Friday, September 02, 2005

An Act of Contrition: Apology to Michael Wood

Those of you who know me personally appreciate that I am not well disposed to making apologies. It’s not my style. My preferred strategy, when I piss people off, is to get them to apologise for getting cranky at me.

But when I consider some of the great apologies of history that never happened, I have to rethink this one. It occurs to me that the torch of time could possibly have cast a different light on Pol Pot if he had shown remorse for the killing fields of Cambodia. Idi Amin might have escaped world opprobrium for his mass murder, torture, genocide and generally unsavoury behaviour during the eight years he terrorised Uganda, if he had once paused and said he was sorry. Perhaps John Denver would have taken his rightful, and otherwise deserved place, among the musical Almighties if he had retracted from being a pinko, commie, whale-loving greenie.

With their mortal flames extinguished, the opportunities for each of them have passed.

Of course, there are those who are forced to atone for things that they shouldn’t. Air New Zealand pilots, for example, should not be prevented from making a dig at a humourless and hypersensitive Prime Minister. Had I been master of the cockpit when Auntie Helen appeared to dress me down, I would have answered simply: “Prime Minister, it was a joke. As much as you think you are the boss of everything that moves in this country, international civil aviation law specifies quite clearly that I am in charge of this particular airplane at this particular moment. So go back to your frigging seat, stop whining, and lighten up. And give me a fucking tax cut, you bitch!”

Sadly, I was not sitting in the cockpit yesterday morning. I don’t apologise for that, because a mere failure to achieve a commercial pilot’s license and virtual compulsory membership of such a morally bereft union as the Airline Pilot’s Association is not, of itself, something that one needs to redress.

To a similar degree, John Tamihere should not have had to apologise to Helen Clark for merely telling Ian Wishart how it is. He should probably have excused himself for his excruciating taste in lunch partners, but that is another matter.

I do not wish to be known as the one person who had his chance to atone for grievous error, yet rejected that occasion. Nor do I wish to be known as the guy who was forced to purge myself by others, and absolved only half-heartedly. This act of self-pardon, I assure you, dear reader, is absolutely voluntary, and not made in duress.

As a background, some readers of my blog may have observed that, from time to time, I have made comments about Labour’s candidate for Pakuranga, Michael Wood. I have variously asserted that Michael Wood is a moron, a puppet, a union stalking-shetland, a smarmy little shit with no concept of the real world, and that he is incompetent to cast a vote in a civil society, let alone stand for public office. Other writers, such as Cathy Odgers, have also made reference to just how thoroughly dull and tedious Michael is, and that even his own mother must find him boring. I have personally got stuck into Michael for being so utterly banal, but I do not have the maternal talent that Cathy has to anticipate how his mother sees him.

The general impression I have given of Michael is that he is, by far and away, entirely the worst possible piece of cannon-fodder in the Labour Party’s non-existent defense of its appalling record of Government. I have alleged that there could not possibly be anybody even nearly as terrible as Michael Wood either in the Labour Party, or in any other political insititution.

As of last night, I now realize that I was wrong about Michael, and for that, I apologise unreservedly. My view of him has changed substantially.

Yes, dear reader. In my state of remorse—and as rare as this state is—I should explain the reasons.

Last night, I followed my own advice, and attended the Tamaki meet-the-candidates meeting. On stage were National’s Allan Peachey, Act’s Ken Shirley, the usual suspects from the Greens and New Zealand First (the usual suspects being eccentric nobodies who realise that they have no hope of achieving public office), and Labour’s Leila Boyle.

Peachey was strong. He’s used to public speaking, and was comfortable in that forum. Ken Shirley was forceful and affable as always, and demonstrated a degree of competence to which none from the Left could hope to aspire, even after fifteen years of Parliamentary experience. And then we had the Labour candidate.

I don’t envy Leila Boyle. Being the Labour candidate for Tamaki is an open invitation to receive a public flogging. Nice for the masochistic types, but Leila clearly was not enjoying herself. I suspect that Michael Wood is in very much the same boat in Pakuranga: he knows that he’s on a hiding to nothing in the electorate, that the Party Vote is a goner, and that he is merely standing so that Labour can tell the country that it is putting up candidates in every seat.

But that’s the point. If you’re a Labour activist, and you stand in a blue-ribbon National seat, then you must be prepared to take a thorough beating. And you must look as if you are enjoying it. The only way to demonstrate that you like the thrashing is to thrash back. Fundamentally, you have to be very tough, and give as good as you get.

Not so with Leila Boyle. She spent eight minutes reading from her speech a whole lot of recycled propaganda that none of her audience believed. She fumbled around explaining away Labour’s ideological aversion to tax cuts, and deferred to the Green Party candidate on most technical policy issues. Her worst moment was when she claimed that we had the lowest crime rate in twenty-five years, and then qualified herself that it was merely a reported crime rate. Peachey responded to one question, following Leila, by standing up and saying: "I think the Government takes us for fools." And then he sat down.

As if Leila's words were not just plain stupid, she excelled in her non-performance by delivering with no sense of conviction whatsoever. She physically flinched whenever a tricky issue was put to her. She flailed. She floundered. She flucked up.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time with politicians. I’ve seen some pretty lame performances before. But what I witnessed last night from the Labour candidate for Tamaki was oratory at its least convincing, rhetoric at its least plausible, and propaganda at its least effective. Afterwards, speaking to a National Party activist, I remarked to him just how appalled I was that Labour was dishing up such a sad, sorry, socialist political hack as their representative in Tamaki. He responded that National’s strategy to maximise the National Party vote in the seat is to get Leila to talk as much as possible. She is the best weapon that National has got.

In conclusion, if you are reading this Michael—and I know you are, because you are the identity behind many of the anonymous comments to my blog—I confess that I have done you a massive disservice.

Granted, I have never seen you speak. But I can say now that you are not far and away, absolutely the most atrocious candidate for political office that the Great Labour Party has ever had. No, indeed, Michael, I retract that suggestion, and apologise unreservedly.

Because in Leila Boyle, I know, you have a clear contender for that spot.


James said...

Bloody excellent post, Insolent Prick - one of the best I've ever read from anybody.

I listened to Leila on the radio once and got the exact same impression, so at least she's consistent across all mediums of expression.

And Michael's got the shits after his dressing down for his National Website post.

Pity it's all falling to bits for them. Brings a genuine smile to one's face. And I hate smiling.

Ryan said...

That is the funniest thing I have read in ages. And too think the Labour party and put up worse then my local Labour aspirant, Michael Wood. Amazing.

Insolent Prick said...

Well, Ryan, I don't know if Leila is worse. I am merely saying that Leila was so atrocious, that not even Michael can be much, much worse than her.

Rob Good said...

Spectacular...... I am sure M Wood is happy now... HA

Cathy Odgers said...

Whose this Oliver, IP.

Bhatnagars blog...NOW.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You really *are* an insolent prick

Whaleoil said...

Thats not very nice Mikes Mum.

Woodpecker said...

Michael Wood has awoken from his slumber to contribute to more posts worthy of fisking, Hard Slog Ahead, and Nats in Eastern Corridor Spin.

He is a fool.