Whatever happened to diplomacy?

The 2014 election campaign was the dirtiest we had ever seen in New Zealand politics. Rap artists, funded by NZ on Air, wrote a song about raping the prime minister’s daughter. Kim DotCom went around the country, stirring up students with chants of “F**k John Key”. Nicky Hager wrote a book, using private material that had been hacked, to try to bring the government down. It was a shambles of epic proportions. Personally, I was horrified.

It wasn’t the politicians doing the mud slinging. From what I can remember, John Key behaved with nothing other than grace and decorum, as did all the other politicians. It must have been very tough for the National MPs in particular, and I always wondered if this was one factor in Key resigning in 2016, instead of putting his family through that omnishambles for a fourth time.

By comparison, the 2017 campaign was a relatively sedate affair, with a shiny new star on the horizon, who was fawned over by the media, and no new books from Hager to throw grenades at National. Personally, although we did not get the result I wanted, it was a relief. Perhaps we were not going the way of the US political scene after all.

Since the new government was sworn in, about this time last year, it is the behaviour of the politicians themselves that has come under scrutiny. It seems to me that they have reached new lows in the way in which they conduct themselves, which makes the public – who are also the voters – look at them in horror and disbelief at the train wreck that they have become.

At least for now, I am not talking about Jami-Lee Ross. Yes, he is a slow release hand grenade but his behaviour is exceptional, erratic, and probably totally unique. Let’s leave him out of the equation for the time being.

I’m talking about this.

This is Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister, refusing to stand and applaud at Steven Joyce’s valedictory speech. I have never seen such ungracious behaviour from a senior politician before. Ever.

We all have to do and say things we don’t mean, Winston. It is part of living in a civilised society, and we particularly expect our elected representatives to behave accordingly.

Then, of course, there was this:

Winston Peters walked into a group of media and played the song “Burning Bridges” from the movie, Kelly’s Heroes. Yes, Winston. You have made it clear how much you hate National but was this tirade really necessary? As a politician who has been in the gun a few times yourself, could you not have behaved with a little more grace and dignity?

That is what we expect of our elected representatives. Among other things, the role is one of diplomacy. Someone should tell Winston Peters that.

Then, of course, don’t forget this:

Yep. That’s our conservation minister using the C-word on live TV. I have watched it a number of times, and there is no sign that it was a slip-up. She didn’t miss a beat. She said it deliberately and it was disgraceful.

Oh, and this:

That is the co-leader of the Green Party repeatedly using the C-word at a rally. This one is particularly offensive because it is a word that is NEVER used in polite society. I actually couldn’t watch the whole video, because I thought it was just plain offensive. Nothing that she could ever say will make me think otherwise.

Politics is a brutal game, but in the end most politicians are elected. Of course, all of the politicians that I have called out here are NOT elected – they got into parliament on their party lists. Maybe that is the difference. List MPs can behave as disgracefully as they like. They know they will get back in next time.

I cannot tell you how much I miss John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce. Whether you liked them or not, they never behaved like this. They behaved with dignity. Think of the time Steven Joyce had a dildo thrown in his face. He laughed it off. Think of that in comparison to Marama Davidson in the above video.

Whether you liked Bill English or Steven Joyce or not, at least they knew how to conduct themselves in public. Many members of the current rabble only belong in the gutter and they are dragging New Zealand into the gutter with them.