OPINION: The itch to scribble a self-justificatory memoir is one many politicians find impossible to resist.
Most of them, however, wait until after they have left office and any contributions they may have to make to political life are over.
At that time, out of power and reflecting in tranquillity (or not, as the case may be) on the battles and passions of the past, they set about casting their actions in the best possible light for the sober consideration of posterity.
The decision, then, of the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, to publish a memoir on the turmoil within the Christchurch City Council in the aftermath of the earthquakes is unusual.
It remains to be seen, of course, what Parker is going to say but in principle the idea is an excellent one. Voters, and media such as The Press, have long called for more openness and transparency from Parker.
That call was a central element in the city council election that Parker was in danger of losing until the first earthquake in September 2010.
Parker insisted he had got the message, although his performance since that election suggests it has been only imperfectly learned. If he wishes now to be more candid it would be inconsistent, if nothing else, on the part of his critics to deplore the change.
Parker describes his book as part of Canterbury's "healing process". Well, perhaps.
Not everyone will necessarily agree. Ripped Apart: A City in Chaos, the book's slightly melodramatic title, for one thing, may not inspire confidence among Parker's critics about the book's healing qualities. Nor will the distributor's blurb, which says the book will reveal "the arguments, indecision, petty jealousies, power struggles and policies that occurred before, during and after the crises".
These stories will, however, be balanced, according to the blurb, "with glimpses of dedication, courage, compassion and a unique vision".
Parker certainly has a story to tell. His decline, from a unifying and inspirational leader in the immediate aftermath of the quakes, to the leader of a severely dysfunctional council that has been to a large degree sidelined in planning for the rebuild, has been precipitate. Telling this story candidly without revealing discussions that might reasonably have been expected to be confidential could be tricky.
Indeed, knowing Parker is writing the book may make some people he deals with more circumspect around him.
But Parker is entitled to try to tell his story and, since it will be published less than a year before the next local-body elections, use it to persuade voters of why they should re- elect him. Some have criticised Parker for allowing himself to be distracted from the recovery to write the book. That is petty.
Parker has hired an accomplished former journalist and public-relations man to ghost-write it for him. If he has followed the typical practice for ghost-written material, Parker will have simply talked into a voice recorder, or at most done a rough draft, which the ghost will be polishing up into publishable form. The amount of time Parker will have spent on it will not be great.
Other councillors may be miffed that Parker may use the book to settle some scores.
Given the amount of leaking against Parker that has occurred, some of them, at least, can scarcely complain.
But if after the book is published they do feel aggrieved and that they need redress, their solution is simple - they can hit the keyboard themselves.
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