The Dim-Post

September 23, 2014

Inevitable Labour pontification post

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:22 am

Labour are having their caucus meeting today: step one in the post-mortem of what went wrong in the election. There’s already the inevitable talk about Labour’s values, and Labour needing to reconnect with the voters so here’s my take, which is, admittedly, pretty much what I’ve been saying for about six years, only this time compressed into graphic form. I hereby present ‘Mclauchlan’s Hierarchy of Political Needs’, a summary of what I believe the majority of non-tribal voters look for when they’re choosing which party to vote for. As with Maslow, the base of the pyramid are the fundamentals: only when these are satisfied does the apex become significant.

mhpn

Almost all the left-wingers in my twitter feed are bewildered as to how the country could endorse the Key government with its dirty politics and child-poverty and pollution economy, but the non-left-wing activists I’ve talked to about the election were also utterly bewildered as to why anyone would have voted for the inevitable anarchy of the Cunliffe-led Labour/Greens/New Zealand First/Internet-Mana alternative. The left were comparing National and Labour and only seeing the top of the pyramid. Everyone else was looking at Labour’s bottom and judging it pretty hard.

Labour isn’t the only party wanting in the basic unity stakes. The Greens called for an independent audit of Labour’s fiscals and sent out confusing messages about their relationship with National during the final weeks of the campaign (My wife insists these messages were misreported.) And Internet/Mana is the worst thing to happen to left-wing politics for decades. Every time Labour or the Greens launched a policy they’d get back to the office, turn on the news and see Kim Dotcom or the ‘Fuck John Key’ video, or Pam Corkery screaming at the media, all followed by Laila Harre grinning away and explaining that the left couldn’t form a government without her. That’s not Labour’s fault but they should have seen the disaster coming and ruled Internet/Mana out before the campaign even started.

Here’s something else I think Labour got wrong. They don’t understand the fucking electoral system. For the second election in a row they’ve run an FPP election focused on winning electoral seats and seen their party vote decline. They don’t seem to get that this is a problem. Josie Pagani, Mike Williams and Rob Salmond, who are the current official unofficial voices of the Labour Party have all heaped praise on Stuart Nash for winning Napier and Jacinda Ardern for coming close to winning Auckland Central. But Nash won Napier because the Conservative Party candidate split the right-wing vote, and in terms of party votes which is the only vote that matters Labour’s Napier vote fell by almost 1500 votes while Labour’s party vote in Auckland Central declined by over 3800 votes, one of the worst falls in the entire country. Poto Williams is the only Labour MP in the country who actually increased Labour’s Party vote in her electorate but for some reason Nash and Ardern are the ones getting talked up as future leaders. That’s bullshit.

In terms of the party’s direction, if I was them I’d be looking at the seventy or eighty thousand voters they lost to New Zealand First during the last nine months and trying to win them back. That means a more socially conservative Labour Party. It means swallowing dead rats, presumably in the form of public statements distancing Labour from Cunliffe’s apology for being a man and the ‘man ban’ and gender equity policies. This will generate howls of protest and outrage from the activist left, but I think one message left-wing parties will draw from Saturday’s result is that the activist left is loud but microscopically tiny and it doesn’t speak for anyone other than themselves. I’d also be looking to go into 2017 having reached an arrangement with the Greens to campaign as a coalition.

That’s all in the future though. The current priorities are leadership change followed by a period of sustained competence and unity. Voters are suckers for competence and unity.

