Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Random Historical Interlude #1 Pissed pollys along the ages

As a new feature on this blog I thought I would start an infrequent series of 'random historical interludes' - incidents that may have happened long ago but have pertinant and/or amusing relevance for current events. Being somewhat of a history nut myself I often think a historical perspective is often entirely missed by a mainstream media obsessed with today at the expense of forgetting yesterday.
#1 Pissed Polly's Along the Ages
In one of my favorite episodes of 'Yes, Minister' the Right Honourable Jim Hacker thinks of a cunning way to get through a long state function in Kumran where there is no alcohol. "You mean, Islamic law?"..."Five hours, without a single drinkie?"

He instructs Humphrey to set up an 'special communications room' and fill it cases of booze bought in from the British embassy to "liven up the orange juice". During the reception he receives a number of urgent 'messages' from the communications room, from notable lumanaries such as Mr Haig and John Walker (from the Scotch office). "The Soviet embassy is on the line Sir Humphrey, a Mr Smirnoff".

It was with some amusement I found a remarkably similiar incident described in Rob Muldoon's 1974 autobiography 'The Rise and Fall of a Young Turk'. Labour MP Mabel Howard told Muldoon that Walter Nash had a jug of orange juice on the table at state functions - laced with gin. Muldoon also recalls a reception where he went to take a glass of orange juice from a tray only to be told by the Scottish head waitress, 'Oh no, Mr Muldoon, that's for Mr Nash, that's the one with the gin in it'.

Having a couple of drinkies at a function or reception is one thing, but making decisions on behalf of the country while drunk is quite another. Ten years after the publication of 'Young Turk' Muldoon would call a snap election while chemically inconvenienced, in the full glare of TV cameras to capture his glaze.

During the National/NZ First coalition it was widely rumoured that Jim Bolger and Winston Peters ran the country over a whisky bottle.

If politicians feel the need to pontificate about the dangers of mind altering substances, perhaps there needs to be an audit of how much booze there is in certain parliamentary offices. In the day and age of EFTPOS and credit card transactions it would be relatively simple to add up how much each MP spent in 3.2 in a year. When MPs are conducting important state business, in or out of the house, should they be as dry as Kumran?

With attention on the contents of their own drug cabinets, perhaps MPs would suddenly lose interest in shallow politically motivated campaigns to raise the drinking age, especially as the problems associated with NZ drinking culture predated the lowering of the age to 18, demonstrating any causal link to be a sideshow at best.

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