If ever there was a good illustration of the parochial nature of New Zealand’s media, it is the furor over Bill English’s government limo parking on a dotted yellow line. In the grand scheme of things, I would rate this as a 0.5/10 – right up there with “cat gets stuck in tree” (Daring Rescue of Treed Feline) and “Man dies of old age” (Elderly Man Dies of Unexplained Causes). The Trivial Pursuit of Bill seems to be in full swing here. This is a ministerial limo, not a private car. Does anyone seriously think that English should have checked out the parking area and told his driver that he can’t park there? Very ministerial.
But, of course, in media terms, English has not merely parked in a no stopping zone, he has not even been “illegally parked”. Oh no – Mr English “Flouts the law!” Audrey Young in the Tabloid on Sunday (mercifully on page five – I don’t think I could have taken front page) even goes so far as to obliquely suggest this is English’s “third strike” and (by inference) he should now be out.
Writing from a galaxy far, far away, Ms Young writes:
“The furore completes a hat-trick of embarrassments for English. First he was forced to repay his ministerial housing allowance after using complex ownership structures to claim an extra $900 a week. Then he was at the centre of a broadcasting storm after TVNZ admitted using him prominently in a promo was a “mistake”.”
Except that he wasn’t “forced” to pay his ministerial housing allowance back. He did it of his own free will because he realised that, although what he was doing was legal and above board, the perception of him troughing, by maximising his allowances, was “not a good look”. He had not done anything illegal, merely unwise.
In the second part of Ms Young’s “hat-trick”, it was TVNZ that had second thoughts about their advertising, not English. There is not a single politician in the universe who, when offered free promotion like that, would turn it down. Including all the noisy members of Labour. It is utterly ridiculous to see this as some kind of “sin” that must be atoned for.
And now we have yellow-line-gate. *Sigh*. Love the comparison with Helen Clark’s mad dash at 160 kph. Apparently it escapes the attention of journalists that parking in a no stopping zone is not quite in the same league as dangerous driving. And talking about leagues…
Donna Awatere Huata. Philip Field. Winston Peters. Though it seems the media and, of course, Labour would like to place Bill English’s name next in that list, the reality is that English is a piker compared to those three. He is not even in the same league as Richard Worth (now cleared of illegality, if not impropriety). The absolute worse you can accuse English of is being a politician.
Some might say that’s enough…