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August 19, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Secret Diary of… a National Party Media Advisor

Governments like crises for two reasons: firstly, it’s what the voters remember and judge them on, and secondly, it knocks the wind out of the opposition’s sails. It’s not fair to kick a dog when it’s down. So that’s one less kettle of fish for me to worry about. I, however, like crises for their power to cover up and distract attention from the wayward things my MPs are saying.

When Paula Bennett announced that what “this country needs [is] more mother truckers” when explaining the new “women in transport” campaign, I nearly fainted. As soon as I heard “I have good experiences of truck drivers”, I tackled her to the ground. After some quick consultation, we recovered from potential raunchy newspaper headlines by explaining that she is now happily married to that truck driver. Even better, he doesn’t drive trucks any more. “We’re the National Party,” I reminded her.

But all that effort was wasted. She moved on to breaching the human rights of those suspected of child abuse by banning them from interacting with children. What could possibly go wrong when Paula’s “unashamedly putting children’s rights first”? At the press conference, she looked straight at me and said, “we know that past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour”, and winked. I’ve locked her in her office with her barking collar set to high voltage. She can come out when she’s no longer in heat.

Britain’s Daily Mail accused New Zealand of being “100 per cent manure” after the botulism scare. Manure. I nearly resigned, imagining John’s poo jokes. Or worse, his feeble attempts to turn it into a positive. I could just see the ideas forming in his brain. Something about manure being good fertiliser for our clean green environment, I bet. Oh no, fertiliser. Bombs. Terrorism. GCSB. Everything came back to the GCSB. John can hardly even get the letters in the right order. I decided it was better not to tell him, and let the reporters take him by surprise. Any random waffle would be better than a poo joke.

I took a small break to get a coffee. I turned around, and John was giving his opinion on what New Zealanders think. Shit. Before I could stop him, he blurted out, “I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.” He was proud of that one. Johnnnnnnnnnn. John John John. It’s only the unemployed, who are home to watch The Fishing Show during the day, who like or have time to fish. I mimed slitting my throat and pretended to die. He grinned and said, “because they like catching fish!” I groaned, and he gave me the thumbs up. Afterwards, he said he thought I was gesturing to a fish being gutted, and therefore encouraging the fish discussion. We decided that next time he felt tempted to mention fish, he was to respond, “I don’t answer those questions.”

After several years of not understanding what John was talking about, I realised he reminded me of Michael Scott and, all conventional media tactics exhausted, just ran with it. Now, every time he goes on live television, I get him to recite his favourite Michael Scott quote to get him in the right frame of mind: “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way. Like an improv conversation. An Improversation.”

On Wednesday, John watched eight hours of The Office, and three hours of The Fishing Show. Thank God he’s got Steven Joyce to do his paperwork. After all that television watching, we didn’t have much time to prepare for Campbell Live. I had to keep it simple. Words aren’t John’s strongest point, so we worked on counting on his fingers. He was surprisingly good at that, and got all the way up to four! Small victories. John kept asking how we were getting to the studio. I told him it didn’t matter how we got there. I was nervous. He talked about fish the whole way. The show was going surprisingly well. John said he was “a bit busy running the country”. I’ve told him time and again not to say he’s “busy”, for fear that someone will ask, “Busy doing what?” and he will answer “being a bee. Get it? At the Beehive?” Yes. Every day. Every damned day. Anyway, back to Wednesday. I despaired. A BIT busy? You’re the Prime Minister, for fuck’s sake. But Campbell didn’t bite. He’s a real catch, that John Campbell. He even said Key was “a brilliant politician”. John responded, “No, I’m not.” I tore out the last three strands of my hair and held in a scream.

What fresh hell will tomorrow bring? Tonight, I’ve set Salmon Fishing in the Yemen as John’s homework.

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