Yesterdaze: Boiled cabbage and political baggage
John Banks' former lives, vegetable-based insults in Auckland's mayoral race and metaphorical cabbage - James Elliott has it all
If you don’t live in Auckland then you’re probably not that interested in the Auckland mayoralty race. And if you do live in Auckland then you’re probably not that interested in the Auckland mayoralty race either. That’s because voter turnout in Auckland for the last couple of local government elections has been about 40 percent.
I can’t remember if I was in the 40 percent in 2016. I do know that I would have voted for anyone pledging to ban grass verge-based hokey billboards from local government election campaigns. And I wouldn’t even have minded if they had made that pledge on a grass verge-based hokey billboard.
However 2019 might just be a little different because the race to be Auckland’s mayor is hotting up. And who wouldn’t want to wear the mayoral chains presiding over 20 perenially bickering councillors during another three-year period during which Auckland won’t get light rail? And all the time wondering what Len Brown did to whom, how, and in which of the Council chambers.
In 2016 there were 19 Auckland mayoral candidates - 20 if you counted blank ballot papers which came in 7th place. So far this time round there are six confirmed Auckland mayoralty candidates, but things got a lot more interesting when a potential seventh candidate stepped up.
John Banks announced earlier this week that he was seriously considering running for mayor. Again. John Banks has been Auckland’s mayor before. He was Auckland’s mayor from 2001 to 2004. Then in 2007 he ran again as the former mayor of Auckland and won. So if he does run again in 2019 he’ll be doing so as the former former mayor. And don’t forget Banks is also a former National MP and a former Act MP so technically he’s a former former MP and former former mayor. So it’s fair to say that he’s got prior formers.
If Banks’ boiled cabbage burn is just the first salvo in a mayoral campaign that’s going to be marked by vegetable-based insults and/or antique put-downs then I say let the collie shangles begin.
Given Banks’ electoral history and a conveyer belt of political baggage that comes with it, it was no surprise that a pundit said Banks had to show he was a Renaissance man and not yesterday’s man. Banks heeded this advice somewhat literally when he fired a vegetable-based slur at Phil Goff (he’s the current mayor) that may well have its origins in the Renaissance. He compared Phil Goff’s mayoralty to “grandma’s boiled cabbage - it never gets better by the day”.
There’s a couple of points to note here. First, Banks didn’t make it personal. He didn’t say that Phil Goff was a cabbage, he said his mayoralty was cabbage-like. That’s a smart move. I’m assuming that Banks must have had in the back of his mind that time in Zambia in 2002 when Mr M’membe, the editor of The Post newspaper, was arrested for calling Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa a cabbage. Or that other time in Zambia in 2014 when opposition politician Frank Bwala was arrested for calling Zambian President Michael Sata a potato.
Secondly, if Banks’ boiled cabbage burn is just the first salvo in a mayoral campaign that’s going to be marked by vegetable-based insults and/or antique put-downs then I say let the collie shangles begin.
And thirdly, if we are to have such a campaign then Phil Goff (still the current mayor) has to do better, a lot better, than his reply to Banks’ cabbage slight, which was: “I used to like my grandmother’s boiled cabbage."
Let’s not forget that there’s another notable name in the mayoralty race, John Tamihere. He’s a former something too and quite the capsicum.
No Phil. No. That’s not how you reply to that. Whether you liked your grandmother’s cabbage or not, and sadly I believe you when you say you did, that’s not the point. It’s a metaphorical cabbage. And in any event you don’t want to out yourself as a cabbage eater because the urban dictionary defines a cabbage eater as someone of diminished intelligence. So there are to be no more references to grandparental cooking or cabbage in this campaign - please. Podsnappery is all very well as a response to the ramblings of a shabbaroon, a grumbletonian or even a ninnyhammer but you’ve got to get with the times.
That said, at least Goff (who’ll be the former mayor one day) didn’t make the mistake of going for an inauthentic hipster response like “Actually, I prefer kale.” Nobody prefers kale.
I think Goff (also a former MP) would have been on better ground labelling Banks a brussel sprout. “Every time one pops up I’m reminded of just how much I disliked them the last I tried them." Or perhaps an asparagus because “even after it’s gone there’s still a lingering whiff of something not quite right”.
And, let’s not forget that there’s another notable name in the mayoralty race, John Tamihere. He’s a former something too and quite the capsicum.
Have a peaceful weekend.