Meet the Candidates, Dibley Style

Last night in Martinborough the Lions organised a “Meet the Candidates” meeting in the Town Hall. I know this blog is deliberately a politics-free-zone (you can read my political columns, if you really must, and have nothing better to do with your time, at nzherald.co.nz) but this meeting was so humorous I thought I’d not only write about it in this week’s official column, but blog it here too because it’s such a classic slice of life in a small community.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were actually in a Polish version of The Vicar of Dibley. One man in the audience had an accent the same as Jim Trott on The Vicar of Dibley. You know him, he’s the one who prefaces everything he says with “no, no, no..” when he actually means “yes”. Every time questions were to be asked, our very own Martinborough Jim Trott referred the candidates to politics in Poland. At one stage he asked the Act candidate if he was aware that Sir Roger Douglas had travelled to Poland to give the Poles political advice, and ended up forming a Polish Communist Party. I bet that’s news to both Sir Rog, and the Polish Communist Party which was formed long before Roger walked onto the New Zealand political stage. I got the giggles so much I had to hold my nose and turn red.

The Labour candidate got off to a bad start when she thanked everyone for coming out when they could have stayed home and watched Prime Minister Helen Clark “make John Key look like a schoolboy or a boy scout” (it being the first of the leaders’ debates on television). When we left home to attend the meeting, John Key and Helen Clark were having a grand old time and no one was looking worse for wear. This morning’s commentary confirmed that they both gave as good as they got, so the Labour Lady jumped the gun a bit. (Apropros of nothing, did you know that Lord Baden-Powell’s comically-titled book “Scouting for Boys” is the third of fourth best-selling book in the world, after The Bible and The Koran? So perhaps looking like a boy scout is not the derogatory term Ms Labour Lady thought it would be.)

National’s candidate (who is the sitting Member) was grumpy and red-faced. The night before they’d been in Waipukurau (where I was born) and had taken all day to get to Martinborough so perhaps he was weary of the campaign. However, he didn’t need to put down a woman in the audience who had asked a perfectly reasonable question. And his cellphone not only rang during the meeting, but he also got up to answer it. Not good, Mr Local MP.

The candidates from the minor parties were the best – sticking to their messages and refraining from attacking other candidates. The Maori Party weren’t represented, nor was the Alliance because that candidate had a sick child, we were told. Best she doesn’t go into Parliament, then, because you can’t take time off from that place if your children are sick. You need a good, supportive, partner to do that. The electorate are unforgiving of personal foibles and weaknesses.

But not one of them looked happy! We are in the midst of such depressing international news at the moment, I want someone to come along and cheer me up, cheer us all up, because we shall get through all this. It’s not the end of civilisation as we know it, and in many ways, I think the financial crisis is a damn good thing. A wake-up call to all of us who mistakenly believe that “stuff” will make us happy. It won’t. I don’t mean you have to be poor to be a good person, not at all, but shallowness, I believe, comes from measuring your effectiveness, and worthiness, by what you earn, how much you can buy. That way lies dragons.

But good luck to all of them, poor lambs. Having been there, I can’t think why they’d sacrifice such a wonderful bucolic life in the Wairarapa for the stifling frustration of the debating chamber. But at least they are prepared to put their hands up, and give it a go. For that, they deserve a round of applause.

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