We won, you lost, eat that

April 21st, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader has e-mailed me regarding the infamous Cullen quote of “We won, you lost, eat that” and it does appear that in fact the quote has got mangled over the years.

At the time Cullen announced his retirement, there was a lot of searching for the quote. I even had a couple of calls asking me if I could recall where and when. I said I was pretty sure it was during the Employment Relations Bill debate as I was pretty much in Parliament from 9 am to midnight every day for a week as the main analyst on that law. I think I wrote over 1,000 amendments!

Anyway I recall Cullen saying it after one of the mammoth fillybustering sessions came to an end. And it was indeed at that time, but not quite as legend now reports it. My reader has seen the original video footage:

it was the day of 16 August 2000. Parliament has just finished the 7th and final day of the Employment Relations Bill second debate. The Clerk has just announced there will be a debate for the 3rd reading of the ERB.

Speaker Hunt calls for a meal break as both sides stand after what must have been a long morning.

Cullen is heard on the camera mic as he stands saying in a loud voice to his front bench colleagues, “We won, they lost, let’s do lunch”.

It seems the original quote has been through Chinese whispers since then, and the “eat that” part is not accurate. The first media reports of it were some days later.

So as a farewell present to Dr Cullen, Kiwiblog is pleased to set the record straight!

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28 Responses to “We won, you lost, eat that”

  1. burt (7,797 comments) says:

    Why do this for him, he is quite capable of re-writing the history to suit himself. Do you really think he deserves this kind of courtesy… He’s just a rich prick sitting in a plum job with his big business mates !

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  2. David Farrar (1,853 comments) says:

    Because I stand for truth, justice and the American Way of Life :-)

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  3. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    He claims “Rick Prick” was also said under his breath

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  4. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Is that Obama type American Socialism you are ascribing too?
    No wonder Cate and Whaleoil have fired you.

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  5. racer (258 comments) says:

    “burt
    Why do this for him, he is quite capable of re-writing the history to suit himself.”

    Ah no burt, this thread is discussing how kiwiblog has yet again tried to rewrite history. PFO.

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  6. davidp (3,540 comments) says:

    Does anyone know when, exactly, he said “You want us to pay $600million for $150million worth of trains?… I think that’s a great deal!”

    Cullen’s the sort of guy who could go in to a $2 shop, and end up paying them $6 for something.

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  7. baxter (893 comments) says:

    DAVIDP::::”Cullen’s the sort of guy who could go in to a $2 shop, and end up paying them $6 for something.”

    Only if its someone else’s money though, he would only pay a dollar if it was his own.

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  8. tvb (4,199 comments) says:

    This is one of those famous quotes which get mangled because the mangled version is better than the original.

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  9. Auberon (869 comments) says:

    I just simply don’t believe this – there must be two versions. I can’t believe that what I so well recall seeing/hearing all those years ago was so innocuous. I remember thinking at the time it was the perfect illustration of Cullen’s venal, chip on both shoulders pettiness.

    If anyone has proof of the REAL version I will pay good money!

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  10. burt (7,797 comments) says:

    Auberon

    I’m with you on that. I still think the cloth capped socialist and proud of it said “eat that”.

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  11. thedavincimode (6,530 comments) says:

    the only farewell gesture Cullen deserves involves the deployment of a finger in the vertical.

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  12. hayek (81 comments) says:

    Sorry burt and auberon, you will have to find another favoured example of Cullen’s socialistic arrogance… But of course he’s such an evil bastard that your outrage will be perennially justified, right?

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  13. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,790 comments) says:

    I too, am sure there was an original ‘we won, you lost, eat that’ quote from Cullen. It was spoken in a moment of intense exasperation during a long debate. I suggest the sanitized version put up by DPF may well have come later. A play on the original.

    David, you’d better get your sleuths to examine the parliamentary audio record for the fortnight or so preceding August 16, 2000.

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  14. burt (7,797 comments) says:

    I guess it’s all water under the stadium now since Cullen has turned into a fat cat big business board member and I bet he is proud of that as well.

