Brendan Horan may well be one of the luckiest New Zealanders ever born.
With no qualifications, he landed a job as a TV weather presenter: instant fame, decent money and spin-off employment opportunities galore. Okay, that didn’t work out … but then, his mum won a big lottery prize, so that was pretty sweet. And even better, he befriended Winston Peters and landed a high slot on the New Zealand First party list, and was elected an MP. This truly is the land of opportunity.
And despite immediate impressions, Horan’s luck has not run out even now.
She then illustrates the dilemma facing Winston Peters and NZ First:
Because there appears to be nine-tenths of damn – all anyone can do to stop him from continuing to be a member of parliament, even though he has been expelled from his caucus, and will probably be biffed from his party as well.
He can continue to collect not too far shy of $200,000 a year for the next couple of years, being in his new caucus of one, assigning himself to do nothing in particular if he can’t think of anything to do that he fancies.
Provided he turns up to Parliament for most sitting days, there is nothing to stop him collecting his full pay and, as David Lange used to say of MPs’ other entitlements, flying to Timaru every week to change his library books if he feels like it.
Funnily enough, I haven’t heard a single soul predicting that that righteous Maori concept, whakama, might kick in; that Horan might do the noble thing and resign from the House, rather than face the ignominy of being paid for doing nothing, Not Wanted On Voyage, and subject to the inevitable torrents of public disapprobation.
The Horan case does indeed raise questions on many levels. Is it fair for Winston Peters to have summarily dismissed Horan based on information he had only received 45 minutes previously, and without giving Mr Horan the opportunity to respond. Certainly the laws of natural justice would suggest not, but then again politics is not a place with a lot of natural justice.
And is it fair that an MP can be elected simply because he found sufficient favour with a party leader to be accorded a high list placing, only then to be abandoned by the man and party who got him elected in the first place? Let's get real here; Brendan Horan owes his place in Parliament and his high-paying gig solely to Winston Peters, although it could also be argued that the Two Johns played a part.
But on the other hand, would it be fair if a party leader could simply fire an MP he had tired of. After yesterday, we reckon that Winston Peters would find it eminently fair!
In closing, Clifton looks both forwards and back:
It seems likely Horan won’t be idle, though, as he has quite a promising workload ahead fighting his expulsion from NZ First.
There may be scope for legal play here, as Horan was given no chance to give account of himself to the caucus before its expulsion vote, and, in the scheme of things, very little time to assemble evidence in his defence.
Peters has known for months of the family feud and the allegations that Horan helped himself to his ailing mother’s bank account, but only when the information spilled out into the newspapers did he give his ultimatum: make this go away, or I will make you go away.
Asked if Horan had been accorded natural justice, Peters today readily agreed that he had made himself the judge of the situation. It was his decision to make.
But not even Peters can trump electoral law. Since the anti-waka-jumping legislation expired, there’s nothing to stop a ditched MP simply becoming his or her own new mini-waka.
And here’s yet another lucky thing about Horan: you get yourself pushed out of a waka, at least you know, being qualified as a surf life-saver if nothing else, that you’ll be able to keep your head above water.
The irony of Winston Peters rushing to summary judgment on one of his MP's after his months of denials of the Owen Glenn donation is rich indeed. But then again, Peters has always cared far more about other people's standards than about his own.