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Yesterdaze: Whine and cheese

James Elliott's news wrap ponders the highs and lows of last weekend's National Party conference, Jacinda Ardern's baby-photo ban, and the mystery of LinkedIn endorsements.

This week kicked off with the National Party holding their annual conference at their spiritual home, the soulless SkyCity. And if you thought that the National Party would start their conference by whining about how last year’s election result was disappointing, unjust and unfair, you’d be wrong.

They brought in someone with extensive experience of all three of those things to do that for them. Former Australian PM John Howard delivered the bitch from across the ditch, saying that last year’s election result was, you guessed it, "disappointing, unjust and unfair".

If you’re trying to describe the tone of a conference opening with an Australian talking to New Zealanders about injustice and unfairness then tone deaf is the description you’re looking for.

From the whine to the cheese, National leader Simon Bridges then took the stage and put the environment front and centre of his major policy announcement by recycling an old Labour policy to reduce class sizes for primary school students.

Much like a TV psychic, Bridges was noticeably short on detail and hard information as to what this new teacher-student ratio would be, and how it would be achieved, so this not-new education policy can now be branded "Sensing Numbers".

At least you didn’t need to be a psychic to sense that the number 23 was going to be problematic this week. Twenty-three was revealed as the number of times Dr Pauline Kingi had endorsed deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha on social media networking site LinkedIn.

That’s clearly problematic when as the endorser you’re also the chair of inquiry into the appointment of the endorsee as deputy police commissioner. But it’s not problematic if you’re Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin whose statements in the House about the LinkedIn revelations were widely endorsed as gobbledegook.

Dr Kingi then stepped down as chair of the inquiry leaving a number of open and difficult questions, chief among them, what exactly are LinkedIn endorsements? And, what are they used for? These are questions worthy of their own inquiry and after due consideration I have concluded that LinkedIn endorsements are like Onzo bikes, you see them every now and then but very few people seem to know what they’re for.

On his own bike on Wednesday this week, or more accurately on a flight to Singapore, was former Acting Prime Minister and continuing Foreign Minister Winston Peters after six weeks as the country’s caretaker.

Deputy Labour Leader Kelvin Davis tweeted a video thank you to Winston on behalf of, it turns out, the entire country. It’s worth a watch at @NgatiBird – Winston and suitcase in the Beehive foyer ringed by a group that’s either wishing him well or blocking his re-entry to the building.

Labour’s sense of relief at the end of Winston’s six-week stint is palpable, like the parents of an unpredictable teenager who come home from holiday to find that the house hasn’t been completely trashed. Sure, there’s been a series of spats with the neighbours, there’s a problem with the cops and the booze cabinet’s somewhat depleted but all in all not too bad. It could have been so much worse.

Not only did Winston get a thank you this week, he also got an apology from TV3’s Duncan Garner for having banned Winston from the AM Show. It was great television - Winston on live TV to receive an apology for being banned from appearing on the show, thereby ending the series on a cliffhanger with all of us left wondering whether that was itself an appearance on the show.

Some, but not very many, were also left wondering who Winston was referring to in the House when he urged the Speaker to “throw fatty out” during a Question Time spat on Wednesday.

Winston appeared to escape unscathed as Speaker Mallard seemed not to hear the barb. Perhaps the Speaker’s mind was preoccupied with the warning he has given the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Any journalists taking unauthorised photographs of Jacinda Ardern’s baby Neve on Parliamentary grounds will have their press credentials removed and their employers will also be penalised. However, publication of photos of baby Neve being held by the Speaker in the Speaker’s chair will presumably be compulsory.

All of which assumes that we will see baby Neve around Parliament when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returns next week from maternity leave. After six weeks of sleepless nights, cleaning up various messes and responding to cries for attention she’ll be back to the usual Prime Ministerial routine of sleepless nights, cleaning up various messes and responding to cries for attention.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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