The world’s politicians have provided us with some pretty memorable quotes. I’ll list a few from United States history and see how many you can attribute to the correct president.
“I am not a crook.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
The first is, of course, Richard M Nixon denying his involvement in Watergate, the scandal that led to his impeachment and resignation.
The second is John F Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural speech calling on Americans to serve their fellow countrymen in the face of threats from other parts of the world.
The third is Theodore Roosevelt describing his foreign policy philosophy.
Quotes by New Zealand politicians may not be as lofty, as famous, or as widely known, but they have a Kiwi flavour which makes them memorable in their own homely way.
So, if there were a 2023 New Zealand political quote of the year award, who would I nominate?
Well, there are a number of contenders:
There was Christopher Luxon’s comment in one of the televised, pre-election debates where he mentioned a $60 spend at the supermarket. In a later response, Chris Hipkins said he would spend $300 to $400 and the $60 suggestion left him very concerned about Luxon’s diet. Good to see some irony at play!
Again from Luxon, there was the erroneous claim that there would be only one tobacco retailer in the whole of Northland, and that would become a magnet for crime. At least he had the good grace to admit he “got it wrong”. Well, I suppose he had to when the real figure was closer to 35, which, by my reckoning, is 34 away from one.
And there was Tauranga politician, Sam Uffindell’s claim that he did the shopping once a month to “give his wife a break”.
All of these show how out of touch some of our politicians might be with the real world.
But the quote that I feel beats them all came from Shane Jones.
“It is preposterous that the Māori Party should think that they are the authentic voice for Māori New Zealanders. I remind everyone again: that party got less than three per cent of the vote and a lot of their party voters were not Māori; a lot of them were hippies.”
Hippies! Good gracious! Whatever next?
What geological era – or perhaps, planet – does Shane Jones come from?
That one comment transported me back to another world, another time. Through the fog of history, memories came tumbling, some of them from even before the hippie era.
I saw [in no particular order] Kaydee plastic sandals, Vauxhall Wyverns, 45rpm records, pennies, threepences, florins, swimming togs rolled up in a towel to form a neat little cylinder, carrot ‘n’ parsnip, sago pudding, school milk, inkwells, nibs, Triumph Mayflowers, TEAL flying boats, DC3s, bell-bottoms, jerkins, teddy boys, widgies, bodgies and milk bars.
In my vision I saw the rugby, racing and beer culture. I remembered the six o’clock swill and New Zealand Railways cups and saucers and sandwiches covered with damp muslin. And, of course, hippies.
So, thanks for the memories, Shane Jones.
I didn’t mean this piece to be so politically one-sided but I’m sticking with quotable merit rather than political balance.
Staying with the imbalance, I’ve decided to give the last words to Winston. These exact words were recently directed at the Greens – some of whom might even be hippies – but I feel it would be a delicious turnaround for Winston to direct them at the aforementioned politicians:
“I’ve been around a long time. I know a bunch of losers when I see them.”
Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.