Brian Edwards Media

John Banks confuses Q & A with Sesame Street and (unwittingly) insults the good people of Epsom

 On yesterday’s Q&A there was widespread agreement that the voters of Epsom –  the Auckland suburb colourfully described in the programme as ‘home to champagne wishes and caviar dreams’ – were nobody’s fools.  According to former National Party Chairman, John Slater, Epsom voters were ‘intelligent people, politically astute and smart’.

Former Auckland mayoral candidate Colin Craig, leader of the newly formed Conservative Party of New Zealand, agreed:

‘Epsom voters are actually relatively intelligent voters. And I’m not sure they enjoy being taken for granted.’

Christine Fletcher, who won the  seat for National in 1996 with a massive majority, wasn’t sure either. ‘The people of Epsom,’ she said, ‘won’t be told what to do.’

What the people of Epsom are being told to do – by John Key, Don Brash, John Banks and, though not in so many words, by the  National Party candidate, Paul Goldsmith, is to give their electorate vote to ACT’s Mr Banks  and not to Mr Goldsmith, who will get in on the National Party list anyway. That’s if they want to ensure that National stays the Government in November and John Key the Prime Minister.

The polite term for this is ‘strategic voting’. True-blue Epsom voters were reasonably willing to do it in 2008, sending Rodney Hide and ACT back into Parliament with five MPs but only 3.5 percent of the party vote. But a recent Herald poll suggests that for many the ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams’ may no longer include Mr Banks or ACT. 

Maybe some of them couldn’t quite stomach the unseemly spectacle of their MP being unceremoniously dumped as leader of the party by a smiling assassin sitting next to him on television as he (quite frankly) plunged in the knife.

Maybe Dr Brash’s views on the decriminalisation of marijuana aren’t shared by the Remuera intelligentsia or the business tycoonery of Parnell and Newmarket. (Though I frankly doubt it.)

Maybe they’re not keen on a party so recently reborn, yet so soon displaying  the symptoms of rigor mortis.

Or maybe John Slater, Colin Craig and Christine Fletcher are right – these are intelligent people who don’t like being taken for granted and won’t be told what to do.

If that is the case, then John Banks better hope that few of them caught his performance on Q&A, ‘debating’ with fellow Epsom candidates, National’s Paul Goldsmith and Labour’s David Parker.

Goldsmith’s contribution was that he just wanted the people of Epsom to give him their party vote. He declined to agree to the obvious corollary, implied by the word ‘just’, that he didn’t want them to give him their electorate vote. Being really clever,  they could presumably take that as read.

David Parker argued that structural economic reform was necessary if New Zealand (and the world) was to throw off its current economic woes.

John Banks explained strategic voting twice. If ‘the good people of Epsom’ (he called them twice) wanted a National Government in November  it was critical that on election day they give their vote to him. He would then be able to bring ‘three or four or five or one or two other’ ACT MPs into Parliament with him, ensuring that the good people of Epsom got what they wanted. ‘What they want is a National Government led by John Key’, he said two or three times and in BOLD CAPS which is how he says everything.

He also made passing mention of what they would get if Labour became the Government: ‘BORROW, TAX, HOPE AND SPEND’.


These were his ‘key messages’. The trouble with ‘key messages’ is that people can see them coming a mile away. And if the key messages are repeated often enough and are crass enough, people start to resent them. And the reason is that they know they’re being taken for fools. ‘This fellow thinks that if he says BORROW, TAX, HOPE AND SPEND often enough and loud enough, we’ll get so scared of Labour winning the election that we’ll go screaming into the polling booths at 9am on the 26th of November to vote for him and ACT. Well, bugger that!’

If the voters of Epsom really are as intelligent, politically astute and smart as everyone thinks they are, then that’s got to be really bad news for the candidate for ACT who, on this showing at least, appears to think they’re all mental defectives who won’t understand anything that isn’t presented to them drawn with crayons in picture book letters. Talk about adding insult to injury! First they bump off your MP, then the assassin loses the (cannabis) plot, the deputy assassin gags him and takes over the show, only to end up confusing Q&A with Sesame Street. Watching him on the show yesterday morning I thought, ‘One of these people is not like the others’. Maybe it was the yellow clown shoes that gave it away.

