Had a fun night Wed night at farewell drinks for 3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner. Somewhat unfortunately I had an early flight to Dunedin Thu morning!
Duncan started in Parliament around a year before I did, in 1995. He was an intern for One News, and Linda Clark was his boss. Linda was at the function and spoke very fondly of Duncan, and how she feels part of the Garner family, especially as Duncan’s father would call her up on a regular basis to see how he was going. In turn Duncan credits Linda for teaching him so well.
When Duncan started at Parliament, he had a large female fan club. A certain young ACT activist (who I shall not name, but she now has a popular blog) was founder and president of his fan club. Her crush on him bordered on the obsessional
Back in the 1990s, National had some legendary caucus parties twice a year . I know, as I used to organise many of them. Sadly these have almost disappeared, which is a pity. People need to unwind.
There is a very well known story (and yes I have Duncan’s permission to retell it) about Duncan at one of these parties. A number of us observed he was getting on very well with an attractive ministerial staffer whom we will call C. At some stage after midnight they disappeared. The party wound down around 4 am.
Anyway around 9 am the next morning C turned up to the Research Unit, lifted up the back of her top and proclaimed “Look what Duncan did to me”. Her back looked like it had been flayed by a Roman centurion. In fact it was carpet burns from umm activities on the floor of her Minister’s office. It seems they couldn’t even wait to get to someone’s home! Even more amusing was being told how when they left the office, they discovered the parliamentary cleaners patiently waiting outside to clean the office.
Now of course an occasion like this is too good not to hassle a mate, so I called his extension. His boss Linda Clark answered and said he wasn’t in yet. I said I’d ring back later. Linda asked if she could help (in case it was some political story I had for them). I said nah it wasn’t political, I was just ringing Duncan to hassle him. Linda without pause immediately exclaimed “What was her name David”. I laughed at Linda’s perceptiveness but refused to say or give any details. But being interrogated by Linda is like surviving the Spanish Inquisition, and on her fifth demand I relented and just said “Just tell Duncan he gave the poor girl carpet burns”. Linda shrieked with delight and hung up.
She must have done some detective work and found out C’s name. And then around 10 am Duncan staggered into the gallery. Now bear in mind he had only parted company with C a few hours earlier so you can feel for him to have Linda bellow down the corridor so the whole gallery can hear “Duncan Garner, you gave that poor girl C carpet burns over her entire back”. Duncan is stunned at how Linda could know this just hours after the event.
Linda’s protection of sources doesn’t extend to dishing dirt on Duncan, so later that day Duncan was very grumpy with me, and right up until the farewell was referring to me being to blame! My defence was Linda forced it out of me (plus no way it was going to stay a secret as a dozen people had seen the carpet burns).
Duncan was also well known for his suits, to the extent that even the President of the United States complimented him on them. His drinking ability has also been described by Michelle Hewitson.
But it is unfair to Duncan to portray him as a party boy. Over his 15 years in Parliament, he became an incredibly talented journalist and political editor. He broke major stories on John Tamihere’s golden handshake, the Kees Keizer secret tapes and many more, picking up awards on the way.
Duncan, and his padawan Paddy Gower, both are hard hitters. They go hard on National and they go hard with Labour. I recall people in National slating Duncan over the Kees Keizer tapes, and then people in Labour doing the same over his revelations about the ABC faction. Duncan is one of those journalists for which I have absolutely no idea how he would vote in an election – if he votes at all. That is a good thing.
He understands Parliament very well – that it is a place of both policy and politics. He showed on The Nation that he can do policy well also. The gallery will be the worse for losing him, but not bad to get out after 17 years and not yet be 40!
A number of people spoke at his farewell, including Gerry Brownlee. We heard a very funny story of how Duncan and Gerry were once out in town together, and someone came up to Gerry and called him Jonathan Hunt
Duncan has always enjoyed the blogs. He’s resisted the urge to jump into the comments himself, but would often call me and say “Wow, so and so is not a fan of me are they”. He knew his style had fans and critics, but never let it get to him.
So thanks for the good times Duncan. You’re a good bloke, and hopefully you can get Radio Live listeners into double figures!