I am the last person to criticise someone for getting rolling drunk.
By some measures, the volume of wine per person reported to have been drunk at National List MP Aaron Gilmore’s infamous Hanmer Springs dinner was positively temperate. (Although, despite many years of trying, I have never had a wine waiter at a flash restaurant deny me service, so perhaps there is more to this part of the story.)
In a country where, rightly or wrongly, binge drinking remains acceptable and commonplace, what really does in Mr Gilmore is not his drunkenness but the horrible way he is reported to have treated the waiting staff, including clicking his fingers and abusing them, and – perhaps even worse – his idiotic threat to have the prime minister fire one of them.
On this point, I yesterday found myself in complete political agreement with the Service and Food Workers Union, something no doubt damaging to both me and the union.
The shame of Hooton writing that last line must be immense, which makes it all the more powerful.
When previous MPs have run into trouble for drinking they have survived because their uncouth behaviour has not crossed the line into personal abuse.
When Mr Gilmore’s fellow Christchurch MP, Labour’s Ruth Dyson, was picked up one night for drink-driving, there was no suggestion she had been rude to the police and she had the integrity to resign as a minister before the sun came up.
Similarly, when Mr Gilmore’s fellow National Party MP, trade minister Tim Groser, got himself well-and-truly inebriated at the bar of an Emirates A380 flying home after a disastrous Middle Eastern trade mission to bury his mother, there was no suggestion he abused anyone (except, I was told by my spies on the flight, me – after he found out what I, after a few wines, had written about the trade-mission fiasco for that Friday’s NBR).
In any event, both Ms Dyson and Mr Groser were valuable to their prime ministers and governments. Mr Gilmore has no such advantage.
He has no redeeming political features at all, and I doubt he will even make the list come the next election, despite his impressive CV.
To say Mr Gilmore’s political career is going nowhere is an understatement.
Reportedly never popular even within the National Party in his home district of Canterbury, he was National’s 2008 sacrificial lamb in the safe Labour seat of Christchurch East, losing to Labour’s Lianne Dalziel by over 5000 votes.
Nevertheless, he snuck into parliament on the list, but received no promotion in his first term as an MP, indicating the low regard in which he is held by John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce, and much of the rest of the National cabinet and caucus.
Meanwhile, his 2008 contemporaries Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges, Hekia Parata, Amy Adams and Michael Woodhouse have become ministers, and the next in line for ministerial jobs, Todd McClay and Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, already chair the powerful Finance and Expenditure and Social Services select committees respectively. There will never be any such promotions for Mr Gilmore.
Undeterred at having achieved nothing in his first term except attract publicity over a false CV, he sought re-election but was awarded the lowest place on National’s 2011 list among incumbents except for newbie Jami-Lee Ross, only elected as MP for Botany earlier that year, and the unloved Paul Quinn. He was also put up again for Christchurch East.
In the 2011 election, it turned out that is not just National Party officials and MPs that seem to have a particular dislike of Mr Gilmore but also the good voters of Christchurch East.
His career, such as it is is over. He may as well just piss off. He won’t though such is his hubris.
As of this morning, the Prime Minister and his office appear almost to be begging for a formal complaint from the Heritage Hotel which they could hand over to Ms Upston as a first step towards getting rid of Mr Gilmore.
Any of the next few names on National’s list – Claudette Hauiti, Jo Hayes or Leonie Hapeta – would offer the party more in terms of electoral appeal than Mr Gilmore.
But they do have to move carefully.
Unlike, say, NZ First, National is a democratic party and, as Jim Bolger found with Mr Peters, Bill English with Maurice Williamson and Don Brash with Brian Connell, it is extremely hard to get rid of a recalcitrant MP. Even in the recent NZ First case, Mr Peters failed to drum the disgraced Brendan Horan out of parliament altogether.
Mr Key just announcing Mr Gilmore is fired achieves nothing. He needs to be encouraged to resign.
Of course, he probably won’t. Mr Gilmore will never get a job as well paid as this one, especially now we know he doesn’t have the high-level finance-sector qualifications that were once claimed.
Right now, for doing pretty much nothing, he earns $142,000 a year, plus free air travel and subsidised Bellamy’s booze.
Sadly, he’s probably not going anywhere.
Unless of course all the other scandals associated with Aaron Gilmore surface in short order. They will.