, , , , , , ,


  1. Unfortunately I think that John Banks is probably right that he has to hammer home a simple mantra to ensure his simple strategic voting message is understood. I’d love to think that the good people of Epsom (or any other electorate) were capable of figuring this sort of thing out for themselves, but I think the evidence suggests otherwise.

    Clearly *you* don’t want to (effectively) vote National, but even though it no doubt sticks in you craw, most of the Epsom electorate probably do.

  2. What was more fascinating was that ACT is a centre right party, perhaps compared with the National Party Banks was a member of ii is normalised lunacy but never centre right any more than Mana is centre left.

  3. Wonder why Labour doesn’t carry out the same switch by perhaps giving an electorate to say a Green candidate or even strategically, Winston Peters in order to balance the team. 1 Winston + 5 others.

  4. It is a cliche used by every politician, national or local, that the electorate he or she represents, is intelligent, smart and astute. The inference is that if one is misguided enough not to vote for this candidate one must indeed be dumb. The statement is patronising in the extreme. It is also incorrect. When you look at some of our constituency MPs one must conclude a certain amount of interbreeding amongst the local population.

    As regards Epsom I have no doubt that it is as well represented as anywhere else by gormless pillocks; money is no indicator of intelligence. Why else would Hide have been elected? The electorate are either stupid or certifiably insane.

    Judging from recent law reports the constituency also has a high proportion of white collar criminals, but I imagine that is not something Banks would wish to talk about.

  5. PJ, I wonder if National hadn’t cosied up to the centre so determinedly, would there be a need for ACT at all? It’s getting pretty crowded in the middle…

  6. Maybe this dishonest use of the electoral system is designed to influence the vote on MMP. That certainly wouldn’t help ACT. With a return to FPP Brash and his ilk would have to infiltrate the Labour Party. Oh I forgot that’s been done before.

  7. No one should be suprised,it is John Banks we are talking about.His “good people “line should almost be copyrighted exclusively

  8. In fairness to John Banks I don’t think he was being condescending with his “crayons in picture book letters” approach to the “good people of Epsom”. I think that’s how he actually thinks, he of little brain, has a comic book mentality, he is a simple soul.
    @Ben – interesting fact re white collar crims in Epsom – how would they vote? and who would best represent criminals in general?

  9. Key would want Banks to win Epsom. Having the Act party as an alliance partner, not only ‘acts’ as a counterweight to the Maori Party, but it also increases Key’s scope for manipulation –and machination — by allowing him to play them off against each other. He’s an ex-banker, so he’s hedging his bets. Should we be at all surprised?

    MMP is so badly flawed and needs to be got rid of. Quick. Remember, what happened in the ’96 election, where winston Peters played “Ducks and Drakes” with Helen Clark and Jim Bolger? That excruciating spectacle has left an intransigent aftertaste for many of the voters. MMP allows for way too many MPs, many of whom have made it into Parliament by way of ‘The Alamein Kopu Finishing School’.

    As for Banksie’s “good people of Epsom”, that constant referencing lies somewhere between Ingratiating and Patronising on the ‘Vote For Me’ continuum. Whichever end, it comes with a healthy dollop of condescension. You would hope for a greater level of sophistication within that electorate; at least, a bit more than what Banks credits the voters with.

    @ Ben: Your post really needs to be suffixed by the italicised rebuke. Mr. — or Mrs. — Moderator, please.

  10. Hello! Isn’t John Key Borrowing, taxing, hoping and spending. jeez is John Banks on something?
    I suspect not cannabis but some serious tranquilizers No Government has borrowed, hoped, spent and taxed (well not their cronies) than John Key. Now he wants to sell the family silver, classic Milton Friedman ideology, the reason the World is in the mess it is and why thew man in the street is paying for it. I can’t see the brighter future he claims to be bringing us on the bill boards, unless he just means for bankers and failed finance company directors.

