Random Play by Graham Reid

Alternative Nation*10: The Final Countdown

The recording of the final programmes in this year’s New Zealand Idyll -- in which leaders of political parties outline their vision for the country -- was disrupted this week when the invited audience constantly shouted down the contestants, and a leader previously dumped from the competition gate-crashed the studio.

The interim leader of Act, Mr Rodney Hide, burst into the filming and noisily demanded he be reinstated. Before he could be ejected however he was felled by what one witness described as “a handy straight right” from National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee.

Order was quickly restored although one of the Idyll judges Jackie Clark said Hide’s interruption had been the most interesting part of a very long and boring day.

“We have had to endure the most banal and patronising babble from people who seemed determined to sing any song they thought would be popular. We have also had the finalists change their tune many times so I couldn’t tell you how good any of them were -- or might be in the future.”

What became clear during the film -- hosted by Dominic Bowden and with the drunken audience egged on by Mark Sainsbury -- was that even the most boorish, braying and rude members of the public are still allowed to vote, even if they have no interest in hearing what any politician has to say.

What audience members agreed on however was that they all wanted to be paid and were prepared to vote for whichever party would give them the most money. Some demanded cash in hand before going in to the ballot box.

In the Idyll programme Labour’s Helen Clark apparently promised -- at the top of her voice -- a safer, more multicultural New Zealand where everyone enjoyed hiking, and a smokefree environment. There was also something about “kiddies” (it is believed she was referring to children although her press secretary has yet to confirm this) and “a pie in every sky“.

Don Brash of National said his vision of the perfect New Zealand could be summed up succinctly, “1953, when good manners counted for something“.

Although he has been consistently voted back on the programme by the judges, the future for Winston Peters of New Zealand First is uncertain.

He has rarely made an impact in the final rounds in the public vote, despite making promises such as putting immigrants on remote island for a few years to check them out, and throwing young offenders into the army where they could get some training on real weapons. These ideas do not seem to have wooed voters.

Yesterday Mr Peters said was no longer prepared to discuss any policy his party might adopt because the news media would wilfully misinterpret it, and "fat cat lawyers in Auckland and Wellington and left-leaning ivory tower academics" had no right to know what he would say.

“These are not people who should be holding any position of responsibility in the future and believe me, a country under New Zealand First would be exactly that. It would put New Zealanders first.”

When asked if people in Auckland and Wellington were not part of New Zealand Mr Peters angrily denounced the media and the Idyll judges saying this was “exactly the kind of wilful misrepresentation” of his position he expected from “a bunch of latte-sipping types making programmes under the Charter which only appealed to a small minority of New Zealanders“.

Mr Peters said he was about to storm the studio himself this week when Mr Hide ran in and upstaged him.

It is expected the programme will edit out the ugly scenes which followed Mr Hide's arrival before being broadcast tonight. However there has been the suggestion from one television critic it might be wise to leave it in to spice up what as been a very dull series with declining public interest. Most members of the public have only turned on the programme to hear how much money the top prize will be worth to them.

Idyll judge Paul Ellis said last night that the judges had been disappointed by the low standard of the contestants this time round.

“Frankly I’d have voted the whole bloody lot out, but that’s not how this works. Unfortunately someone has to be a winner, although remember last year’s winner has been less successful than the guy who came runner-up, so that might be a pointer.

“Soon however we will be down to the finals and at that point it’s over to the voting public. Our advice is they get out there and vote vindictively.”