Editorial: Not-so-artful dodgers

Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little would have us see their machinations to avoid being served court papers as indicative of their sheer scorn for the allegation that they defamed ACC Minister Judith Collins.

But they're being unwise.

Whatever the merits of the case itself, legal process itself does require respect. And it's not getting it from this pair.

On top of which, they don't necessarily emerge as being on the high ground, at all.

Whatever their rhetoric, and it has been loudly and jovially dismissive, the methodology of dodging legal papers requires actions that are liable to look like skulking and hiding.

It's hardly a good look for men proclaiming they have nothing to fear.

More a striking contrast to the "bring it on" stance more commonly taken in such circumstances. It certainly set up Prime Minister John Key to deliver (and probably enjoy) the quote that they could run, but they couldn't hide.

Ms Collins claims the two Labour MPs linked her to the leaking of a letter from former National Party president Michelle Boag about a privacy breach by ACC revealed by Fairfax Media.

As part of their catch-me-if-you-can approach, the MPs suggest that Ms Collins hire service agents, whom they depict – no offence apparently intended – as thuggish types.

This, they say, "won't be a good look".

As it happens, Mr Mallard's own reputation suggests he could make a pretty fair living serving such papers himself.

He is nothing if not combative and not just in the strictly political sense.

He punched MP Tau Henare in the lobby of Parliament's debating chamber, whacked another Nat, Bob Clarkson, with a manila folder, and has been involved as a cyclist in an altercation with a motorist.

This being the case, and given that Mr Little has plans to film any attempt to serve him and post it online, unofficial Nat advisers have already been suggesting that the best thing Ms Collins could do would be to hire the most petite and unthreatening woman available to serve the papers.

Not that the documents really need to be thrust into the hands of the person being sued.

If the courts can be persuaded that someone is trying to avoid the process – and seldom would a more easy call be made in that regard than this case – the papers can simply be taped to their front door.

That might be anti-climactic for the perhaps considerable section of the community who might enjoy the sense of farce.

Thing is, though, it is not always a good thing for politicians to cultivate the impression that they are involved, however unwillingly, in something farcical.

Theatrical types will tell you that the dynamics of a classic farce involves one or more characters desperately trying to keep guilty secrets from being uncovered.

Not a role an MP should covet.

The place to win an issue like this is in court.

The Southland Times