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Yesterdaze: Dumb and dumber

Politicians come crawling back after the holidays to repair some 'bad optics': Clayton Mitchell pulls an Aaron Gilmore, Shane Jones shoots himself in the foot, while Jami-Lee Ross stares down the barrel of history's dustbin. James Elliott on the news of the week. 

That unusual puffing sound you heard on Monday morning this week was the collective sigh of relief from tens of thousands of parents as children went back to school after whatever hijinks they got up to during the school holidays. 

It’s much the same in politics. There’s always a degree of anxiety for party leaders about what their MPs might get up to on holiday, and there’s a similar sigh of relief if those MPs get back to the Beehive without having to explain holiday hijinks headlines.

Case in point, Shane Jones. Sure there was an audible sigh from Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters, but it wasn’t one of relief, it was of the “here we go again” variety.    

While on holiday, Jones was pictured on Facebook brandishing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. And he didn’t just brandish the rifle, he fired it too, taking careful aim and shooting. Himself. In the foot. Yet again.    

Being pictured posing with the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that features in most American mass shootings, is similar to the one used in the Christchurch terror attacks, and is now banned in New Zealand is “not good optics”, which is PR-speak for dumb. But being so pictured when the PM has publicly asked you to refamiliarise yourself with the Cabinet Manual while on holiday because you had been reportedly trying to solicit votes for NZ First at the Northland Forestry Awards is whatever PR-speak is for dumber.  

While on holiday, Jones was pictured on Facebook brandishing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. And he didn’t just brandish the rifle, he fired it too, taking careful aim and shooting. Himself. In the foot.  

Given the opportunity to atone Jones instead reloaded with a full cartridge of glib and took aim at his other foot. He said that he regarded the incident as “part of international research” and that in any event he was “more of a shotgun guy”.                         

At this point in his political career Shane Jones has shot himself in the foot so many times that if you had the idea of building a factory in Foxton to manufacture bullet-proof Kevlar shoes you’d be guaranteed to get full funding from the Jones-administered Provincial Growth Fund. 

Jacinda Ardern probably wasn’t the only one unsettled by Jones’ dick pics. Jetstar execs would have been especially fearful of Jones’ reaction, as “the provincial champion”, to their announcement that Jetstar is ceasing all regional services in November.    

Like so many of its scheduled flights, Jetstar’s regional services will be missed. Who will you fly with now if you want to be bussed to Napier while your luggage is flown to Nelson?

Meanwhile, former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon is making his own foray into the provinces. He’s running for selection as the National Party candidate in the Botany electorate for next year’s election. If he’s successful, sorry, when he’s successful, Luxon will be up against former National and now-independent MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Like so many of its scheduled flights, Jetstar’s regional services will be missed. Who will you fly with now if you want to be bussed to Napier while your luggage is flown to Nelson?

And if Luxon beats Ross, sorry did it again, when Luxon beats Ross to become the new MP for Botany he will consign Ross to the political after-life dustheap of being the answer to the pub quiz question – “Elected in 2011, who was New Zealand’s youngest-ever MP? Clue: he was given the title 'Baby of the House', and behaved like one ever since.”

Here’s another pub quiz question – which current MP and former pub-owner was himself thrown out of a pub last Saturday? The answer is Clayton Mitchell, NZ First list MP and whip. Mitchell was ejected from the Brew Co bar in Tauranga on Saturday night in circumstances disputed by all the parties involved. Mitchell denies that he accidentally hit a female bar staffer and that he or his friend had told security “we are the law” when asked to leave. If that scenario brings to mind another pub quiz question about a former MP whose political career ended in similar circumstances in a restaurant in Hanmer Springs, the answer you’re looking for is Aaron Gilmore.    

One witness said Mitchell was intoxicated and “being a bit of a dick”. Mitchell denied that he was intoxicated.

No stranger to the protocols and intricacies of proper behaviour on licensed premises, NZ First leader Winston Peters came to Mitchell’s defence, admonishing the media for speculating about what had happened. Winston said that Mitchell would be exonerated by video footage of the incident. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that Winston speculated that Mitchell would be exonerated by video footage given that Winston hadn’t seen the video footage himself. In any event everything will apparently be resolved this Saturday night when, according to Winston, the video footage is going to be played at the Brew Co bar. If the video footage is to be played at the Brew Co bar (I know, it won’t be), and if Mitchell is going to be there to see it (I know, he won’t be) then at least he’ll have the opportunity to lean against the bar and say “make mine a Claytons” (I know, I shouldn’t have).               

Have a peaceful weekend.

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