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  15. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,790 comments) says:

    Further to last, Cullen was a nasty piece of work and this tribute to him says it all.

    http://nominister.blogspot.com/2008/03/spot-nazi.html

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  16. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    Auberon and burt – who cares what he actually said. Why should the truth get in the way of a good story? I actually think the latter sounds more vintage Cullen. Whatever your view of him (and no doubt I agree) he was clever with his gob at times.

    I think DPF is correct in his analysis but would love to see it proved otherwise.

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  17. journo (11 comments) says:

    I think Adolf is correct that the version DPF is referring to is a play on the original.

    The memory can play tricks, of course, but my recollection is of Cullen sneering the words during question time when a National MP argued that he hadn’t given an adequate answer. I think this was in the very early days of the Clark-Cullen regime.

    At that stage I thought Cullen was politically witty and I was startled by the vitriol in his tone, suggesting something very different under the banter.

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  18. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    My recollections as well. Sure that there was a TV clip at the time.
    He is and has always been a nasty little man of the cloth cap variety who thought he would try and model himself on Savage. But then Savage was a mean and nasty little cloth cap man as well.

    The other nasty Little Cullen in our history was a Commissioner of Police who was responsible for shooting the miners at Waihi and who personally led the attack on Rua’s roundhouse in 1916 when two men were murdered by the police. The Gisbourne Police thought there was a case for murder charges but Cullen slipped out from under.

    Sound like familiar types of behavoir.

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  19. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    DPF,

    The email account may well be accurate. However, it was only part two of the affair, During a debate on 9 August 2000 over the repeal of the Employment Contracts Act (and its replacement with the Employment Relations Act), Cullen made the following comment:

    “Eat that! You lost, we won, it [the ECA] goes! It is as simple as that!”

    I suspect the later aside was a joking reference to how this earlier statement was mis-remembered (as “we won, you lost, eat that!”).

    [DPF: I've had lots of emails saying he did make it, as you did, but saying it was when tax rates went up or an ACC bill. Yours is the only specific reference. Is it in Hansard?]

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  20. Akaroa (535 comments) says:

    I’m sure I saw him make this comment – terminating with ‘eat that’ in a TVNZ news broadcast. It was a throwaway remark in the foyer of Parliament and I would imagine some journalists at least would recall it. At the time I wasn’t particularly interested in a political sense, but I’m sure he was referring to the election result. I just thought the remark was staggeringly rude and graceless and that it said everything about the individual and the party to which he belonged.

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  21. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    Yes – that is the exact quote from Hansard … 9 August 2000, Vol. 21, p 4570.

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  22. adamsmith1922 (888 comments) says:

    David

    I think this is one of those cases where this great quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence applies:-

    Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
    Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

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  23. Rob Hosking (75 comments) says:

    According to Paul Goldsmith’s book on nz tax – entitled ‘We won, you lost, eat that’ – it was as AG says, on 9 August. Debate on repeal of ECA.

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  24. Auberon (869 comments) says:

    I love how the rats are out giving negative karma to all those of us who remember the more virulent, angry and poisonous version of Cullen’s outburst.

    I’m also pleased to see so many people are in agreement with me that there must be two versions, and that perhaps I don’t have mad cow.

    It has further convinced me that the version I saw did not end in suggestions of everyone adjourning for lunch.

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  25. Auberon (869 comments) says:

    Well done AG, bravo, history was only re-written briefly!

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  26. burt (7,797 comments) says:

    AG

    Cheers.

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  27. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    Nice work AG. But how did “Eat that, you lost, we won” get changed to “We won, you lost, eat that”. When you say the two out loud the style and emphasis does change.

    If there is a reference to it being said in the popular order, that will make it a number of times he said it. Hardly imaginative … but then he wasn’t imaginative about anything in the Finance portfolio either … apart from the ways he could say “Yes” to the Ministers who wanted to spend OUR money.

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  28. adamsmith1922 (888 comments) says:

    I suspect that he, Cullen, was channeling Hartley Shawcross

    “We are the masters now.” — Hartley Shawcross

    * Actual quotation: “We are the masters at the moment and shall be for some considerable time.” In a 1945 debate to repeal the Conservatives’ “Trade Disputes Act” of 1927 this followed a quotation from Through the Looking-Glass in which Humpty-Dumpty observed that the question of definitions of words depended upon who was master.

    It fits with the circumstances I think, and the mis-quotation element follows beautifully

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