God is a ToryPosted: October 8, 2010
I find that coming back to blogging is always something that is difficult especially if you’ve been away for a while. My only excuse is that I have other commitments which mean that I can only post intermittently, as opposed to some other bloggers who seem to live permanently online.
I wonder whether it (blogging) is worth it. But, then something gets you thinking or annoyed and before you know it you are putting your hands on the computer key board and away you go……
I live in Christchurch. And, Christchurch is in the midst of the local body elections as is the rest of the country. However, unlike the rest of the country, a month ago Christchurch suffered from an ‘Act of God’, which left sections of the city looking like down town Beirut. This ‘Act of God,’ however while laying waste to parts of the city and surrounding districts did deliver something positive for its first citizen – it rescued his election chances in the mayoral race.
Prior to September 3, it would have taken something of extra-ordinary magnitude to have rescued Bob Parker’s mayoral campaign. A shroud of controversial, ill-conceived and disliked decisions clung to him. From the City Council purchase of Dave Henderson’s properties to the abolition of Ecan (and the removal of Canterbury’s regional electoral rights), Parker was involved in and tainted by them all. Prior to September 3 it was difficult to conceive that Parker would be Mayor after the October elections. His main competitor, Jim Anderton had a comfortable lead in the polls and people were talking about Parker’s Mayoralty in the past tense and in much the same sense that one might make mention of a deceased (and not very popular) distant relative.
However, on the morning of 4 September that changed. In the space of a minute, Parker was elevated to the top of the greasy poll. With every thudding brick that landed in Christchurch from a damaged building, his situation improved. In the aftermath of the Earthquake Parker has busied himself to such an extent that he is no longer even bothered by the campaign – politics is, according to him beyond him. He is sick of it and he has no time for the triviality of campaigning.
Parker is being disingenuous though. For better or for worse, the Earthquake is Bob Parker’s campaign. It has provided him with endless photo opportunities and media comments. He is seen in the company of the Prime Minister, he is seen on a cherry picker surveying damaged buildings – since he is not a qualified engineer no one is sure to why he up there. He is seen delivering progress reports to the waiting press about the state of the city. In one particular incident, a TV3 news report inadvertently caught Parker actually pushing a Civil Defence spokesperson out of the way, so that he and not the spokesperson could make a statement in relation to civil defence.
And, this exposure has had its effect. It has put Parker on the front foot and allowed him to put aside all the controversial and hotly contested policies of the last three years. He is no longer ‘Sideshow Bob’, but ‘Bob the Builder.’ A man dedicated to rebuilding his city after a devastating earthquake. One person, a local Unionist said to me that he was voting for Parker on this basis. Parker, he said was ‘rebuilding the city.’ Where was Anderton? He asked. Parker, he said, was on the news everyday saying that the city was to be rebuilt, Jim wasn’t.
It is difficult to respond in these situations aside from stating the obvious. This is that it was hardly surprising given the circumstances that from the moment of the first shake on that fateful Saturday morning, the focus would be on Bob Parker. Any Mayor worth their salt would have risen to the occasion. It is also obvious that Anderton would be on the back foot after the quake. What could have Anderton have said and done in the immediate aftermath? What could any contender have said or done? If Anderton had criticised Parker in the quake’s immediate aftermath or tried to involve himself in the situation, he would have been accused of politicking on the back of a national disaster.
If, and as the polls predict, that Parker wins, it will be interesting to see what the situation is like in a year’s time, as the situation here in Christchurch slowly normalises. Will there be a return to the pre-September 2010 Bob Parker? Will there be a significant number of Christchurch’s citizens writing letters to the Press and on talk back radio berating him over some decision? Will they be lamenting on the lack of direction of the Council and accusing it and him of a lack of consultation?
God has, for the time being, provided a helping hand to Parker. But, it could also be a poisoned chalice.