Colin Espiner is moving back to the mothership, so to speak, and leaving the press gallery to take up a senior role (can’t recall exact details) in the Press’ head office.
Colin was very popular, not just for his print columns, but also his blog which attracted hundreds of comments every post. He was a must read, to get his call on who he thought was doing well and not so well.
A highlight of his online activities was his literally eating his words, and printing out a statement he had made and blending it into a milkshake, capturing it on You Tube.
He wraps up his eights years on the political beat, with this column. He starts with what he got wrong:
One of the luxuries of hindsight is seeing what you wrote that turned out to be right – and what you got wrong. I dismissed ACT leader Rodney Hide’s chances in Epsom, and he’s never let me forget it. I anointed former ACT MP Deborah Coddington as the party’s next leader, and he’s never let me forget that, either.
Heh. I always enjoy hassling a prominent Wellington lobbyist about his prediction in 1996 that Neil Kirton was going to be a star. So Colin is not alone in his hindsight.
When I started writing about politics I thought all politicians were venal and self-serving. Now I believe only some of them are.
Most of the 122 MPs who sit in Wellington each week at your expense genuinely want to make the country a better place. They may be misguided, sometimes silly, occasionally foolish. But very few are genuinely bad.
And they are mainly gone now!
The silliest of the lot, for my money, was the independent MP Gordon Copeland, of UnitedFuture. He once argued in favour of a form of what could only be described as perpetual motion by suggesting surplus water from hydro power stations be pumped uphill again to make additional electricity.
Picking a loser from my years of watching politics isn’t as easy. There have been countless embarrassments, numerous ministerial resignations and several MPs who ended up in jail. But the one who stands out for me is Dr Brash. He left a lucrative and well-respected post at the Reserve Bank to walk the plank of politics; a life for which he was eminently unsuited.
I disagree (no surprise), After 2002, National should not have even been in contention in 2005 and under Don National lifted its party vote a massive 18% – a feat unlikely to be beaten by any future leader. He also came within 2% of becoming Prime Minister and when he resigned as Leader, National was actually ahead in the polls.
My winner? It’s such a cliche to say Miss Clark, but who else can such an accolade be awarded to? She dominated politics during my time at Parliament, alongside probably only Mr Peters and Dr Brash, and she was more successful than either.
Few party leaders can claim three straight election victories and, love her or loathe her, she altered the paradigm of New Zealand politics. She forced National to the political centre, introduced most of the social policies this government now promises to keep, and elevated political management to an art form.
She got the relatively rare opportunity to leave politics on her own terms, rather than those of her party’s executioners, and fooled us all with her denials that she was interested in a job at the United Nations. Turns out there was a plan B after all.
While I don’t disagree with Colin saying Clark is the winner (hard to pick anyone else over the last eight years), I disagree she left politics on her own terms. She got thrown out of office, and she would give anything to have her old job back, I am sure.
Mr Peters was the most mercurial politician I came across. He could be very rude. He once called me a moron. He could also be incredibly charming. He would argue till death that black was white, and vice versa, usually after a drink or two. He was easily the most talented politician I saw, but also the laziest. The results were therefore never dull.
Imagine what a hard working Winston might have achieved, let alone an honest one.