Last night on Back Benches I quipped, entirely unoriginally, if Don Brash was the answer, we really needed to look at what the question was. Stephen Franks, to whom I was speaking at the time, batted the comment aside.
But the seriousness beneath the statement remains. Having failed to secure National a win in 2005, and being rolled for a leader on a seemingly endless public honeymoon, where does the good doctor think his role lies? Sure, he can talk up the precise details of the narrow loss to Labour under his stewardship, but there ain’t no second place in the Westminster system. Well there is, it’s called ‘last’.
In the past week however, it’s become clear that Dr Brash believes he still has something to give. That in itself is not surprising – like Grainwaves and/or cocaine, politics in the limelight is rather moreish. What does surprise me is how readily accepted he has been by the fringe right.
It’s not an age thing, although I LOL’d in my mouth a little when Brash explained it away by comparing himself to the most senile US President in living memory, Ronald Reagan. If Brash is suggesting he will be a doddery old fool, a retired cowboy actor, while others pull the strings around him, well he is doing himself a disservice. Don Brash is, after all, a smart man.
Still not smart enough to pull off a clean coupe though. I remember when he rolled Bill English. If my occasionally Reagan-esque memory serves, it wasn’t looking like a great week for Labour. The moratorium on GE was about to be lifted, and for the first time in a while, Labour was taking a hit from the Left. Good week to let it play out, you’d think. Do some damage. But no, in comes Brash, and takes the leadership with all the surgical precision of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
This time around, same thing. Good publicity, you could argue, having your new leader declaring his intentions on every media outlet available – even ‘Perigo’ FFS. But from the outside it makes the fringe right look fractured, compromised, messy. We’ve seen the uncertainty, the machinations – will it be John Boscawen or Hillary Calvert who plays Judas – all play out.
I’m writing this on a plane. It seems this morning like Hillary Calvert has accepted her thirty pieces of silver, although frankly she is quite mad enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if her price were magic beans. By the time I land this may all have played out, or it may wait until Tuesday. Or, it might be (having just landed) that this all takes place at midday. His marginal right-wing agenda will take the place of the marginal right wing agenda of his predecessor. One bully will replace another in Epsom. The more things change, as the French say, the more things stay the same.