I’ll be with you in a tick! By Trevor Plumbly

Wise council

I fumbled past 81 last week and decided to look around for amusement instead of reality. If you’re not careful, at that age, there’s far too much to be serious about.

Fortunately, it’s local election time down here in Auckland and that’s always good for a few laughs, mainly provided by the wild card candidates. Not protected by party training wheels, they sometimes wobble and get forced to wing it, which brings an element of farce, largely driven by the unlikelihood of them ever getting elected. I found it was best to ignore the staple patter; the fun comes when these guys battle with their own personality, struggling to deliver messages far beyond their comfort zone. ‘Transparency’ is the byword, and they all use it, from new broom intellectuals, down-to-earth I’m-here-for-you smoothies and barmy conspiracy theorists. 

Lend me your fears

The local mall and walkabout is the easy stuff, a quick handshake and a nod of agreement usually satisfies most punters. Public debate demands more depth and the ability to play a role. At stake here is credibility, the stuff that used to mean a lot before they started rehearsing it. But despite that, some still find it difficult to grasp. An Auckland mayoral candidate, when asked about the possibility of losing, replied ‘cowboys don’t cry’, which might have attracted the cowgirl vote but it didn’t do much for me.

Curtain calls

The dry-eyed cowboy’s ad lib reminded me of that old Monty Python skit on Neville Chamberlain’s repeated rehearsals to deliver the news of his meeting with Hitler with sufficient impact. Because of an eye condition, I’m spared having to watch these guys in action, but we blindies can pick up vocal nuances with the best of them! Vote catching is basic at this level, built round the ‘what’s in it for me?’ principle and the ability to promise without committing yourself sorts the politicians from the hopefuls. As ‘the’ day nears, minor niggles have got promoted to ‘issues’ and the process is becoming mildly interesting.

User prays

By the time the forms arrive in the post, transparency’s outlived its shelf life and it’s time to dangle carrots while growth needs to be chucked in the mix. Political or economic skills aren’t needed for this bit, it’s pie in the sky territory, difficult to argue against if you don’t want to be labelled as a spoilsport or lefty dreamer. New broom wants a waterfront stadium built, down-to-earth wants free public transport and the barmy theorist quotes scary truths from the gospel according to Snapchat.

Arrows of desire

Cynics’ fatigue is starting to set in and I’m getting a bit mellow though it’s more the water on stone principle causing this than the power of their rhetoric. Words like ‘visionary’ and ‘aspirational’ are knocking the sharp corners off my perception. After all, these are ordinary folk, aren’t they? Perhaps they’ve just been led astray by visions of high-backed chairs and chains of office. To put if frankly, I’m finding local democracy emotionally debilitating and to those similarly afflicted the following may help:

  1. Look for an identifiable name: if ‘Sid’ evokes pleasant memories for you and there’s a Sid on the list, vote for the guy! It’s not going to make any difference but at least you’ll feel more involved.        
  2. Don’t bother voting: that way you can always blame someone else later on.

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