Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 19. 3rd August 1972
Would The Rapist in the Cabinet Please Stand Up
Would The Rapist in the Cabinet Please Stand Up
This is a report on the National Party Conference of a fortnight ago.
'How many decrepit, hoary, harsh, writhen, bursten-bellied, crooked, toothless, blear-eyed, impotent, rotten old men shall you see flickering still in every place.'
(Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy)
It has come to my attention, from what I have read and from what people have told me, that the body of persons who might be said, for want of a better word, to govern this country, is composed almost entirely of decayed book-keepers, clapped out lawyers and jumped up peasants. Many of those who fall into this latter category owe their position largely to some ancestor, who fortuitously came into the possession of large areas of land carelessly mislaid by sundry Maoris some hundred and more years ago. A case in point is Dan Riddiford, wellknown colonial Englishman and owner of a fourth class law degree from an English university.
I have it on impeccable authority that an earlier Riddiford, to whit the first, described in the records as a merchant of Wellington town (which is to say a shop keeper) once betook himself to the Wairarapa before it was besmirched by pakeha hand. There he enjoyed the hospitality of the local tribe, which included the very close friendship of the chief's daughter, but when he awoke in the morning he was approached by the cheif who told Riddiford that he had had a dream and in that dream Riddiford had given him his horse. The tohunga hastened to explain that this was an omen and that in Maori custom Riddiford must hand over his horse. Encouraged in his generosity by the presence of about twenty husky warriors who were fingering their meres and looking at him in a certain way, Riddiford smiled politely and handed over the horse. He saved his cursing until he was out of earshot and trekking back along the beach in the hot sun, but after a while he began to think and eventually he turned and walked all the way back. When he reached the chief he said: "I also had a dream last night. I dreamed you gave me all the land from there, to there, to there, to there." The chief replied: "The pakeha is very cunning," and gave him the land. So that is how the Riddifords stopped being shopkeepers and became landed gentry. Now that story may not be true, and indeed I have it on even more impeccable authority that it isn't. But in spirit it's very typical of how many of our present rulers became so all fire aristocratic.
As a Burkean conservative I find it both painful and disgusting that were a Martian spaceship to land in my garden, and the occupants to politely request, as they traditionally are supposed to do: Take me to your leaders, I would be obliged to exhibit before them some sorry creatures - the grubby parvenus, petit bourgeois nouveau riche and other low caste riff raff at present occupying the government benches on parliament hill.
That I should continue to categorise them in this way is apparent from the gradual emergence in time and space over the past week or so of a curious object which has been described in the newspapers as the National Party Conference. Its preoccupations have proved interesting and have done nothing to dissuade me from my previously expressed opinion of our glorious ruling class and their friends. All manner of mythical beast made their bow to the assembled multitude, spoke their piece and went their way. And Robert Muldoon spoke. Yes, he actually spoke. Oh swoon swoon all ye bridgeplaying, tea drinking, cucumber sandwich eating, blue rinsed ladies of Remuera, Karori, Fendalton. What a man he is. How masterful. How sexy. There he stood on the platform with his chest thrust out. You couldn't see most of it because it was obscured by his chins but there was a little piece just above his belly which you could see, and how manly it looked. Oh yes, and Jack Marshall spoke too. But Muldoon the poltroon was the man we'd all come to see, wasn't he ladies.
But halt, I proceed too fast upon the typewriter. Let me take it as it comes. Many matters were discussed in a desultory manner, such as poverty and unemployment and the economy, the debate serving to show largely that the brain atrophies through lack of use. And there were two matters which stuck in my mind.
Very early in the piece came the moment I'd been waiting for. There was a fanfare of trumpets and onto the stage ponced the Lawn Order Circus, a new season by special request from the last election and just returned from a tour of Mr. Speaker. "Stewnce. Demonstrators," cried various delegates, working themselves into a state of advanced hydrophobia. "Shoot them. Hang them' Birch them." And having had their orgasm they indulged in a little afterplay and dribbled to a halt. Alas, twas not to be. "Down you ravening dogs," shouted the platform. "Verily we have pooped in our nest over this issue, so cool it." And they did. Instead, delegates spoke long on the question of sex education and agreed that it was a good thing and should be done in schools, but not, mark you, by teachers but by specialists. This is reasonable. After all, most teachers belong to a trade union and we know what the sexual habits of trade unionists are like. If you gave them a women they'd only put coal in it. And here's a funny thing. There is a curious rumour circulating at present that the present cabinet has as a member a convicted gang rapist circa 1934. No responsible person would, of course, give any cognisance to such a rumour. But it is curious I repeat that the opportunity to quash this rumour was there in a debate on sex or on law and order and it was not taken. Gang rape is a terrible thing. It could be called, in the words of Mr. Speaker, 'hunting in packs.' I would hate to think that we had a cabinet minister who was tarred with such a brush.
The Conference came, as all good things must, to an end, so what has it meant, this convulsive threshing of arms and legs, this helpless epileptic drumming of heels upon the sward.
It is summed up in one awful word - pragmatism. For twenty years the triumph of the National Party has been its pragmatism, which means in practice that it has been unable to recognise a principle even if it fell over one. The policy has been a successful one. Most New Zealanders are not interested in principles, they are interested in shouting:
The Guvmint oughta do something. The National Party, unimpeded as it is by principles of any sort has been able to 'do something about it' with great measure of success. However, over the past few years it has been confronted with two unfortunate and not neccessarily related trends.
In the first place the economy has gone all to hell and seriously damaged the government's ability to do anything about anything, so that it has been thrown back on the rather less successful policy of now you see it now you don't. An example is giving the pensioners an increase in the Budget but sending out circular letters saying that now they have an increase they won't be needing the supplementary assistance thoughtfully provided so they could eat from time to time, so it is hereby cancelled. In the second place a number of issues of principle have been unkind enough to raise their heads and refuse to go away because they have been issues which New Zealanders have cared about, and to which it is almost impossible to take a contrary position. Omega. Who wants to be a nuclear target? Manapouri. All those in favour of environmental desecration raise their hand? French atom tests anyone? On all these issues the government has been caught with its pants down, and although it has hurriedly pulled them up again it has been too late. Too many people have seen that the naked bum of the government is such as that of other men. It is round, and spotty, and rather pathetic to look upon.
No government can expect to suffer such a trauma and survive, and the government is consequently badly frightened. That worries me bacause a frightened rat is a dangerous rat, particularly if it's cornered, and although the National Party Conference tried to cover it up, members of the government have stopped fighting scientifically and are lashing out. Brian Tallboys was to be descried on television not so very long ago doing his famous impression of a cabinet minister losing his cool when confronted by the French Tests in the person of Jim Knox. And so it has gone on. A sorry procession of ministers appear on television to apologise for what they said on Gallery the previous week. Perce Allen was a real scream. Spike Milligan couldn't have written a better script. A Minister of the Crown appears at peak viewing time to apologise to a man bitten in the cock by a dog.
As I was sitting in my chair
I knew the bottom wasn't there
Nor legs, nor back, but I just sat
Ignoring little things like that.
You are cordially invited, if you are over twenty and have managed to stay out of gaol, to attend the funeral of this corpse on the last Saturday in November of this year. Like most funerals this will serve no useful human purpose except in allowing some grizzleheaded sons of toil to throw up their sweaty nightcaps and clap their chopped hands if Labour somehow gets in. Some might also be constrained to weep, not for the deceased but for the state of the body politic, and then, drying their eyes, creep sadly home. No flowers by request.