- Date published:
10:53 am, August 12th, 2022 - 47 comments
Categories: chris hipkins, greens, jacinda ardern, james shaw, labour, Politics, Steven Joyce, trevor mallard, uncategorized - Tags:
There are necessary bastards in political life, and in developed democracies compared to everywhere else ours are gentle as lambs. Sure these animals get fictionalised like those in Chief of Staff,
House of Cards,
Or The Thick of It.
Bastards are necessary. Assholes are not.
Bastards are people who do hard, impolite and very tough things to keep the system at a minimum functioning and at a maximum improving. Obama would not have got national healthcare through without Rahm Emmanuel. Rahm would have eaten West Wing’s Toby Ziegler for a snack.
Ardern would look even more ineffectual in policy delivery without the pure operator politician of Chris Hipkins. Arguably Minister Little is a necessary bastard to get healthcare through, as he did in Justice with excellent prison reform results. The comparison to Mahuta’s actual delivery is being watched.
Which brings us to the previous Speaker of the House. Trevor Mallard is a bastard. His track record is actually an enviable record of Ministerial reform, and a legacy of Speaker rulings easily the better of Lockwood or Hunt. He faced a very stern test when anti-vaccination mandate protesters encamped outside Parliament. As Bastard Designate he did what every single Member of Parliament wanted him to do and kept them from meeting with actual Members of Parliament (other than a few deniable sideline chats).
No other Speaker has been called upon to act to physically protect Parliament itself. Mallard’s actions ensured that every single Member of Parliament remained as they desired unsullied by actual citizen engagement.
Stephen Joyce was National’s best bastard. Again, looking back on his track record he achieved enviable degrees of reform and delivery. The amalgamation of MED, Immigration, Labour, Tourism etc into MBIE as finally a bureaucratic force able to stand up to Treasury, and also the rollout of the national broadband fibre , were two of his most important and enduring. He was their best bundler, their superior tactician, and they never got a replacement. He was flinty, commercial, overlooked for PM, and quietly crushed plenty of reputations to stay on top.
There are capacious volumes of assholes. They exist in both Labour and National. I’m not talking about the 80% of MPs who really are no use at all other than to vote when told. Assholes are well documented in such books as Nicki Hager’s Hollow Men, Secrets and Lies, and Dirty Politics. A few appear in court cases about donations to political parties.
One difference between bastard and asshole is of course whether you get caught. That may not be just but it is true in politics. As Team America explains for risk of defamation, some such distinctions are better expressed in fiction.
Another difference between bastard and asshole is in roles that bastards play that assholes don’t. This is where between Trevor Mallard and Sam Uffindell there is a simply massive gulf. Bastards are there to let specific people know who is really in charge. Assholes, well, you know what they do.
James Shaw felt bastardry last month. Judith Collins felt it, as did Bill English, Simon Bridges, and plenty of others. It’s not necessarily dirty work, it may well be bullying, but it is what we exceedingly polite New Zealanders do to exchange or check power.
Our bastards don’t operate in the world of Kenya or Papua New Guinea, where the imbalanced ratio of bastards to assholes in parliament generates actual fights.
But bastards we have, they are necessary, and Mallard was a good bastard.
Sam Uffindell, well, everyone agrees he is an asshole.