Candidate Culture: The Election of Self-Importance

by Cadwaller

About the time New Zealand voted to adopt MMP as our electoral system there was an upsurge in “reality TV.” These are the shows which allow and indeed encourage those with negligible ability to briefly grasp a snatch or two of fame at least amongst those who bother to watch these flimsy spectacles. I recall the “Survivor” series and all those “my cooking is better than yours” type of shows which feature nobodies competing for nothing other than attention accompanied by bitchy asides and tear rinsed cheek-bones.

Is it a coincidence that we now endure nobodies luxuriating in our House of Representatives at our expense and in fulfillment of their own senses of self-importance ? Their “moment” of fame seldom exceeds a three year stint but it is sufficiently protracted for each nobody to display vividly their innate sense of self-importance.

Until the 2014 electoral campaign the type of candidate referred to above was generally propelled into the House by one of the peripheral parties: Who can forget the late Alamein Kopu who arrived courtesy of the Alliance? Brendan Horan a product of NZ First? Hone Harawira a one time display kit for the Maori Party? There have been exceptions in that National endowed the House with Aaron Gilmore and Peter Dunne who floats in every three years on his own finely woven magic carpet.  

So; back to “List MPs” where the creation of this creature has led to an unfolding of self-importance unsupported by ability, wisdom and fitness for purpose. Their presence in the House is frequently punctuated by inane outbursts on subjects as wide as the universe and as untempered as a loser in reality TV. The performances of List MPs invites the inquiry as to how they come to be selected by their respective parties? What are selections pinioned on? IQ? Looks? Sexuality? Money in the Party’s bank account? Last cab in the rank? The problems that we, their employers are faced with is, we just do not know. Inevitably we are expected to pay for and tolerate MPs who often have no discernible track record or indicia of suitability for their task. Mercifully a three year stint is ample time for their shortcomings to be brilliantly displayed.

In 2014 the shortcomings of the List MPs would appear to have flowed in to the selection of electorate MPs. One Labour electorate candidate accused John Key of being a “Shylock” in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm for his back-breaking task of winning in Rangitata. When confronted by this piece of anti-semitism he disavowed that he understood the meaning of his freely given aspersion. Who picked this person? OK,OK it was a committee of party faithful but is this sufficient to impart a degree of quality control to those persons we are expected to pay for and respect? Further, what motivates a person to stand? A wish to serve the country? A wish to serve a political party? A wish to serve oneself? I generally suspect the last of these alternatives.The seduction of being sky-rocketed into the House and ceasing to be “Joe Ordinary” for the delicious title of “Joe MP” must be overwhelming to some. It beats being the best cook on TV for a week! The flimsy attributes of some of those in the House begs the question: Can they make a soufflé ?

I recall the late Rob Muldoon sitting in Opposition in 1984 yelling across the House at the flush of new Labour MPs:”Have a good look around because you won’t be here long!”


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