Sorry Brendan, it's nothing personal

ABOUT THE HOUSE - JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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OPINION: Given that Parliament is a place where they literally stop the clocks and declare it officially a different day to the rest of the world on occasions, it should have been no surprise that the announcement of yesterday's big news, the caucus suspension of Brendan Horan, was a process marginally slower and more painful than bunion surgery.

NZ First leader Winston Peters had said he would be making an announcement to Parliament.

Given the portents - that Mr Horan had yet to produce evidence clearing himself of serious financial allegations - everyone had made an educated guess what the announcement would be.

But could Mr Peters actually make it? He got the House's leave to make a personal explanation. But a few sentences in, Speaker Lockwood Smith stopped him.

"A personal explanation can only be made about something that has affected the member personally," he said worriedly. Mr Peters was talking about another member, and therefore should not have been given leave. "I blame myself," Dr Smith added wretchedly, clearly unsure what to do next.

Naturally there ensued a protracted point-of-order-go-round in which the usual combatants, National's Gerry Brownlee and Labour's Trevor Mallard, argued the toss, even though they appeared to be in agreement that Mr Peters should be allowed to carry on.

John Banks tried to help but didn't. Mr Peters' brows Morris-danced with agitation as he cited precedent. But Dr Smith was adamant: Mr Peters could talk only about himself.

Ordinarily, this edict would not be a problem for any MP - rather the opposite.

But in the event, when Dr Smith reluctantly allowed him to proceed, Mr Peters did manage to make the statement about Mr Horan about himself. He had told Mr Horan to sort the matter out, he had now received information that had brought the matter to a head, and finally, he had decided Mr Horan would be expelled.

He would not, he added, be saying any more on the subject. He then proceeded to do a lengthy stand-up press conference in the foyer.

This was not the day's only parliamentary spill. Prime Minister John Key, vigorously baiting the Green Party, gesticulated so wildly he bowled his water glass over. Its contents tsunamied over his notes, leaving them irrigated to the point of floppiness, which amused the Opposition no end, and forced him to read further one-liners from drooping, dripping pages.

But what are deputies for? In a vignette of symbolic resonance, Finance Minister Bill English produced a wad of paper towels and diligently dabbed and swabbed - once again cleaning up after the prime minister, while he carried on oblivious.

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- The Dominion Post

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