Bob Parker: This is Your Lifeline #eqnz #christchurchquake
If ever a politician could do with the skills of a television presenter, it is in the immediate aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster when communication skills are paramount. If ever, therefore, a television presenter was running 20 points behind a dour but very well known politician in his quest for re-election, a huge but non-fatal earthquake would be a happy campaign intrusion. Welcome to the luckiest moment in Bob Parker’s life.
Bob Parker is the affable former TV presenter best known for fronting This is Your Life, an high-rating but occasional series showcasing the remarkable achievements of famous Kiwis. He is also the current Mayor of Christchurch — but Parker’s re-election chances looked doomed until approximately 4.30 this morning.
Running against Parker is former deputy PM and long-time NZ political identity, Jim Anderton.
Anderton, who has been comfortably ahead in the polls, is a cagey and skilled operator, as well as a proven vote-winner in the Canterbury region. He will also be a terrible Mayor.
Anderton is about as interested in the day to day reality of Christchurch local body politics as I am, which is to say not in the least. This is a retirement plan; methadone treatment for a long-term political junkie. Anderton almost certainly has no idea of the abject powerlessness of a NZ mayor. Not only does the Mayor possess no more actual voting power than a solitary backbench Councillor, elected officials are pretty much window dressing to start with. (When I was a Councillor in Porirua, 1989-92, I worked out we had a say with respect to less than 5 percent of the city’s budget). It won’t take long before Anderton is bored, frustrated and utterly unbearable.
I have no idea about whether Parker is any better as Mayor than Old Jim would be — it would be disingenuous to imply that I care all that much — but serendipity is surely on his side. The quake has arrived only a fortnight before ballots are sent to Christchurch voters — which is ideal for an incumbent. He gets to bathe in the “roll up the sleeves, unite and fight” afterglow before it turns ugly when people realise the extent to which the Council is mismanaging the recovery. His incompetence won’t come to light until well after the polls close.
Don’t change horses midstream, the saying goes, and if Parker doesn’t make that sentiment the key focus for the remainder of the campaign, then he doesn’t deserve to win.