September 21, 2014

Brief thoughts on National’s historic victory

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:21 am
  • The National Party is an incredibly well resourced, well managed, professional political party and it turns out that these things counted for a lot last night.
  • The phone was not off the hook for Labour. Twelve months ago, just after Cunliffe won the leadership of his party Labour were on 37% with the Greens on 12%. There’s a cliche that oppositions don’t win elections, government’s lose them, but Labour lost this election. Cunliffe is probably the worst campaigner in New Zealand political history.
  • Based on the preliminary figures I think turnout will end up being slightly higher than last time but still very low. I was a strong advocate for a strategy of having left-wing parties try and improve their vote by targeting and mobilising younger voters, but it turns that that strategy is electoral suicide! Sorry guys!
  • So the lesson from last night’s right-wing landslide seems to be that older New Zealanders are very engaged with the political process and younger New Zealanders are not. That’s a shame but it’s a message politicians cannot ignore. No one’s going to waste time and energy chasing ‘the youth vote’ again for a very long time.
  • I think that the best way forward for Labour is for Cunliffe and ‘the old guard’ – Goff, Mallard and King – to resign. They’ve been at war for six years now and they’re tearing their party apart. I doubt this will happen though. The civil war will drag on for another parliamentary term. That party is dying.
  • The Greens will be despondent. I’m despondent for them. But – I can finally say this now – their billboards were really fucking weird. Their problem of having their final vote underperform relative to their polling is growing more acute, and their great challenge for 2017 is to determine why this happens and focus their party on addressing that problem.
  • If New Zealand First goes into coalition with National then that’s a win for Labour who can concentrate on winning back those left-leaning socially conservative older voters. (Er, Grant Robertson might not be the best choice for this job). If they don’t then that is an (additional) nightmare scenario for Labour.
  • I’m ambivalent about the failure of the Conservative Party. Yes, Craig was basically just buying his way into Parliament, but that’s what ACT does, and a huge component of National’s success is that it is a fundraising vehicle first and a governing political party second. Almost 90,000 people wanted Colin Craig’s Conservative’s in Parliament, and their votes should have been respected. Still, it turns out that Key and Collins were right about keeping the threshold at 5%. The redistributed seats caused by the Conservative’s wasted vote gave National the numbers to govern alone.
  • The Internet Party will go down as one of the most disastrous failures in modern political history. Their final party list result is only slightly higher than Mana’s was in 2011. $4.5 million dollars and it only bought them a couple of thousand votes. They didn’t even cannibalise support from other left-wing parties.
  • What they did do is scare the crap out of middle-New Zealand and frighten them into voting National so that the party filled with screaming, chanting, scary lunatics backed by a malevolent German criminal didn’t get a say in running the country
  • I’m sad to see Harawira leave Parliament. I think he’s an important voice. But I’m thrilled that I won’t ever again have to listen to Laila Harre on Morning Report braying about how much integrity she has and how wonderful everything she does is.
  • ACT continues its horrible zombie existence as a fake party preventing any real liberal party from emerging and poaching National’s votes. Although, I think the rise of the Conservative Party at the expense of ACT shows that it was never a real classical liberal party but rather a conservative red-neck party that happened to be funded and staffed by so-called classical liberals. Jamie Whyte will be a Herald columnist before the end of the year.

I’m disappointed by the scale of National’s victory and the poor result for the Greens, but I also think we dodged a bullet last night. I think that Cunliffe would have been a very poor Prime Minister, that his party is unfit to govern, and that any Labour/Greens/NZFirst/Internet/Mana coalition would have been an anarchic, unmanageable disaster for the country.

 

September 18, 2014

Election predictions and uncertainties and strategic voting

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:29 pm

I reckon:

  • National will get between 42 and 44%
  • Labour will get between 22 and 24%
  • Greens will get between 13 and 15%
  • New Zealand First will get between 7 and 9%
  • Before today I thought the Conservatives would get somewhere between 5 and 7%. But with the resignation of Colin Craig’s press secretary two days out and the inevitable whiff of scandal around that, I think that there’s a chance that the news coverage tonight or tomorrow could put him back under 5%.

I don’t know about:

  • The strategic electorates. I have this vague notion that this might be an ‘anti-strategic’ election in which voters get rid of Harawira in Te Tai Tokurau, ACT in Epsom and Dunne in Ohariu. I don’t really know why I think that though.
  • Advance voting. What does the massive increase in advanced voting mean? Have all the parties run ‘Get Out the Advance Vote campaigns and cancelled each other out, or will this advantage some parties over others?
  • GOTV campaigns on the day. Have Internet/Mana spent their pile of money wisely? Will they mobilize loads of young potentially non-voters in Auckland?

