Random Play by Graham Reid

Hurry up and wait

Auckland elections: Hurry up and wait.

I wasn’t going to write about the Auckland mayoral election because … Well frankly, why would you bother?

People have said it was the dirtiest campaign in years, I just thought it downright depressing. I don’t have a particularly long recall about such things, but has there been in recent memory a more disappointing group of contenders than the three main-players on offer? Little wonder it descended so rapidly into playground name-calling. (But calling in the school bully to sort it out seemed weird, huh?)

It goes without saying that Banks and Fletcher were never contenders for my modest vote, but really: Dick Hubbard?

The man seemed stunned by the attention he received on announcing his bid, and remained tongue-tied and off-message in subsequent weeks. Whatever that message was. That he wasn’t Banks? Well, I’m not sure that’s enough, although the size of his majority suggests it might have been for many.

As the figurehead of the biggest city in the country Dick has all the charisma of a ping-pong ball. And, given his promises on election, I suspect a similar intellectual rigour also.

My guess is that Dick, nice guy that he probably is, will be outsmarted -- he is certainly outnumbered -- by those of City Vision who have ridden the anti-Banks wave. They are hungry for power and you can bet the sniping and in-fighting which comes from clashing egos will start sooner rather than later. Already there are some slightly whacko announcements.

It was easy to be under whelmed by Hubbard on the night of the election. (And I’m sorry, but while his wife is perfectly entitled to her faith the cynicism rose in me like bile when I read of her quoting from the Bible. Humorists take heart, there is life after Banks.) His chinwag to Linda Clark on Monday was even less reassuring: he spoke of vision and a feel good factor, of building a team and so forth. Okay, it’s early days but when someone rabbits on about what the city might look like in six or nine years it rather sidesteps what that person might have to contribute in the interim.

And Michael Barnett of the Chamber of Commerce is right saying we should be setting our sites on Sydney and Melbourne as a point of comparison rather than thinking of ourselves as a bigger and better Wellington.

I wasn’t surprised when Dick had to admit that he hadn’t taken a train in many, many years. These people who bang on about better public transport seldom have. There’s something that smells patrician about that.

When Hubbard talks of cleaning up crime in the CBD I suspect he’s not talking of corporate theft and greed in the high-rise banks and insurance companies but … But what? Not boy racers again is it?

Well, sadly it is. What would mayors do without them as a scapegoat?

When Hubbard talks about making the city safe in the early hours of the morning my guess is he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Does he go there regularly at 2am? I doubt it. He’d heard about the problem from others.

As one who has worked and partied in the inner city for the past couple of decades I have to say I haven’t actually seen a lot of crime. Lord knows there were mornings when, crawling from some club or other, I would have been an easy target for a malcontent or thug. Never happened. So I wonder where all this crime is. Maybe Banks, unbeknown to us, sorted it out when he puffed his chest about the boy racers and started in on the spitters?

Here’s a prediction: by the next election crime will not have been “cleaned up” in the CBD. It will be business as usual on the law’n’order front as an election issue. It always is.

Well, good luck anyway Mr Hubbard, you got my vote. But I was given no other option really.

Although there was one I could have pursued and seriously entertained the idea: to not vote at all. Yes, I know democracy was won when blood flowed on the streets of Paris, and probably Flanders Field and so on. But to not vote is actually a viable, considered choice. Herald columnist John Roughan wrote as much last Saturday, and got in before me.

I have always been amused when the self-righteous start banging on about the civic duty in voting, of making a choice. But if you weigh up the options and decide not vote then you too have made a choice. I felt genuinely sorry for the MP Ashraf Choudhary, an obviously intelligent man, who abstained from the vote on the prostitution bill and was berated far and wide. The man seemed to me quite sincere: he had heard the opinions from all sides and had decided not to vote either way.

When he recently opted out of voting on the Civil Union Bill the National MP Judith Collins said he should resign if he couldn’t make a decision.

"It seems that on these difficult conscience issues, Mr Choudhary has no conscience," she trumpeted. What an insulting and obviously stupid remark, but really no surprise coming from her I guess.

We are quick to demand people make their minds up on complex issues. Talkback radio depends on instant opinions and I was disappointed to see that the STV electoral option is being derided because it takes a bit longer to get a result. Are we in that much of a hurry that we can’t wait an extra day to get the council or government that the majority of the people would be happy with?

I’m not a great supporter of STV but it seems that if the best we can say against it is that’s a bit slow then maybe it has more merit than I think.

So maybe slowing down, taking time and thinking things through isn’t such a bad idea. And if you do that on an issue and come to no clear conclusion then what’s wrong with that? It’s just a twist on Keat’s “negative capability” I reckon.

What we must recognise it that there is active and passive apathy: in one you don’t act because you can’t be arsed, in the other you don’t act because you’ve weighed it all up and figure it isn’t worth the effort, that your actions would change nothing.

(If you wanted to see that old black vs white bogey tossed around as opposed to clear thinking and an ability to balance conflicting ideas, you need go no further than the recent Kerry vs Bush “debate” over the question of whether an anti-abortionist’s tax dollars should be used for abortions. You can guess who saw the thing in monochrome.)

There’s also that argument that the people who don’t vote shouldn’t complain about what they get dumped on them. Well, it’s always been my gut instinct that people who don’t vote out of sheer indolence also can’t be bothered writing letters to newspapers, getting out on street marches or even ringing talkback. They don’t complain, at least not in any way other than over a beer, and that seems harmless enough. We all do that. If these people are, as the French say, disengage from voting then they are probably disinterested in all that other tiresome stuff as well.

But while we’re taking a lofty view of our fellow civilians: I have to say I agree with those who wrote to the newspapers and berated Keisha Castle-Hughes for appearing in that Prince video. I too thought it was shocking and that little miss is getting just a bit too big for her boots. Imagine “a leading actress and role model to young New Zealanders” (such as Andrea Warmington of Royal Oak) behaving like that. It is indeed a matter of concern the parts she is choosing to accept, although I believe her agent Graham Dunster is probably poisoning her mind. He showed “a patronising lack of respect to the victims events many consider far too serious to be trivialised in a music video”, according to Nigel Godfrey of Sandringham.

And Mr Godfrey was quite right when he suggested Dunster donate his commission to a charity picking up the pieces of terrorism.

From the moral high ground you occupy, sir, can you see one from there?