News that Gareth Morgan has resigned from his non-existent TOP Party is a bit like announcing his resignation from the Petone Flat Earth Society, that is non-news. Still the announcement brought back recollections that left me despairing at the time.
First was the endorsing comments by some journalists for the Party’s screamingly contradictory policies. For example, Gareth waffled on about untaxed income, citing residential landlords paying taxes on their rental income while owner-occupiers received an untaxed equal benefit in kind through their occupancy.
Then he climbed aboard that hoary old lightweight politician’s line about unpaid housewives, the inference being the state should pay them. In fact just like the house-owner occupiers, housewives are also paid in kind through their housework and to be consistent Gareth should have proposed taxing them for this benefit.
But what really upset me about his brief political flirtation was the unbelievably ignorant reaction, inflamed as always by the media, to his “lipstick on a pig” comment on the then flailing in the polls Labour Party’s change of leadership from Andrew Little to Jacinda Ardern.
It was a highly apt remark which in an earlier age would have brought no such reaction. By “an earlier age” I mean before the public became cell-phone-sotted and Facebook obsessed brain-dead. Then they actually read newspapers and books and would thus be familiar with the aphorism.
By way of example, it meant that if you paint an old shack, it’s still an old shack. It’s an age-old saying but the reaction, promoted by the media was that Gareth was calling Jacinda a pig when he was actually praising her as a visual improvement on her predecessor, but observing that the Labour Party was still a dud, policy-wise.
Morgan was a hopeless politician as he was spectacularly out of touch with the ordinary Joe and the need, if one is to succeed politically, to tolerate their often blinding stupidity.
God knows I certainly suffered it in the New Zealand Party days. The literally hundreds of times people would say to me after speeches, “I remember when you wrote an article/book/said on radio/television etc” whereupon out would come some bloody nonsense I’d never uttered or written. The other common one was to claim we had a mutual friend who invariably I’d never heard of. On one occasion an elderly woman became quite aggressive when I denied ever going to Dannevirke High School with her nephew, as she insisted. Telling her I’d never spent so much as a night in the town only heightened her anger at my deceit.
Eventually we overcame the problem by having the Party’s Secretary General, stand behind me and as soon as a nonsense assertion was made, step in and say politely but firmly, “I’m sorry but I must keep Bob moving as lots of people are waiting”.
On my observation successful politicians mostly deal with mixing and greeting by saying almost nothing and instead let whoever’s talking to them babble on, then wrap it up with a platitude. If what’s been said was idiotic they say, “that’s certainly worth thinking about” and if sensible, “I couldn’t agree more”.
Only Rob Muldoon was an exception as he genuinely enjoyed meeting and mixing and had a huge tolerance for listening to rubbish. Indeed I came to the conclusion, the dumber folk were, the greater his empathy, he seeing them all as salt of the earth, decent people. That attitude may have underpinned his desire for an overly protective state. Actually, on reflection, tolerance-wise, John Key was a little bit like Muldoon and cheerfully chatted to all and sundry.
At the other end of the pole was David Lange who, like Morgan, had zero tolerance and dealt with it by avoiding as much as possible, any contact with ordinary folk and especially his more zealous Party members whom he regarded as halfwits, as he more than once told me.
Morgan’s approach was undoubtably the most honest, namely to tell them they’re all dumb bastards, but it’s certainly not a vote-winner, as he discovered.
But fear not. Gareth aint gone. He hasn’t had a crack at religion yet so that’s my pick for his next public outing, probably as the Second Coming. It would certainly be doing God’s work and cheer up Christians, after all they’ve been waiting patiently for 2000 years which strikes me as a tad on the long side and risks a danger of inducing doubts.