I voted today at the VUW advanced voting booth. I voted for the Greens and (strategically!) cast my electorate vote for the Labour candidate in Ohariu. But as I contemplated the ballot boxes for the other Wellington electorates I reflected that if left-wing Hutt South voters cast their electorate vote for the National candidate and Trevor Mallard loses Hutt South, then Labour will get a  list MP who will – probably – actually give a shit about the Labour Party. Vote out Mallard and you might save, say, Jacinda Ardern. AND in three years time you’ll get a new Labour electorate MP you can vote for who also, hopefully, will give a shit about their own party.  So that’s a strategic vote worth considering.

September 17, 2014

Brief Winston Peters predictions for the record

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:27 pm

If he’s returned to Parliament and holds the balance of power after the election, Winston Peters:

  • Will not support a Labour/Greens government
  • Will not sit on the cross-benches
  • Will be a senior Minister in a National government
  • Will not deliver any of his ‘bottom lines’ as part of his coalition deal

 

September 16, 2014

The smoking SPEARGUN

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 9:24 am

To me the big reveal yesterday wasn’t in the ‘Moment of Truth’ event, it was in Glen Greenwald’s column on The Intercept, and it was this excerpt from an NSA planning document:

speargun

So during the huge, bitter debate about the new GCSB legislation of 2013, in which anyone suggesting it enabled the mass surveillance of New Zealanders was scoffed at and dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, the NSA was anticipating metadata probes of the Southern Cross cable.

Relevant to that is this Radio Live interview yesterday with former GCSB head Sir Bruce Ferguson. Ferguson is withering about the suggestion that the GCSB is involved in mass surveillance. It’s against the law! They don’t have the ability to do it and even if they could, they simply would not have done so. It’s a whole bunch of rubbish. End of debate.

But then, when asked about  the collection of metadata Ferguson says – and I quote – that ‘collecting metadata is not surveillance’, its ‘millions of numbers’ and you ‘cannot avoid it’.

Also significant: the Prime Minister has changed his story about surveillance in New Zealand three times in the three days. On Saturday there was no mass surveillance and Key said of Greenwald’s allegations: ‘There’s no ambiguity. No middle ground. I’m right. He’s wrong.’ On Sunday he admitted that Cabinet signed off on a business case for the GCSB to investigate ‘mass protection’ of New Zealanders against ‘cyber-attacks’ but that Key cancelled that program outright. ‘It never got past the business case’. Then yesterday he told the New Zealand Herald that the GCSB had tapped the Southern Cross cable for ‘cyber-protection’ but that he had then scaled back the program.

So we don’t for sure know whether the NSA and GCSB went ahead with their plans to collect metadata about New Zealanders. We do know that the spies and politicians were not telling us the truth during the debate about the GCSB legislation last year, and that they’re lying and arguing in bad faith now.

September 15, 2014

But what is truth – if you follow me?

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 9:30 pm

There were some major revelations in the Internet Party’s ‘Moment of Truth’ event tonight, mostly from Glen Greenwald and Edward Snowden. But what there wasn’t was any reference to Kim Dotcom’s bombshell ‘proving’ that the Prime Minister had lied about Dotcom’s case, which was, originally, the entire premise for the event.

What happened? Well, my guess is that Dotcom showed his email to people like Amsterdam and Greenwald and they asked a few follow-up questions – where did this come from? Are there more emails? Is this, like, a total fucking fake? – weren’t satisfied with the answers and refused to appear on stage where the email was discussed. That’s why it was leaked to the Herald earlier today, and why Dotcom, Harre et al refused to discuss the email on the grounds that it is sub judicae, claiming that they’ll submit it to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee, even though Parliament isn’t in session.

So that’s a major fucking disaster. It takes away from the credibility of Snowden and Greenwald who have raised hugely important issues about our intelligence agencies and the Prime Minister’s integrity. I’ve had doubts about the Internet Party since day one and I’ll go a bit further tonight: don’t vote for these people. They’re fucking idiots.

