The Legend that is Tom Scott, and the absence of feared leaders

Alex Fensome had  chat with cartoonist Tom Scott

As a boy, Muldoon had been bullied by other children, and had learned to get his punch in first.

Scott found his depiction of Muldoon as a ridiculously short and fat man hilarious, but the prime minister was deeply wounded by it. It seemed to bring up many of the insecurities he hid so well.

For the rest of his parliamentary colleagues, though, even those in National, it was refreshing. “His colleagues would come up to me and say, ‘Tom, I loved the Muldoon cartoon, shove it up the little bastard’.”

About a year into his time at Parliament, Scott ran into the prime minister in the corridor. People think he made this story up, but he insists it is true.

Scott leans back in his chair and puts on the famous Muldoon accent. “Ah, Mr Scott, saw an article of yours in The Listener . . . didn’t know you could write.”

“I didn’t know you could read,” he replied.

Awesome.   Worthy of Churchill and Thatcher.  

As the mockery continued, Muldoon began to obsess over getting Scott fired. He had him banned from a trip to China, tried to get him banned from India as well, kicked him out of press conferences and wrote to his editor several times, asking for his scalp.

The only man who could match Muldoon’s force of personality was David Lange, who, of course, was to succeed him as prime minister.

One of Lange’s famous quips was delivered to Muldoon.

Lange always had weight issues, but before he had a stomach stapling operation he was quite literally a massive presence, weighing 29 stone. At the dispatch box, Muldoon noticed the bulky Auckland lawyer struggle to his seat.

“Ah, Lange,” Muldoon called out across the benches. “Your belly is bigger than mine.”

“That may be so, but mine is further from the ground,” Lange said.

In that moment, Scott says, Muldoon’s power began to fail.

“Lange was funnier and sharper and quicker than Muldoon . . . Don McKinnon said they knew then his days were up and this morbidly obese man across the aisle who couldn’t cross his legs was going to take over.”

Not since Clark has Labour had an MP that can command true fear.   Key has mastered the art of exercising the fear behind closed doors, but letting the public see his other side.   The smiling assassin isn’t just Labour spin.   Key is a hard man when he needs to be.

Labour are desperately on a search for someone who can take control in the same style as Muldoon and Clark.  Until then, they’ll stumble along, laughing at each other, and spending more time undermining their own rather than acting like a coherent opposition.


– The Dominion Post

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.