Epsom shows appetite for answers
Epsom, New Zealand’s richest and whitest electorate, shows it can get down and dirty during this election campaign.
“You are always interrupting me, why don’t you shut up,” said Internet-Mana Epsom candidate Pat O’Dea.
He was roaring at one of the nearly 200 people who turned out to meet the candidates at Somervell Presbyterian Church in the heart of the country’s richest suburb, Remuera, tonight.
Things did not get much better after that.
Conservative Party candidate Christine Rankin accused an unnamed rival candidate of refusing to even shake her hand before the debate.
It was, she said, typical of the scene set in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, but then she claimed she was first to write about it all in a 2008 book, Light the Flame.
“My book will shock you,” she said, claiming the previous Labour Government in the late 90s “had ripped my arms out.”
“Dirty politics is how we treat each other.”
National Party candidate Paul Goldsmith, who spent large parts of the meeting trying to persuade the audience not to vote for him, downplayed the Hager book.
It was only interesting to “political tragics”, he said.
“Most people are heartily sick of it already.”
The audience did not seem to agree.
Asked about breaking into other people’s computers – a reference to hacking the Labour Party database – he told the audience “what happens in politics is complicated”.
The man Goldsmith wanted people to vote for, Act’s David Seymour, said the Dirty Politics issue was “a technological phenomenon” and added the problem was “where to draw the line”.
O’Dea, who has previously run for Mana in Epsom, only had to introduce the name Kim Dotcom to be greeted with booing and someone calling out “your sugar daddy”.
O’Dea was not deterred: “You are rude and ignorant, shut up.”
The National-Act deal drew scepticism from questioners – and the other candidates.
Labour’s Michael Wood said people of Epsom were being “moved around like pawns, to prop up the Act Party.”
He quoted Cameron “Whaleoil” Slater in one of the hacked emails, saying “Epsom will always do what they are told.”
Goldsmith and Seymour sat side by side, ensuring that when O’Dea spoke he pointed to them and said they would embarrass Epsom.
“These people are idiots,” he said, adding that they were even less popular in Epsom than his party was.
“Don’t vote for an extreme party that nobody supports.”
Questions from the audience suggested limited support for voting Act now, and several asked why they would bother when Act would only bring one MP into Parliament anyway.
One woman asked why the minimum wage was so high in New Zealand, which Seymour used to claim that welfare spending was now equivalent to the cost of buying the South Island.
Another asked “how much is too much” when it came to selling land to foreigners.
Seymour responded that New Zealand needed foreign investment.
“If we didn’t to that and take foreign investment, we would be a very sad country… We should be open to the world.”
An independent candidate, self-described “ex-cop” Grace Haden, is running on a platform to end corruption.
Now working as a private investigator, she said she was uncovering corruption all over the place.
“This is what will kill our country,” she said.