F for fake?

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 5:14 pm

An old rule of forgery – which I just invented – is that a fake is a collection of cliches bundled together to produce a work and an original is a collection of idiosyncrasies bundled together to produce same. Take the Judith Collins/Cameron Slater conversations, which Collins and Slater insisted were forgeries. They seemed instantly convincing because instead of saying anything particularly scandalous the blogger and the Minister merely swapped stupid nicknames and rumours about Labour MPs. Authentic voices never say quite what we expect, or wish that they would.

The email Kim Dotcom has produced says exactly what he wants it to say, compressing his entire theory that the New Zealand government collaborated with US corporations to grant him residency here so he could be extradited and sent to prison in the US, into three brief paragraphs and corroborating it perfectly, throwing in ‘proof’ that John Key lied to the public and Parliament into the bargain. And at this point there’s no other content. No email chain. No other documents.

Maybe Dotcom will produce more stuff in time and cast this email into a new, more believable light. Or, maybe, he’s just really unlucky and this totally authentic email which completely clears him just happens to look like an utter fraud. That’d be sad for him, because this email seems unbelievable.

Greenwald vs Key

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 5:52 am

The ‘Moment of Truth’ is tonight. Greenwald will release his documents and then Key has announced that he’ll declassify documents disproving whatever it is that Greenwald proves. I found this timeline in the Dom-Post helpful:

November 2011 – Two un-named New Zealand companies come under signficant “cyber attack”

Early 2012 – In response, GCSB suggests it starts looking at carrying out mass surveillance. Key takes the idea to Cabinet, which authorises the agency to begin work with other intelligence partners in the Five Eyes network.

September 2012 – It emerges the GCSB had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom ahead of the January 2012 raid on his home

October 2012 – Rebecca Kitteridge is seconded to the GCSB to begin an internal review

March 2013 – Key tells the GCSB to put its business case into mass surveillance on hold

April 2013 – Fairfax reports that the Kitteridge review found the agency illegally spied on 88 Kiwis over a decade

May 2013 – The Government introduces two pieces of legislation to beef up GCSB and SIS powers

June 2013 – The first leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appear, sparking a global debate on privacy and spy agencies

August 2013 – The GCSB bill passes, despite protests.

A couple of points:

  • Yes, we’ve been members of the five-eyes alliance for a long time. But the proliferation of consumer digital technology and the fact that it enables intelligence agencies to place huge sections of the population under surveillance at a minimal cost, and those agencies have just gone ahead and done so means that the nature of the alliance has changed in the very recent past.
  • Protecting government departments and companies from cyber-attack has NOTHING to do with mass surveillance. It’s a distraction, designed to confuse people because they both involve computers. Harvesting meta-data about phone calls or web traffic of New Zealand citizens does absolutely nothing to stop Chinese hackers targeting Fonterra or MFAT. It’s a bit like your local police officer saying ‘I think someone is trying to break into your house so I’m gonna drill peepholes in the walls of your bathroom and bedroom to keep you safe’.
  • When the GCSB put their case for mass-surveillance to Cabinet and Cabinet authorised them to go ahead, they were authorising the GCSB to break the law because at that time spying on New Zealanders without a warrant was illegal.
  • There might be something to Key’s story. Note the timing: he sends Kitteridge to review the GCSB and just before she reports back he (allegedly) cancels their surveillance program. Is that because Kitteridge was the first person to figure out that it was unlawful?
  • If so, was it cancelled – as Key alleges, and claims he will produce documents to prove – or was it suspended until the legislation was passed later that year authorising the agency to spy on the public?

September 12, 2014

Dirty tricks and anonymity

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 12:24 pm

This story is in the Dom-Post today:

Labour candidate Anna Lorck has apologised profusely for parking her branded vehicle in a mobility car park in Hastings.

Lorck’s SUV was seen parked in the designated car park outside the Ellwood Function Centre, where she was attending a meeting of farmers.

Lorck is the Labour candidate for Tukituki, which takes in Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere.

