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Yesterdaze: NZ’s heroes of hot air

James Elliott explains how Winston is a rooster, Simon a duck, and Jacinda a lamb in a sprawling analogy highlighting the significance of NZ's election date, announced this week. 

This week, PM Jacinda Ardern announced we’re having a general election on September 19. Commentators were quick to point out that September 19 will be the 127th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. However, given that election day will be preceded by weeks of political pledges and puffery, we shouldn’t forget that September 19 also marks the 247th anniversary of the first-ever hot air balloon flight which took place at Versailles in front of the French King Louis XVI on September 19, 1783.

And the symbolic relevance of that momentous day to our general election doesn’t end there. When the Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon returned safely to earth king Louis declared its occupants to be “heroes of the air”. However, it turns out that those heroic balloonists were in fact a sheep, a rooster and a duck, the Montgolfier brothers having wisely decided not to risk themselves in a balloon made of canvas and paper, and lifted aloft by a fire fuelled by wool and damp straw.  

That leaves Jacinda as the lamb, although she’s not without genuinely lambish traits, such as being more popular overseas than she is at home where her numbers are declining.              

Come September, Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges and Winston Peters will be our own heroes of hot air, the challenge being to identify which Montgolfier balloonist best symbolises each of our three principal political protagonists. Obviously Winston is the rooster – the strutting, the crowing, the tendency to be really annoying at 4am. Simon Bridges is the duck – has a unique quack that is not pleasant to the ear, is constantly under threat from a variety of predators and makes for a good cartoon character. By default that leaves Jacinda as the lamb, although she’s not without genuinely lambish traits, such as being more popular overseas than she is at home where her numbers are declining.

I know I’ve left the Greens out of that political preview but they’re used to that. Besides, there would have had to have been an extra pair of animals aboard the Montgolfiers’ balloon to symbolise the Greens. And that pair would have had to have been two co-leading dung beetles, acknowledged as nature’s most prolific recyclers, but who wouldn’t have boarded the balloon on principle anyway because hot air ballooning contributes to global warning.   

Also, I haven’t mentioned Act, although he’s obviously a cuckoo, a solitary bird that takes over another bird’s nest. And you don ‘t need me to tell you that Shane Jones is a peacock.

Just this week Winston dived deep into his ‘Every Boy’s Big Book of Edwardian Put-downs’ to describe Simon Bridges as a badly-bred dog who barks at everything.

Not everyone will agree with those animal analogies. Indeed just this week Winston dived deep into his ‘Every Boy’s Big Book of Edwardian Put-downs’ to describe Simon Bridges as a badly-bred dog who barks at everything. And of course, just what Bridges was barking at is irrelevant as Winston got the headline. 

Meanwhile, Bridges was having a big boy’s week of his own. Having led the criticisms of Jacinda’s “relentlessly positive” political positioning it was somewhat ironic, and by somewhat ironic I mean deeply ironic, and by deeply ironic I mean staggeringly ironic that Bridges tried to claim a positive out of news that the Serious Fraud Office has filed charges against four people in relation to National Party donations.

Those four people haven’t been named and may not be for some time, so Bridges adopted a reverse-Spartacus strategy, proudly claiming that he wasn’t one of the four charged. If we all get on board with this 'Simon Says It’s Not Me’ strategy, then it shouldn’t take too long to identify the fiddly four by process of elimination.

If you think that the Black Caps T20 series against India has been excruciating to watch you should check out Greens co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw defending a $5 billion spend on roading.  

I can confirm that I’m not one of the four either, and neither apparently is National Party Secretary Greg Hamilton, so that’s three of us excluded with just 4,956,523 people to go based on the NZ population being 4,956,526 as at 10am this morning. However, by the time you read this there may be one or two more to add to the total based on Statistics NZ population clock, which records a birth every nine minutes, a death every 14 minutes and one net migration every 12 minutes. So that we can keep count, if you haven’t been charged by the SFO in relation to National Party donations please tweet @simonjbridges with the hashtag #AlsoNotOneOfTheFiddlyFour.         

In amongst all the chirping, barking and crowing this week, you might have missed the Government’s announcement of a $12 billion infrastructure spend, about half of which is going to be spent on transport - with $5 billion on roading. If you think that the Black Caps T20 series against India has been excruciating to watch you should check out Greens co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw defending a $5 billion spend on roading.  

But with no end to Auckland’s traffic congestion in the short term, I’m undecided as to whether to invest in a road cone manufacturer or a hot air balloon.

Have a peaceful weekend.           

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