Island Life by David Slack

Drivergate: It's Far Worse Than You Thought

There's a curious historical backdrop to this business of low-flying cars with Prime Ministers in them. Let me take you back to September 1974. In Diary of the Kirk Years, Margaret Hayward describes the unseemly scramble that marked the Prime Minister's very last journey in a Prime Ministerial motorcade.

After a memorial service at the Christchurch Town Hall, the funeral cortege was scheduled to fly to Timaru and then make the hour's drive from Timaru airport through to Waimate for a burial service at 3.15 pm.

By 3.30 it would be all over. But no one had taken the weather into account. Conditions at Timaru airport were impossible, and, after two attempts at landing, the aircraft headed back to Christchurch where a fleet of 15 cars waited to drive everyone the 126 miles by road.

It was an undignified, distressing race against time because by law no burials can take place after sundown. Darkness was closing in as they reached Waimate…

I've heard various descriptions of this episode over the years. The common theme has been that thanks to plane flight trouble, the cars were fairly belting along to make it in time. Sound familiar?

One of the most scintillating analyses I've heard of the whole Al Qaeda business came from that well-known observer of geopolitics, Billy Connelly. He pointed out the common syllable to the pertinent place names - AfghaniSTAN, TurkmeniSTAN, UzbekiSTAN, and so on. And then he drew our attention to the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers - box cutters, or as we know them better, STANley knives. Clearly this bin Laden was just some stooge. The name of the real brains behind the outfit was Stan.

Flimsy, I'll grant you, but joining the dots, what do we see with Drivergate? A common name: Waimate. Cars with Prime Ministers in them invariably exceed the speed limit, it seems, when they come within range of the place.

I suspect we need someone like Bob Harvey to draw all the threads together for us. After all, he famously blew the whistle on the CIA and their evil designs on Norman Kirk. He knows what the spooks are capable of. And when you look at our relationship with America in that light, all possible kinds of fresh perspectives present themselves.

For all we know, "gone by lunchtime" was actually code for something else. Perhaps something like: "reactivate the Waimate deathray". Clearly the Lockwood cable only scrapes the surface of what went on in those infamous exchanges.

I hesitate to bring all this up, but as a loyal member of the pyjamahadeen, I feel I ought to provide a contribution of equivalent robustness to the heroic efforts by Messrs Bhatnegar and Farrar in the past week to carve out their very own Rathergate moments in history. Well done, you part-time Woodward and Bernsteins! The fact that the lefty MainStreamMedia just shrugged should not for a moment cause you to bow your shoulders in dejection. Nor should it give you any pause about the significance or veracity or rigour of your work. Keep at it boys, I say. Keep digging.