Hard News by Russell Brown

His Bobness

Most of us can probably agree that Annette Presley is annoying. Having sat next to her on live television, I can personally report to that effect. And Bob Jones' tirade against her to Graeme Hill on Radio Live (now showing on YouTube) is shockingly funny. But can we further agree that Jones is a bit of a dick too?

The dispute centres on Jones refusing to turn up for a charity event in Greymouth on account of his fellow Dragons Den panellists breaching a written agreement not to use their mobile phones in his presence. Jones gave his side of the story as a follow-up in the Sunday Star Times - ironically, the paper claims it was unable to reach him on two different phone numbers before it ran the original story - and insisted that rather than merely receiving calls, Presley and Julie Christie had the temerity to initiate calls while in the car with him (Christie told the Star-Times that Presley was concerned about her five year-old daughter, who was "in A&E" with tonsillitis.)

The endless availability implied by the mobile phone has certainly required some new etiquette, but most of us have a feeling for when they're rudely used: loudly or at length over the lunch table, for example. But in the car on the way to the airport? What else is there to do? Were the ladies supposed to confine themselves to genuflecting towards his Bobness?

Meanwhile, poor old Simon Power gets it wrong again: in this case in his pursuit of National's present Parliamentary pantomime. Power collapsed a select committee meeting because its chair, Labour MP Martin Gallagher, was late - his flight from Hamilton was delayed - and even though Gallagher arrived as Power and two other National MP were walking out, he was unable to persuade them to continue. This was jolly bad luck for the submitters - including senior police and the head of the Serious Fraud Office - who had their time and money wasted. Power later denied he was grandstanding.

As did Tony Ryall, whose attack on the government over the MENZB vaccine seems purely cynical. In a bizarre appearance on Morning Report today Ryall claimed to be raising an issue of informed consent (an odd approach, given that by definition the 33 adverse reactions acknowledged by ACC occurred after consent had been given) but said that he would still have his own children vaccinated if had to make the decision again.

Readers may recall that I was critical of the level of information provided by the Ministry of Health during the vaccination campaign, and if one girl's development of a blood disorder is related to MENZB then that is a serious matter. But Ryall's attempt to score points by alleging a cover-up is just plain shabby. National MPs seem so gorged on the success of their campaign against Labour's credibility that they have begun to forget the purpose for which Members of Parliament are elected.

Meanwhile, National's caucus prepares for the bizarre - but necessary and inevitable - prospect of changing leaders while it's miles ahead in the polls. No argument from me: whatever Dr Brash's personal qualities might be, the political culture around him sucks. A National government led by John Key could be quite interesting. One under Brash would simply be alarming.

One more thing: The Bush camp's apparent belief that it could just do the old Jedi mind trick - claiming that the White House had "never" used the phrase "stay the course" in relation to Iraq - is indicative of either hubris, a belief in the enduring stupidity and suggestibility of its voter base, or both. Here's a YouTube reel of some of the instances.