Feeling groggy, he slowly opened his eyes. His neck felt like it had been stood on by a squad of riot police and, for a split second, he had some sympathy for the parliamentary protesters.
Where the hell was he?
Slumped forward on a large expensive desk, his mouth was dry and his lips were glued shut. There was a brown stain on his shirt, that he desperately hoped was chocolate, and a pen stuck to his cheek.
Could’ve been worse - better than a slice of cold pizza, right? Fond memories of his student activist days.
Then he remembered. He was in the PM’s office at the Beehive.
Yes - another day in paradise!
The events of the night before started coming back to him. He’d been working late, as usual, trying to find a way of keeping Nashy in the cabinet while simultaneously sacking him as Police Minister to show how tough he can be on errant colleagues.
Not an easy task but “Mr Fix-it” had delivered, yet again.
He’d had one too many Belgian hot chocolates. Ah….the shirt stain.
They were so rich and always made him drowsy, especially when Stu slipped in a cheeky dash of Baileys.
Still, what better place to nod off than in the nation’s seat of power and his new home-from-home.
Quickly changing his shirt and rubbing some plumping cream into his cheek - part of his daily grooming regime to keep his schoolboy looks - Chippy wondered what political gymnastics he’d have to perform today.
His diary was full, as it should be. Anything less might imply he wasn’t fully committed to his new role. There was no way that was happening.
He’d waited a long time to get here and he wasn’t going to blow it like Jacinda did.
“I’m too drained to carry on”, she’d said. Yeah right! Too unpopular you mean.
First things first. He checked to see if any opinion polls had been released that morning.
Excellent! Another bump up to the mid-30s in Labour’s party vote, overtaking National. He’d have a bit of fun in the House baiting Luxon this arvo. It was like hitting a pinata. You could take as many swipes as you liked with no comeback.
And, his own popularity rating was soaring. Even he hadn’t hoped for this much.
He didn’t usually gloat; well, no more than the next politician, but he indulged in a satisfied smile…..Jacinda would be gagging!
Along with National, she and Robbo must have expected him to sink like a stone. And now, here he was, saviour of the Labour Party!
Gotta keep a lid on it though. Slow and steady wins the race.
He didn’t want the useful idiots in the mainstream media getting over-excited on a sugar-rush of woke pronouncements, then excessively hyping him up. The demise of his old boss had taught him that much at least.
The public seemed to have fallen for his measured, calm and competent act. Amazing what they’d believe. That’s why he loved politics. There was always the chance of a comeback, no matter how long the odds.
The main opposition was a gift from heaven - bloody useless, thank God. Not that he believed in all that religious crap.
And Cyclone Gabrielle had certainly helped, notwithstanding Cuddles feeding him unreliable intel denying Hawkes Bay residents’ claims of looting. Still, a swift cross-court backhand sent that potential stink-bomb straight back at the Police Commissioner.
He just had to offer up enough cash sweeteners between now and September to keep the swing voters onside. The Reserve Bank Governor could wear the fallout from that one.
Luckily, most Kiwis didn’t have a scooby how the economy worked so when inflation kept rising he’d get his media mates to litter the news with stories about how Te Putea Matua was too busy embracing Te Ao Maori to help out struggling New Zealanders.
Sounded like a Maori love story and that wasn’t far from the truth. And they thought he was woke!
But, without a doubt, the main event in today’s calendar was Three Waters.
A behind-closed-doors meeting with Nanaia, Kelvin, Willie and the rest of the Maori caucus to inform them of his plans to make it more palatable to the NZ public.
Binning Jacinda’s other white elephants - the RNZ/TVNZ merger, the biofuels mandate, road speed reductions and the proposal to lower the voting age to 16 - had found favour with a majority of the public and showed Chris to be a decisive leader, ready to right the wrongs of a misguided agenda.
They could always be resurrected if things played out for him. As he liked to say, but only to himself in front of the mirror, while practising shaving……
one non-binary’s white elephant was another transgender’s reassignment surgery.
It also gave him the opportunity to poke the Greens in the eye and make it clear who was top dog come election time.
I mean, hello! Who else were they going into coalition with!
Getting rid of Three Waters was a bridge too far though. It was Labour’s flagship policy and the one most voters hated with a vengeance. After promoting it for years, ditching it now would make him look weak and incompetent. But in its present form it could risk sinking his election campaign and that must not be allowed to happen.
He’d already demoted Mahuta, a popular move, and instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send her offshore as much as possible for the next 6 months. She was pissed at losing Local Government but, honestly, she had the tact and diplomacy of an angry bull elephant facing down a land-rover of tourists.
She had properly screwed up and had to be made an example of. Her “skill set” begged the question why she was still Foreign Minister but he couldn’t push things too far too soon. She and her mates were too powerful for that and had to be kept onside.
So, the key to the new improved Three Waters was to retain enough of the pro-Maori features - like the effective veto, the right to dictate water policy unchallenged, and future ownership benefits - while making sufficient cosmetic changes to persuade voters that he’d addressed their concerns.
Then, after the press announcement, don't mention it again until late October.
If only Three Waters had been like the new equally undemocratic and race-driven RMA legislation which had slipped right under the radar.
In saying that, he’d heard a nasty rumour that the NZ Taxpayers Union had finally waded through the mind-numbing planning trilogy, realised it was worse than the old version, and had started a campaign to raise public awareness.
And look how their exposure of Three Waters had worked out.
You just couldn’t rely on the MSM these days to keep things under wraps. Like a government department, their popularity and efficiency had nosedived, despite more staff and a bigger budget.
Their ratings were falling faster than a Burj Khalifa express elevator and new independent online media sources were springing up and holding open debates, of all things, on contentious issues.
Chippy made a note to review the PIJF and do something no Labour leader had ever done before. A cost-benefit analysis!
“Excuse me, Prime Minister. The Maori caucus is ready for you, sir.”
“Right. Stand back and let the Boy-from-the-Hutt see the rabbit. This is going to make the last chapter of Watership Down seem like a happy ending.”
He checked himself in the mirror. The pen mark had faded. He was plump-cheeked and ready for action.
The master of spin was winding up for his policy-makeover triple axel.
Chippy had a really good feeling.
This was definitely going to be a steak-and-cheese-pie kind of day!
Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.
A written version of Tremains cartoons.
It is my fervent wish that the Minister for Foreign Affairs be sent to Ireland for 6 months to sort out an employment issue at the embassy. Mallard and Mahuta truly deserve each other.
Thanks Derek. Not just a factual article, but totally enjoyable.
Keep up the good work.
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