Yesterdaze: an own goal of unprecedented proportions

The National Party donations scandal that had nothing to do with the National Party was the big news of the week. James Elliott has some thoughts on that. 

Simon Bridges has climbed into double digits as preferred Prime Minister in the latest political polling which is significant for two reasons. For starters it’s the first time he’s reached the dizzying heights of 10.6 percent in preferred PM polling. And secondly, two digits are what he’s been waving for months in the face of anyone suggesting that either he or the National Party had anything to do with the National Party donations scandal, except for the name of the National Party donations scandal itself, the National Party donations scandal.

The revelation this week of the charges brought by the SFO in relation to the National Party donations scandal and the names of those charged, including Jami-Lee Ross, was vindication for both the National Party and himself, Bridges claimed. And he’s right. Except for the fact that the two $100k donations under scrutiny were paid into National Party coffers in 2017 and 2018, that Jami-Lee Ross was a National MP when both those donations were made and that there are published photos of Simon Bridges enjoying a cup of tea at a National Party event with another of the men charged, the National Party donations scandal has nothing whatsoever to do with the National Party or Bridges himself. 

That Ross has gone from whistle-blower to being 25 percent of the four people charged by the SFO in a criminal proceeding is of course an own goal of truly epic proportions. It’s like Hannibal Lecter asking the police to investigate a strange smell coming from his own basement.

However the scandal does have a lot to do with Jami-Lee Ross, who blew the whistle on it in the first place. That he’s gone from whistle-blower to being 25 percent of the four people charged by the SFO in a criminal proceeding is of course an own goal of truly epic proportions. It’s like Hannibal Lecter asking the police to investigate a strange smell coming from his own basement. It’s a fail so epic in scale that there isn’t a German compound noun to adequately describe it.

Even those supping from a tall cool glass of schadenfreude at this turn of events are looking for a better description as to how they feel. To those people I offer a cocktail of katagelasticism, a recognised psychological condition in which a person excessively enjoys laughing at others; a kind of uberschadenfreude. Moreover, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and superbly subtitled “The Sometimes Happy Things About a Poor Economy and Death”, found that politics is “prime territory” for feelings of katagelasticism.

Politics is also prime territory for whatthehellwasthataboutism, a case in point being Winston Peters' reply to questions about the SFO investigation into the NZ First Foundation, confirmed on Tuesday. At this point it should be noted that the NZ First Foundation SFO investigation is not about NZ First in the same way that the National Party donations scandal is not about the National Party. And when questioned by a media scrum about the NZ First Foundation SFO investigation, Winston’s response was to play Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” from his phone before taking his leave.

I suspect that song works for Winston on a number of levels. There’s the “ga ga” media putdown, sort of, but I suspect the lyrics of the final verse could well be Winston’s singalong shower song: “You had your time, you had the power, you’ve yet to have your finest hour”.    

I’m sure that must be how Winston feels when he gets out of bed every afternoon, that he’s yet to have his finest hour - that he’s paid his dues time after time, done his sentence but committed no crime; bad mistakes, he’s made a few; had his share of sand kicked in his face but he’s come through. I’ll let you do the chorus.     

How else do you explain Winston’s presence as a fixture in New Zealand politics for more than four decades? How do you explain the comebacks, revivals and resurrections? How has he managed to outlast animal biscuits, snifters and Holden cars?  

The answer may lie in the bottom of a swamp and more particularly in crocodile DNA. Crocodiles are one of several species said by some scientists to have negative or negligible senescence, meaning that they don’t age beyond maturity – in essence they are biologically immortal. So obviously Winston has somewhere, somehow acquired crocodilian DNA. Putting questions as to Winston’s maturity to one side – remember this week’s Radio Ga Ga incident? – there is more than 40 years of evidence that supports the theory that he is politically immortal. And that’s not the only trait that Winston shares with crocodiles – they both produce the same kind of tears, have a similar number of teeth on display and share the ability to strike when least expected.           

Now sure, the theory of crocodilian immortality has been fairly comprehensively debunked by the scientific community but you have to ask yourself - how many times has the pundit theory of Winston’s imminent political mortality also been debunked? 

Have a peaceful weekend.

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