She was “genuinely very sorry” and had “absolutely no intention to park there”.

“I had no idea. It was dark and I didn’t notice the signage. I was late and I arrived just before it started. The car park was full and I saw the car park and just parked,” she said.

If someone had let her know she was in a mobility park, she would have moved.

“If I had noticed someone else parked there I’d have let them know.”

Her actions came to light this week, after The Dominion Post was shown a photograph of the incident, which happened on June 19.

I think that a candidate parking in a disabled car-park speaks to character and its okay for journalists to write a story about it. But I’m interested in that last sentence. The incident happened three months ago and now in the last eight days of the election campaign someone has shown the Dom-Post a picture of it. Who? We don’t know, and given what this campaign has been about that seems like – potentially – a way bigger deal than the original story.

Because it seems really, really, really likely that this story came from the National Party, doesn’t it? If so, why has the Dom-Post decided to grant their source anonymity? Why do political parties get to be anonymous when they’re smearing their political opponents? I mean, given that we’ve just had this HUGE scandal about political parties hiding behind source anonymity to manipulate the media and smear their enemies, it would be nice to see, like, a faint flicker of soul-searching from the media instead of more anonymously sourced smears.

September 9, 2014

The only election event that matters: Aro Valley Meet the Candidates

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:10 am

It was scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM, but by 6:45 all the seats in the humble Aro Valley community hall were taken. By 7:00 the crowd spilled out the doors into the brisk Wellington night. At 7:15 Kim Hill and Linda Clark appeared and prowled the crowded aisles, glowering at people with seats until a group of scruffy, bearded hipsters relinquished their chairs to them. I’m no good at estimating numbers but in a hall designed to accommodate about fifty people I’d guess there were around three hundred. The candidates arrived and chatted amongst themselves, looking nervous. Rows of people stood on the benches outside peering through the open windows, occasionally slapping their hands against the frames like hordes of ravenous zombies. At 7:30 sharp it began.

Community co-convenor Roland Sapsforth opened the event, welcoming us to the ‘Supermoon edition of the Aro Meet the Candidates evening’ but reassuring us that none of the candidates would come into direct contact with moonlight ‘for your own protection.’ He attempted to discuss fire safety but was drowned out by laughter from the audience, as it was obvious to everyone present that every exit was blockaded and in the event of an actual fire, death was certain.

Then MC Bryan Crump took over. He explained the rules of the debate: each candidate could speak for four minutes: then a bell would ring; then they had thirty more seconds to talk before they were drenched with water pistols. These rules were not rigorously enforced and candidates were randomly sprayed with water throughout the evening.

Speaking order was selected randomly with names drawn out of a plastic, rainbow-colored hat. The first speaker was Huimaono Karena Puhi, also known as Geoffrey, although he declared that Geoffrey was his slave name. He was standing as an independent ‘meaning he was number one on his party list’. He wore an elegant black suit and tie, black-thick rimmed glasses over a full-facial moko, and short neatly cut hair.

Geoffrey launched into a brief korero, then explained that ‘we have many policies’, ‘We’ meaning the Hui Independence Movement of which he was part, although, slightly confusingly, he reminded us that he wanted our electorate vote because he ain’t got no party. ‘Give your party vote to these other colonials,’ he gestured at the rest of the candidates.

Second speaker was Hugh Barr, number eighteen on the New Zealand First list. ‘Our party is not about looking after the rich,’ he said. ‘Just Winston,’ replied a heckler. ‘We’re not about looking after unions or the poor either,’ he continued, to which the crowd jeered and laughed for most of his allotted speaking time. ‘We will look after ALL New Zealanders, he eventually promised before urging the crowd to ‘Tell your grand-parents about the super-gold card.’

Third speaker was Alistair Gregory for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.  Gregory is a twenty-three year old chef with a bobbing tuft of straw-blonde hair who had possibly never worn a tie before tonight. Michael Appleby, the seemingly immortal goblin-like head of the ACLP is overseas, Crump explained, possibly arranging a deal or avoiding the police.

