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Yesterdaze: Speculation, humidity and national pastimes

From Julius Caesar's lingering influence on NZ politics to Simon Bridges' thoughts on Simon Bridges, James Elliott takes a look at the news of the week

Last week started with a visit from the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Tension was in the air, not just because of the recent 35th anniversary of the underarm incident (never forget) but also because of her slamming of Chris Hipkins last year and Aussie angst over our offer to take 150 Manus Island asylum seekers.

So it was up to our at-times quite Foreign Minister Winston Peters to lead the Kiwi charm offensive. Winston’s simple yet effective plan was to whisk her off to Waiheke Island. What better way to sort out how to deal with refugees from an island off the coast of PNG than to deal to some rieslings on an island off the coast of Auckland?

Winston’s plan seemed to work because we didn’t hear much more about NZ’s offer to take 150 asylum seekers. Details on what was actually discussed were sketchy leading to speculation. This is mine. Perhaps Julie made a counter-offer of asylum for students from Chris Hipkins’ impending charter schools closure. Then perhaps Winston made a counter-counter-offer of asylum for Barnaby Joyce, given that he may have prematurely renounced his New Zealand citizenship. Then perhaps they agreed to call it a draw and instead discuss the merits of the Pegsaus Bay 2014. Perhaps. I’m speculating. It’s a national pastime.

What better way to sort out how to deal with refugees from an island off the coast of PNG than to deal to some rieslings on an island off the coast of Auckland?

It’s also very much a National pastime as speculation was still running rife early in the week about Bill English’s leadership of the National Party following their somewhat limp pretence at unity at their caucus retreat. To be fair that limpness may have been down to the heat and humidity that was still broiling much of the country. Kiwis tuned into the Winter Olympics in record numbers just to see if watching snow and ice on TV could cool us down. It didn’t but that shows just how hot and excited you can get watching Scandinavians screaming at 20kg stones sliding very slowly down the ice.      

In any event, Bill ended the speculation about his National leadership by stepping down on Tuesday, immediately prompting more speculation as to when and why he decided it was time to go.  Perhaps disconcerted by this year’s Pop Up Globe production of Julius Caesar, Bill decided it was better to go out on his own terms. And his timing was impeccable.

With Bill having resigned on Tuesday the National leadership contest kicked off in earnest on Wednesday the 14th of February, and early indications are that it’s going to be even bloodier than the original Valentine's Day Massacre. Perhaps inspired by this year’s Pop Up Globe production of Julius Caesar it was Judith Collins who was first to declare her candidacy. Not only first, she secured the all-important endorsement of National’s pit boy, Mike Hosking.

Jonathan Coleman ended speculation he would run which is a bit like me saying that I’m not available for All Black selection this year.

It was a no-brainer that Simon Bridges would run, “no-brainer” being a descriptor that may well describe his campaign. First he was mocked for referring to himself in the third person during his announcement. To be fair this might be born of neuro-linguistic necessity given that he always says “oil” instead of “I’ll” prompting the subliminal suggestion that he’s in the pocket of multi-national oil companies and unnecessarily drawing attention to his hair. Then, as only befits a former Minister of Transport his nationally-broadcast job interview with Guyon Espiner was a complete trainwreck. I’m not speculating here, go and listen to it for yourself. Or watch the curling - your learning about a vision for New Zealand’s future will be about the same. By the by Jonathan Coleman ended speculation he would run which is a bit like me saying that I’m not available for All Black selection this year. OK, any year.          

The most impressive National leadership bid announcement was by Amy Adams, mainly because it rankled Judith Collins so much. Adams made a strong opening pitch flanked by several supporters including the Snapchat chap, Chris Bishop (no relation to Julie, she hopes). Bishop said it would be totally lit for Amy to be leader because she’s rad, dope and always on fleek - never a lamedooder or in any way frabernackle. Perhaps he said that. I’m speculating.

And from the rad to the ever-so-slightly sad, ACT showed the lengths he’s prepared to go to partner up with, well, anybody by announcing that David Seymour’s joining Dancing with the Stars. He’s a long shot to win on account of having two far-right feet and there being very few National Epsom voters who watch the show.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had another week of failing to put a foot wrong or treading on anyone’s toes. And she’s appearing in the March edition of American Vogue – now that’s both chic and very on fleek.

Have a soothing weekend.  

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