OPINION: Parliament hadn't actually scheduled a Christmas pantomime to mark its last day's sitting, but MPs ended up spontaneously staging one anyway yesterday - even before the first drop of press gallery party alcohol had been poured.
Prime Minister John Key sang Roll Over, Roll Over! to Winston Peters, Andrew Little did the Gangnam Style pony dance and John Banks supplied the pantomime dame motif, by standing awkwardly behind Mr Key at one point during Question Time, prompting Opposition MPs to chorus: "He's behind you!"
Perhaps to mark her having made David Hartnell's worst-dressed list, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett came sporting three different animal print items - an ocelot bag, a leopard scarf and a zebra collar - telling the Opposition they were just jealous because none of them carry off the Westie look.
It was, as Speaker Lockwood Smith indulgently observed, "the last day of class", and the sniff of holiday freedom made many MPs kittenish.
Mr Key made his now traditional year-end stand-up comedy speech, but his one-liners and jokes were more than matched by those from an uncharacteristically upbeat Opposition leader David Shearer. Mr Shearer thanked the press gallery for its "fair and balanced" coverage of his "honeymoon" period as Labour leader, saying: "I love your work as much as you say you love mine."
He recapped the various "brain fades" that had afflicted the Government, saying he had another New Zealand movie to pitch to Hollywood, called Partial Recall.
Noting Mr Banks' claim to have forgotten his interactions with Kim Dotcom, despite having called the internet mogul's wife "the most beautiful woman in the world", Mr Shearer exclaimed: "If I had said that about another woman in the presence of my wife, she would never let me forget."
Mr Shearer said he must give credit where it was due.
"I want to thank the Government for the help they've been giving to the Opposition all year, providing those easy targets, setting the bar to even new low levels, achieving none of their goals. It's a year they'd love to forget. Some of them already have. I'd just like them to keep it up!"
Mr Key mocked Labour's leadership woes, looking forward to the next leadership vote in February, which he likened to elimination rounds on television's The X Factor. "Can you imagine what it must have been like at Labour's caucus drinks . . . sending each other Christmas cards? What on Earth did David Shearer write to David Cunliffe in his Christmas card? ‘Thanks for all your hard work DC and support during the year, your loyalty means a lot to me.' "
Addressing awkwardness over Labour's bungled housing policy costings, he said there would be 100,000 new homes built under Labour, "the only trouble is, the homes come without a section!"
Mr Key said he had finally figured out what "green growth" meant, whipping a bunch of green $20 notes out of his pocket and saying they just needed photocopying. "Russel Norman, minister of finance, rings up Bellamys: ‘I'll have a mung bean burger with double alfalfa, add in a bowl of fries for $5 billion and get it to my office this afternoon.' "
Noting the misfortune of expelled NZ First MP Brendan Horan, Mr Key said the party had finished the year with "a nice little singalong".
"There were eight in the bed, and Winston said, ‘Roll over, roll over!', So they all rolled over and one fell out . . ." he carolled, though only marginally tunefully.
Undeterred, Mr Peters took a seasonally apolitical line, taking up the cause of Santa, whom he said had been monstered by the authorities at a Porirua shopping centre, because they decided they would no longer tolerate his weight and high blood pressure. Others were unhappy about Santa always being a man.
As a result, Santa was thin and sallow. Mr Peters predicted the traditional fat, jolly Santa would outlast the health and gender police.
And in a raw moment of self-deprecation, Mr Banks said his ACT party had had a good year - no leadership spills and a unanimous caucus.
A bit of humility never comes amiss, even at this ebullient time of year. And as if by magic, the last opinion poll during the 2012 Parliament's life proclaimed the next election "too close to call".
- The Dominion Post