to farmers from such windfall innovation might even go to assist the feeding of the indigent, once it was proved the signs of hunger were genuine, and not something offered as part of a course at Toi Whakaari.

                                             VOTE FISHTAIL!

[“Really think you’ve got a snowball’s chance, my love?” You might find it hard to credit this one but that’s exactly what she asked me, what my wife asked me, only this evening? Et tu Brute, know what I mean? I tell her who the hell cares about being the underdog? Fighting the good fight, I remind her, ripping as only the true believer rips, lifting the proverbial back leg in pure disdain. Remember you can spell polls or poles two ways.]

I doubt that there are many in our country who do not occasionally feel battered and bruised by the sheer weight of words on all things political. Gabble, fake news, the mentally bereft of ZB talk shows. I know my own contribution against the tide is no more than a sandcastle at Piha. But at least I try. A method I have found useful in hall meetings and such, is one which I fully intend to use when I again take my rightful place in the Beehive.

Did not Wittgenstein, as I often ask the average or undecided voter, so strive to mark the boundaries of language, and accept there were things ‘of which we must not speak’? This may be the final gift I bring to politics. Brevity, the withering of ambiguity, in a country where coherent language is feared as rattlesnakes in less fortunate climates? What I want you to see when you think of me, is as I see myself, standing in my long-sleeved red Labour sweater. No matter what you might quiz me about, or ask for details on, my response is finely honed, its logic clear as sunlight. There is in fact no need for me to speak at all. Life, so often, comes down to Either/Or. All I have to offer you is this. I raise the right sleeve of my sweater, to show you the large type answer, “Suck it up”. Or should a more thoughtful answer be called for, it is my left sleeve I raise by way of, “Fuck it.”

Politics is always one, or it is the other. Even when the reverse is true.

[I had a dream. About four this morning. It reminded me of how much I have to thank my old mate Dun Mihaka for. Lose my seat come mid-October, it’ll be worth watching. Front steps of Parliament. The nation’s television cameras focused. There’ll be more than a touch I can tell you of the old whakapohane. They won’t forget me in a hurry.]

                                        KIA KAHA! VOTE FISHTAIL!

https://www.newsroom.co.nz/short-story-of-a-labour-candidate-1 Short Story of a Labour Candidate

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