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Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 7

Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 7

Sep 12, 2014 Politics

DAY SEVEN: IN WHICH CACTUS KATE BREAKS HER SILENCE – AND SIX OTHER EXPATRIATE NEW ZEALANDERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON WHAT THE ELECTION LOOKS LIKE FROM FAR AWAY (WE ALSO ASKED JUDITH BARAGWANATH BECAUSE SHE LIVES ON WAIHEKE ISLAND)

 

Cathy Odgers, Hong Kong

Due to recent unfortunate events please have Simon Wilson send a carrier pigeon to Hong Kong to ensure the safety of our communications.

Make sure it flies in the correct direction, as Simon Lusk is a bloody good shot and is partial to eating everything he kills.

 

Anthony McCarten, writer, divides his time between London and Berlin, just returned from Toronto for the world premiere of The Theory of Everything, the Stephen Hawking film he wrote, which is tipped to win an Academy Award

Have you met any NZ politicians?

I once met Jim Bolger’s old Irish mother.

She was dying alone in a Catholic convent with a book opened on her chest called Over My Dead Body.

She roused herself to deliver her verdict on her son Jim. “Oh Jim,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust him to go and get a bottle of milk.”

Wish you were here for the election?

No. I expect NZ to continue its traditional pattern no matter who wins the election. NZ has had, and probably always will have, the occasion flirtation with social progress, then falls back into a disinterested slumber.

These bursts, when they do occur, are remarkable – the vote for women, the welfare state, nuclear freedom – but when is the next great leap forward going to come?

You live in England, sometimes Germany. What are the politics?

Britain, just when it thought its empire could crumble no further, will, should Scotland break away, need a Hoover to gather up its remaining parts.  Britain may soon be an historic term, like Babylon.

Germany is a success story so great that Germans, raised to never again admit they are proud of themselves, must bite their tongues until they taste blood as they see evidence mounting every day that they really are the best at all the things that really count:  cars, industry, financial management, cultural tolerance and non-aggression.

 

Amos Chapple, photographer, usually in Russia

How does the election strike you from where you are?

The “whale story” has crept into English papers recently. It’s embarrassing. Anywhere in the world you announce you’re a New Zealander the response is always, “Oooh, how lovely,” and they picture some paradise of fair-minded fruit growers. Whale Oil and his posse have made it harder to nod along to that.

Wish you were here to experience the election?

I’m pretty caught up in the Ukraine thing and there’s only so much outrage one can take.

Please describe the politics of where you are.

I’ve seen a lot of Russia this year, and have just left Abkhazia, one of the little frozen conflicts Putin uses to punish Georgia for looking westward. It’s a real education. New Zealand didn’t just stumble into a healthy democracy, we’ve long had to be prickly and watchful. Russians have spent the last decade saving up for beach holidays while their leaders gradually lost the plot and now it’s a horror show.

 

Ben Stanley, bohemian, Laredo

Do you ever think, “By golly, I wish I was home right now to experience the excitement and hullabaloo of the election”?

This morning, I woke up around ten o’clock in a cheap hotel room in Laredo, Spain, and spent the next four hours at cafés drinking coffee and clara con limon, and reading about bullfighting. After that, my biggest concerns were swimming at the local beach and flirting with an Andalusian girl called Christina, who worked at a cellphone shop.

You were in Brazil during the World Cup. Was the political thing there crazier or saner than our one?

Definitely crazier. The Brazilians go to the polls too this year – two weeks after New Zealand – and anything could happen. In Brazil, there are three major parties, but it will probably come down to an all-woman, left-wing face-off between incumbent president Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva, a feisty environmental activist who became her party’s candidate after the original leader died in a plane crash last month.

 

Paula Morris, novelist, Sheffield

Think of a NZ politician you could stomach drinking with?

A few years ago I saw the entire Labour caucus, as was, in a bar in Federal St, and experienced no desire to join them. My main impression at the time was that they were all very short, but that may have changed. I don’t know – David Shearer, maybe?

What are the politics where you are?

Every night, the local Sheffield TV news show, Look North, asks what Scottish independence may mean for Yorkshire. (So far, not very much.)

 

Garth Cartwright, bohemian, London

Is there a New Zealand politician who you’d like to spend more than five minutes with in a bar near you?

Phil Twyford. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and I’ve drunk with him in pubs in NZ, US and UK. A great guy and principled politician. I’d buy Phil a pint anyway anywhere.

Are English politics batshit crazy?

Politics here is just depressing. Labour and the Tories tend to resemble one another and UKIP has them both running scared. NZ politics appears more eccentric and more open. Which is probably true for Kiwi society on the whole.

 

David Geary, raconteur, British Columbia

How does the election strike you from where you are?

Grotesque. I was back in NZ in May. John Banks was on his way to court, someone dumped a pile of dung on him. The dungster should be given a medal.

What are the politics in Canada?

British Columbia has a Teachers’ Strike. It could be the start of a home-schooling revolution, and parents jumping off The Rockies like lemmings. Big Oil have pipe dreams for Vancouver. The want a humungous funnel from the Oil Sands of Alberta (our Texas), but Vancouver aspires to be the greenest city in the world… so battles ahead.

 

Judith Baragwanath, legend, Waiheke Island

Are you leaving the island to come to the Big Reveal thing at the Town Hall on Monday night?

Absolutely not. Are you taking the piss?

Know of a politician you could get on the sauce with?

Not one. But I can tell you who I wouldn’t spend a second with: the jumped-up, duplicitous, sneering, self-righteous John Banks. He made it his life’s work to “clean up central Auckland”. He has managed to make it one of the dreariest places on earth. Fort St was never the problem. The problem has always been Queen St after dark: a wasteland of closed shops and takeaway joints.

Likewise, I would never spend any time with Hone Harawira because, as the man doesn’t drink, I could go into any bar safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t encounter his thunderously scowling face with chips on both shoulders to keep himself in an upright position.

Got any goss on politicians from back in the day?

There was always chat of a certain politician who was seen being carried – not helped – carried out of drinking holes on more than one occasion. This person, of a litigious disposition, must, therefore, remain nameless.

What are the politics on Waiheke?

It’s quite Green on the island and it has nothing to do with the recent downpours. We have a tiresome number of blackouts every year. In a storm, trees often fall on power lines. Non-Greens hiss behind their hands that, because the Greens refuse to axe-murder their trees, the outages are entirely their fault. All very jolly in the light of day but quite another story when you find yourself sitting in the dark eating cold baked beans out of a can with a cave torch strapped to your head.

There was a reasonable turn-out at the Ostend markets when Winston came to call last week. He, with the glittering eyes and crocodile grin, is responsible for the Gold Card which has given those over 65 a lifeline to and from the island. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people of a certain age clambering on the boats and buses praising this man. He counts.

We definitely have one Internet Mana voter. I know this because I saw him prancing around the supermarket (if prancing is possible with a trolley loaded with loo paper and Vogel’s bread on special) sporting a grotesquely large party badge. There was a lively exchange of views with an incredulous Nat which continued at the bus stop. It was there that a third person piped up that he was an undecided voter but admitted that in the past he “quite liked Helen Clark”.

“Helen Clark!” stormed the Internet Mana man. “Her mother should have been spayed at birth!”

Tragically, the buses arrived and carted them away before any further verbal punches could be thrown. What a shame. Roll on Saturday week.

 

Previously: The prime minister and the leader of the opposition talk about hairdressers, pies and dogs – and John Campbell leaves behind a vale of tears as he departs this world for the next.

 

Illustration: Joshua Drummond.

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