  11. The Labour taxing Banks talks of is the likes of Sam Morgan. Good on Sam great idea and lots of hard work, but no tax on $600 million, please?
    I work hard have had a lifetime of showing initiative but I pay PAYE with no escape. Capital gains tax is long overdue as is some control of moving massive sums of money from one side of the globe to the other exploiting economies and influencing exchange rates. Lets all hope the Wall St protests make politicians take notice or the next stage could get ugly when collectively the Good People in the World wake up.

    BE: Yes. And Sam Morgan agrees with you.

  12. In case it’s unfamiliar, the ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams’ reference is a line from the 80s programme Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, a US show hosted by the hyperbolic UK expat Robin Leach.

    BE: Thanks, Ethan. Didn’t know that.

  13. Banks is too much a politician to not know by now that he has hitched his wagon to the wrong star. Hence his desperation on Q+A, with his constant patronising references to the “good people” of Epsom.
    As it happens, the “good people of Epsom” are most likely fed up with being treated like so much disposable political fodder. To begin with, they are not necessarily only the stereotypical leafy-green-surrounded, villa-inhabiting, sleepy, biddable voters so beloved of the media and the Act Party. North of Epsom’s mid-point (roughly, Mt Eden Prison), all the way to the water, there are hundreds of constituents quite unlike that. This northern catchment contains transients, students, medical workers, small business people and inner-city dwellers, living in more modest houses containing modest voters; they have traffic problems and Grafton Bridge to deal with; and are wondering how they came to be in surreal, Hide-bound (pun intended), gerrymandered Epsom at all, when we belong more properly with the City and Parnell.
    The best revenge will be to make absolutely sure that the reluctant bridesmaid Paul Goldsmith gets firmly booted into Parliament – which, as Q+A noted, the polls are beginning to indicate.

  14. BE: “These were his ‘key messages’. The trouble with ‘key messages’ is that people can see them coming a mile away. And if the key messages are repeated often enough and are crass enough, people start to resent them.”

    I’ll set the scene (entirely from memory):

    – The last televised leaders’ debate of the 1996 Election Campaign.
    – Unlike most such debates, the Party leaders were sitting around a large table in the studio (rather than standing at a podium).
    – The compere (who may have been Ian Fraser – but, then again, maybe not) wraps-up the debate and wishes the audience ‘good-night’
    – In the dying seconds of the show, we see the leaders from a very low angle (the camera-man obviously crouching on the floor).
    – National leader, Jim (‘The Great Helmsman’) Bolger (sitting immediately to the left of the cameraman) looks down at the camera (and therefore at us, the TV audience) like a man sitting at the dinner table addressing his pet dog and, out of the corner of his mouth, quickly mumbles his key message not once but twice.
    – Can’t quite remember the slogan – probably something like “Economy, Jobs, Freedom”, but it consisted of just 3 or 4 key words. Got them in just a few seconds before the credits rolled.
    – God knows what he thought he’d achieve by that (did he really think it’d elicit more votes ?), but definitely one of the funniest things I’ve seen in an Election campaign.

  15. Mind you, there’s an outside chance it was the 1993 (rather than 96) campaign. Like I say, entirely from memory.

  16. Merv, my first draft was to have read,

    “As regards Epsom I have no doubt that it is as well represented as anywhere else by gormless pillocks; the fact that Merv lives there tells us something”

  17. Merv

    Your anti mmp arguments are SO compelling.

    You clearly love minority governments.

    Have you noticed things happening in Wall Street, Arab Nations.

    Single party dictatorships appear to be rather unpopular.

  18. not sure how white-collar crims would vote but UK reaearch in prisons indicated most inmates very right wing. Just sayin…

  19. Aaaah, but the white collar criminals of Epsom can’t vote! At least, not if they are admiring the inside walls of Mt Eden prison. It was this National-ACT-United government that took away the right of all prisoners to vote I believe. Banksy will miss the votes ;)

  20. There’s a level of anger in Epsom at being manipulated so blatantly; watch that space.

  21. It’s kinda ironic really… that ACT is doing this deal with National to guarantee ACT’s return to Parliament. As if ACT can’t muster electoral support on it’s own merits?

    After all, ACT insisted on Maori being elected to Auckland City Council on “merit”, rather than an arrangement based on Treaty principles: