Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NZ: Has Tamihere resigned? At least there will less of a 'backbone club'

Scoop is reporting that beseigned cabinet minister John Tamahere has resigned from cabinet. I am not surprised about the timing - the humongous focus on the American election means that it will be an opportune day to bury unfavourable political news. Of course this rule must remain unspoken. On September 11 2001 a white house staffer sent around an email suggesting 9-11 was a good day to bury bad news, and was sacked after a public outcry.

Governments controlled by spin merchants are not always this cynical, but nethertheless, today is a good day to keep an eye out for parliamentary and other reports the government would prefer not to release at all.

Clark has been distancing herself from Tamihere ever since she got back from India. Her comments to the media that she had spoken to Tamihere earlier in the year about speculation over tax related issues, strongly suggested he was already toast. Clark can say she asked Tamihere about any potential issues and he denied there was a problem, so she can claim to be off the hook.

I must say as a lefty I am not too sorry to see Tamihere go. He is a known member of the Backbone Club alongside Clayton Cosgrove, David Benson-Pope*, George Hawkins and Dover Samuels - the Labour right wing faction that once included Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, David Lange and Michael Bassett among its members. Kind of an ironic name really - I didn't think worms and snakes had backbones.

One of Tamihere's first actions as Youth Affairs Minister was to dismiss a report commissioned by Laila Harre advocating the removal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act (the so called defence to allow smacking of kids). He also has advocated the privatisation of welfare - so I think there is a case that, if he did not hold a Maori seat, he would be in a different party.

That said, Tamihere always struck me as a friendly, affable sort of guy. When I worked in Parliament as a researcher he was one of the few MPs that would say 'Ki ora' to me as I walked past, even though we had never been introduced. Many MPs would not even acknowledge the existence of us 'worker bees' in the Beehive, Bowen House and Parliament house.

With Tamihere gone from cabinet, it is now more likely that George Hawkins will be reshuffed out of cabinet in Clark's Xmas reshuffle. Apparently his fellow members of the backbone club kicked up a stink when rumors started to speculate that Clark was about to drop him. I wish she would - he always reminded me of Mr Creasote from Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life'. I am sure if he ever 'blew up' it would be equally as disgusting.

*The Labour cabinet minister who told Zaoui to 'Get on a Plane'

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