Gregory announced that cannabis is used for ‘medical, recreational, industrial and spiritual purposes’ and insisted that reform advocates are not wowsers because ‘they also like to drink’. ‘15% of New Zealanders smoke cannabis,’ he cried, ‘So at least fifty of you here tonight use cannabis.’ General laughter at this radical underestimation.

Next up was James Knuckey, a sorrowful bearded man standing for ‘Democrats for Social Credit’. ‘We are basically Social Credit,’ he explains, adding, ‘A lot of people in the party wonder about our own name.’ Social Credit wants a universal basic income. ‘Some countries use it. Well, this one state in Canada.’ He also advocated a financial transactions tax and welcomed his water-pistol drenching when he went one second over the time-limit talking about monetary policy.

Grant Robertson, Labour Party Machiavelli stands and dons a water-proof poncho. ‘That looks like an invitation to me,’ Bryan Crump told the water-pistol wielders. ‘The face is open!’ Called a heckler from the crowd.

National had released a rather vague tax policy earlier that day so Robertson told the crowd, ‘Tonight I’ll tell you about a speech I might give in three years time,’ adding that the only undecided voter in the hall was National candidate Paul Foster-Bell’s campaign manager. He mentioned dirty politics and the crowd hissed with fury. ‘I could go on a lot longer,’ he finished up, flourishing his poncho.

Greens candidate James Shaw was greeted with hall-shuddering applause, while a sea of Green Party placards fluttered above the audience. Wearing a tailored, shiny grey suit and perfectly cut black hair, standing before the crowd with his arms raised, drinking in their adulation, he looked more like a television evangelist than a politician. Shaw’s speech was stern. ‘The Green Party only won 44% of the vote here in Aro Valley last election,’ he rebuked the room. ‘The Onekaka town hall in Golden Bay gave us 51.2%. It’s time to beat the Onekaka town hall!’

Next Crump introduced Internet/Mana candidate Callum Valentine. ‘He’s number eighteen on the party list, so if his party gets about thirty percent he’ll be in.’ ‘At least I’ve got a seat tonight,’ Valentine replied, standing to take the microphone and gesturing back at his chair just as Grant Robertson stole it.

The crowd greeted Valentine with jeers of ‘Lil Kim!’ Lil Kim explained that Internet/Mana stood for unions, the poor and people who liked Game of Thrones. ‘Log off!’ Yelled a heckler. Valentine’s speech was interrupted by cries of ‘Tell us about Kim.’ When he finally sat down Crump observed, ‘He didn’t say ‘Fuck John Key’ once!’

When National candidate Paul Foster-Bells’ name was drawn a loud musical wail of pure sorrow came from a woman at the back of the room. Foster-Bell – a larger, cuddlier version of Labour’s Grant Robertson, who is already rather cuddly – stood and took the microphone to a rising chorus of boos and jeers.

When Foster-Bell spoke at this event last election he was totally drowned out by the crowd, and he’d crafted a clever plan to prevent this, opening his speech in fluent te reo. The crowd fell silent again, confused, torn between its hatred of National and instinctive respect for the Maori language. Foster-Bell continued to speak for about thirty-seconds, grinning, until he uttered the words ‘Ko John Key te rangatira,’ and the crowd gasped with sudden comprehension. He was using te reo to say secret right-wing National stuff! The rest of the speech was drowned out by heckling and hissing and boos, although the tide of hatred ebbed every minute or so admitting fragments of Foster-Bell’s speech. ‘Healthcare targets . . . roads . . . hard-working kiwis.’ Eventually he finished and sat down, having endured what must be the most hostile audience of any candidate in the country .

Bryan Crump took a pause to acknowledge the hard-working party activists running around the electorate knocking down all the billboards and the other hard-working activists putting them all back up again. He questioned Grant Robertson on the mysterious lack of vandalised Labour Party billboards when everyone else’s was knocked down every night. ‘It’s a conundrum,’ Robertson replied.

