The Backbencher

February 27th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


Went to the official relaunch of the Backbencher last night. The interior, after the fire, has changed a lot. where the kitchen used to be is a lounge bar, and the bar remodelled to provide more room.

They launched seven new puppets last night, which I’ve featured below.


This looks like David Shearer on the toilet in his underpants but I’m pretty sure he is meant to be a Roman Consul sitting on the Consul’s chair. I presume he is meant to be Julius Caesar, which of course makes you wonder who will be Brutus?


Winston the pugilist. What was hilarious was when Winston headed over to the pub. Even the PM trotted over with just one lackey, but Winston was followed by a dozen pin-striped individuals into the pub looking like a mafia family.


Metiria Turei was delighted with her puppet. It looks like a cross between being a corporate warrior and a member of the Urerewa 17!


Bill’s one is very clever. His heart has been replaced by the ticket tape of an adding machine.


John Key or John Travolta. The PM quipped that if you have seen the video of him doing Gangnam Style you know he can’t dance. We think the puppet is an allusion to the fact the the PM is still “Staying Alive”. PM also quipped Bronagh will like the implicit comparison to Olivia Newton John.


Hone loved being in the waka and commented that Pita and Tariana used to be on it, and seem to have moved on. Subtle (only slightly) and funny.


Gerry gave the funniest speech. He was pleased with how small his body was and said he reckons it was because they used up all the spare latex on making the Prime Minister’s nose. The PM, who was still there, interjected with words about a looming reshuffle. All good natured and very funny.

Was a great night, with lots of people there. Really good to have the Backbencher open again. It has been my local since the day it opened in around 1990.

Backbencher reopening

February 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sophie Speer at Stuff reports:

Seven bespoke puppets of the “most influential” politicians in the Beehive will join old favourites when The Backbencher reopens in Wellington this month.

But owner Alistair Boyce is not saying who the MPs are – and each puppet will be unveiled by the politician it was modelled on, to give them “a right of reply”.

Spontaneously combusting tea towels caused a fire which gutted the Molesworth St pub and restaurant – a favoured haunt of political types – last June.

Work is on track to reopen the bar with a private function on February 12, followed by a soft public opening by the end of that week.


Not only is the Backbencher my local, I am by definition its oldest patron as I went for a drink there on the day it first opened in the early 90s, as it was 100 metres from Red Cross House on Hill Street where I was then working. And one of their displays even features some of my more mischievous work of the mid 1990s!

So will be great to have it back again, and to see what changes have been made to it.

Political panel show Back Benches would again be filmed in the bar, with Prime screening 20 episodes, hosted by Wallace Chapman, from April.

Also a welcome return.

Backbencher gutted by fire

June 8th, 2012 at 8:17 am by David Farrar

Photo by Kent Blechynden, of the Dom Post.

Stuff reports:

Firefighters were called to a fire at well-known Wellington landmark the Backbencher Pub this morning.

Fire Service central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said firefighters were alerted at 4.45am when an alarm went off in the multi-storey Kate Sheppard apartment building, next to the pub.

It is understood the fire began in the pub’s kitchen.

Apartment residents were evacuated and eight fire trucks were sent.

Thank goodness no one was harmed, but this is still an awful thing. The Backbencher is an iconic Wellington institution.

Boycie and his staff will be devastated. Seeing the damage will be soul destroying, and their collection of political cartoons and puppets may be irreplacable.

I worked at the Red Cross on Hill Street in 1990 when the Backbencher opened, and went there on its opening day. So I’ve been going there for over 20 years, and it comes close to my second home. I just hope the damage doesn’t see it closed for too long.

On a more practical note, it means the Backbenches TV show will need a new venue for its final three shows on TVNZ7.

Add the Backbencher on

December 15th, 2009 at 6:59 pm by David Farrar

The Government has a notice of motion on the order paper:

3. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE to move, That, pursuant to section 25(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act 2000, this House add the following premises to the parliamentary precincts:

All that part of the mezzanine level of the buildings situated at 1 and 3 The Terrace, Wellington as comprised within Certificates of Title WN41C/804 and WN41C/805, having a net lettable area of 477.2 square metres as more particularly shown on the plan attached to the lease between AMP NZ Office 1 The Terrace Limited and the Parliamentary Corporation, dated 12 August 2009.

Now all we need is an amendment that says:

And all that part of the building situated at 34 Molesworth Street, legally described as Lot 2 DP 318644, having a net area of 493 square metres.

Then MPs can go to the Backbencher without it being regarded as having left the parliamentary precinct (which affects voting in the House).

UPDATE: Sadly the motion has been passed without my Backbencher update, but I can report one amusing exchange passed onto me:

As Gerry was reading it out, Darren Hughes was listening diligently. Gerry reached “having a net lettable area of 477.2 square metres ” and Darren suddenly chirped up with: ”’Aaaah – the member’s pantry.”


The Blue Baron and Snoopy

June 4th, 2009 at 11:39 am by David Farrar


There was a good crowd at the Backbencher last night for the unveilign of the new puppets. John and Bill were cast as the Blue Baron and Snoopy. Was very disturbing as John kept ticking Bill’s stomach (the puppet that is).

Also had Pita Sharples in a waka, and Roger Douglas as Rodney Hide’s puppet master.

John Key joked that he could have done with the machine gun in the plane at around 8 am yesterday. Bill joked about wanting to know about which National MPs had been seen in the Backbencher after Boycie revealed this is where Clark, Wilson and co plotted against Mike Moore.

And as the Dom Post reports, Rodney said:

“The great thing about having Roger Douglas in our caucus is that you get plenty of advice,” Mr Hide said last night.

“The advice is never contradictory because it hasn’t changed in 20 years.”

Afterwards around 60 of us went upstairs to hear about Obama’s first 100 days from a visiting US expert. Thanks to the US Embassy and State Department for helping make it happen. People seemed to enjoy it, and we had a good turnout of MPs.

After that we had Backbenches which was fun also. A good Wednesday night.