Gordon Campbell on John Key’s weird pilgrimage to EuropeJuly 5th, 2016
As history records, the last foreign dignitary seen by Chairman Mao before he died was a New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon. With British PM David Cameron now on his political death bed, there’s a certain grim resonance in the fact that New Zealand PM John Key should also now come a-calling for an “informal” visit, and with Trade Minister Todd McClay in tow. Hey, remember us? No Dave, don’t get up.
In every other respect, the current Key/McClay expedition to the UK and Europe looks decidedly peculiar. The Brexit dust has not yet settled. British politics are in total disarray. On the Continent, there is pressure on the EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to resign.
Is this really such a good time for that little chap from New Zealand to come knocking on the door and ask if anyone wants to buy more of our lamb? Still a friend, eager to help.
The timing seems way off. Less than six weeks after Key visits Cameron, Cameron will be gone and Britain will have a new Prime Minister. Now, it is nice that Key should want to give Cameron one last consoling hug before the curtain drops on Cameron’s political career. David Cameron is probably the closest thing to a political mentor that Key has ever had. Yet what lasting value can there possibly be in this junket to meet with someone already numbered among the walking dead? Similarly, is this such a good time for McClay to be bothering the Europeans with a possible NZ/EU trade pact, when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is rather more focused on staunching the serious impact that Brexit is likely to have on the massive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment deal?
Here’s a crazy idea. Why not wait until Britain’s new political leadership team is in place, and then spend taxpayer money on a formal visit, aimed at fostering a relationship with the new people who will actually be making decisions in future about our trade ties with the UK and Europe ? True, likely British PM Theresa May would be a stern test for the John Key charm offensive, but the attempt will need to be made, eventually. By contrast, this current junket – except for the planned side trip to Indonesia – looks like a complete waste of time and money.
Nigel Farage, Exit Right
Having got Britain’s EU referendum on the rails and pushed the “Leave” option successfully over the line… Nigel Farage has now (for the third time in living memory) resigned as the leader of UKIP. This mock farewell sums up the Farage phenomenon pretty well:
AS WE contemplate the historic EU referendum, in which Britain will finally decide to throw off the yoke of tyranny, it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be here to see it. But sadly, in less than two days, the reason I was summoned to your dimension will be gone and the creature you know as Nigel Farage will no longer exist.
I came when England called, like Sir Lancelot and Robin Hood. I came in your hour of need to deliver you a seemingly endless referendum and this capering spirit has been as good as his word.
You knew I wasn’t real all along. How could I be? But a being of folklore, such as I, could be everywhere at once; on Question Time, guffawing in the golf club, popping into a pub in Peterborough for a pint and stepping out into the Sunderland sunlight for a smoke.
Never elected to public office, never within an inch of power, I nonetheless bamboozled your political establishment into this marvellous gift of a complicated expensive thing, but I shall not see its result. My purpose done and my revels now ended, for every vote counted tomorrow I fade a little more until I am melted into thin air leaving only a spectral blazer and a pair of gold bulldog cufflinks behind.
But mourn not this jester, for I do not die. I merely sleep until this sceptr’d isle has need of me again. Are you going to the bar?
For a (slightly) more considered farewell to someone who worked tirelessly and successfully to bring out the worst in Britain’s national character and give it lasting effect, try this.
We should not celebrate too soon. Farage has embodied UKIP so completely that – as with Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear – its hard to see anyone else successfully replacing Farage at the helm of the party. Without Farage, UKIP will almost certainly start to go down the tubes. What’s the betting that Farage will eventually feel impelled to make yet another comeback? For the good of the nation and the ordinary people without a voice, of course.
Since his stint with the 1980s alt country band Rank and File and throughout a long solo career, Alejandro Escovedo has always been a terrific songwriter. “The Ladder” is from his 2006 album The Boxing Mirror.
I’d climb a ladder just to see you
I have no eyes but I can feel
Two snakes entwine so I can be you
This ladder climbs from me to you
In the second verse, he name checks ‘La Bufadora’ – which is a beautiful geyser/natural blowhole found on the coast at Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico. In the final verse, Escovedo also refers to the caracara – a bird of prey that belongs to the falcon family, and is fairly common throughout the Americas, from Texas to Tierra del Fuego.
Let’s sleep away the pain we suffer
The medicine is in our dreams
Fly away like caracaras
This ladder climbs from me to you….
Here’s Escovedo again, with an excellent up tempo divorce/breakup song, called “ Crooked Frame.”
Finally, Jennifer Warnes recorded a great version of another evocative Escovedo song, “Pissed Off, 2am.”