Politicians offer little confidence in this local body lottery

After the political goings-on this past week, it should have been comforting to see the envelope proudly declaring "Voting document enclosed" nestling in my letter box.

I can blithely make judgements about those people who appear within the apricot-tinged pages of the booklet whose paths have crossed mine. But, since I wasn't brought up in Otago, I know little about many other local contenders.

If some candidates pushed kids in the sandpit at kindergarten or playcentre, cheated at marbles at primary school, were high school bullies, had a petty crime spree later on, possibly combined with dangerous and unwise sexual liaisons, I am none the wiser.

I am not sure whether that makes my impending decision-making more or less sensible.

There have not been many role models for sensible decision-making in the last week or so.

Rodney Hide has shown lack of judgement by not delving into the background of David Garrett before the last election. Perhaps there is some sort of brotherly bond between former oil rig workers which says that being blasé about anything that matters is de rigueur.

If Rodders did know about both the Tongan assault conviction and the fake passport, why did he ever think it was a good idea to have Mr Garrett pushing the three strikes policy?

It seems it is only during earthquakes and their aftermath that we want to believe our politicians are saints or waiting for beatification.

The rest of the time we mostly tolerate them, although the one quality we are not particularly keen on is hypocrisy.

We hate that stuff so much we cannot usually recognise it in ourselves.

Mr Garrett may try to dismiss the passport business as something he naively saw as a childish prank, but such pranks are usually much less well-planned and creepy and mostly carried out by, well, children.

Presumably, there were many moments in the process when he could have spent a bit of time thinking that this jolly jape was not all fun - while waiting for his hair dye to take, for instance. We women have been known to do some of our best thinking during such times.

It is hard to be distracted by frippery when you know you look like something from outer space and that if you come within cooee of ordinary folk you will scar them psychologically or leave them covered in unsightly stains.

He does not seem to have alerted the authorities to the ease with which he managed to get the fake passport, so he cannot even claim some sort of misguided public spiritedness for his actions.

I am a little sad about Rodney and his foolishness.

It was only this month that, on a trip out of town, I was discombobulated to find I agreed with one of his utterances.

More scarily, when I reread his statement , back in the comfort and security of my own shabby four walls, I found my accord was unswerving.

What I read was : "Good law is not made on the basis of emotion. Good law is not made on the basis of unclear facts."

He was talking about dog control laws, but I liked to think, when I read these fine and reasonable words, that they were thoughts he now held dear on lawmaking generally, even if Act New Zealand's past activity has given little hint of this.

Accordingly, I would have been unsurprised if he had leapt to his feet during the recent mainly patsy "trust us, we know we what we are doing and it is holy work" ( sainthoods anyone?) debate on the excessive Canterbury Earthquake Rescue and Recovery Bill and urged everyone to take a few deep breaths.

"What is the rush?", he could have said. "We don't have to abandon the smoochfest, but let's get some of government's best brains, or , if they have gone down the gurgler in a restructure, hire them as ridiculously expensive consultants, and rope in some of the locals, to coolly consider what is required first. If we get this wrong, the Canterbury people will not thank us because under this Act they will have no redress."

That would have been real leadership, but as far as I can tell Rodders was silent, possibly already having escaped to Hong Kong.

Thinking about all this has not been inspiring as I consider the local body elections. Instead of being enthusiastic about my democratic right, I find fear setting in.

In a field of about 65, how easy is it to distinguish those who might be power-crazy in a crisis from solid citizens?

"Trust me candidates, I don't know what I am doing" is as close as I can get to a voter slogan. Oh, and I know a little bit about law. No, saintly ones, sod's, not God's.

• Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.


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