The next speaker was the most mysterious. Peter Franklin Robinson was an independent candidate. A soft-voiced, gaunt, hunched man in a tan anorak, Robertson announced he was standing to fix the economy of New Zealand which was ‘dictated to by earthquake fault-lines.’ ‘All government departments as of the 31st of March 1975 will be reinstated,’ he mumbled. ‘And there will be an inquiry into substandard medical apparatus. And the Local Bodies Act 31st of March 1984 will be revisited. Also, the current New Zealand flag will remain the ensign of New Zealand because there’s nothing wrong with it.’ The crowd applauded.

The final speaker, Conservative Party candidate Dr Brian Hooper was a tiny, friendly man with a child-like face beneath a shock of white hair. He was eighty years old, he announced, with twenty-seven grandchildren. ‘I dreaded coming here tonight,’ he confessed, ‘And my wife offered to come as my substitute.’

‘At least we’d have had one woman candidate,’ called a heckler from the crowd, and Hooper rounded on her, beaming with delight. ‘You’ve stolen my joke,’ he marveled. Hooper then flicked through a Conservative Party pamphlet while the crowd called out questions and insults, which Hooper parried and threw back at them. Then he tucked the pamphlet under his arm and announced, ‘I’m not going to talk about the Conservatives. I’ll tell you about myself.’ He was trying to say something about water when he was soaked with the water-pistols.

That bought the candidate statements section of the evening to an end. The remaining half hour of the event consisted of questions from the audience.

Would you support a Prime Minister who doesn’t know what’s going on in his own office? Hypothetically? Everyone said ‘No,’ except the Conservative candidate who replied, ‘Absolutely.’

Would you support a price on water and would power prices rise as a result? Yes, replied the Green candidate, but water costs were not a significant component of power prices. The independent candidate who thought that our economy was an earthquake faultline gave a long, complicated answer, interrupted by an audience member calling out ‘For fucks sake!’  The hall was so crowded it was impossible to identify individual hecklers by voice, unless they were, say, a famous, award-winning Saturday morning radio host. The Conservative Party announced they had ‘no plans’. The New Zealand First candidate was laughing too hard to answer the question because someone had made a joke about ”squirting’. Legalise Cannabis replied that we should legalise cannabis.

What is the role of NGOs and non-profits in the economy? ‘WhaleOil doesn’t count as a non-profit,’ shouted a heckler. Legalise Cannabis wanted to build a convention centre.

Why aren’t there any female candidates standing? ‘Why don’t you stand?’ Asked a heckler. ‘I’d bloody love to,’ replied the questioner. Second part to that question: ‘What will your party do about domestic violence?’ Grant Robertson urged an end to violence and was spontaneously sprayed with the water-pistol. Paul Foster-Bell explained that we needed to work together to end violence and he too was sprayed. ‘Keep shooting him,’ chanted the crowd. Legalise Cannabis said that he wanted a woman to stand up because that would look ‘Soooo good.’ Admited his party does not have a domestic violence policy.

What about the rights of young people in New Zealand? Green candidate James Shaw asked ‘Did you have any particular rights in mind?’ The questioner replied, ‘We have a lot of interests.’ Shaw looks suspicious. ‘Who is ‘we’?’

Asked by a red-faced man in a suit with a Yorkshire accent: ‘On the west coast does your party support workers or slugs and snails? ‘The Greens support ALL the residents of the west coast.’

Wellington’s swimming places are too polluted. Whaddya all gonna do about it? The Greens will clean them up. The Social Democrat candidate alleged that the Greens stole their environmental policies back in the 1970s. Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis loves Oriental Bay beach!

The final question is an Aro Valley tradition. If you couldn’t vote for yourself who would you vote for? Most of the candidates endorse Grant Robertson or James Shaw. Grant Robertson supports Alistair, the ACLP candidate. The Social Credit candidate pleads for our party vote. ‘We want to get 1%,’ he explains. ‘That would lift us up out of that ‘other’ category.’ The crowd cheered and called out comments endorsing their support of otherness.

And on that note it was over, the crowd applauded the candidates, water-pistol shooters and themselves and milled out into the valley.

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