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Sometimes life’s a total bitch! [Old Italian saying!]

NZ Herald

NZ Herald

Other than referring to a female dog, a rare enough occasion since we’re cat people, “bitch” has been a taboo word in our house pretty well since the first time I used it within earshot of Judy. She doesn’t like it. And I’m comfortable with her not liking it. I’m not a swearing sort of person myself; I think comedians who pepper their material with “fucks” are properly insecure in their comic genius; and, as reported elsewhere on this site, I have on numerous occasions approached total strangers to remind them that the f-word is unacceptable to others sharing the same public space.

But sometimes… Well sometimes… Sometimes “bitch” is quite simply le mot juste. Anything less offensive simply won’t hit the mark.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mike Hosking: You pays your money and…

Stuff

Stuff

I find myself in the improbable position of coming to the defence of broadcaster Mike Hosking.

Winston Peters has called Hosking “a National Party stooge whose jowls are up the Prime Minister’s cheeks”. I take this as some bizarre rephrasing of the common term “cheek by jowl” intended, I presume, to mean that the broadcaster and the PM are close buddies. Winnie will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong.

Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, has accused Hosking of “making no attempt at objectivity”.  One might have expected a more robust critique. I’m told the words “right wing little prick” have been simply flying down the corridors of the Opposition Wing to describe Mr Hosking. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grumpy Blogger Eats Words

Garner and du Plessis-Allan

Now this is unusual. There are a couple of things I’ve never been good at: apologising and eating my words. But yesterday morning I put up a post about the first edition of TV3’s new programme Story which plays in the slot that was Campbell Live.

It was a pretty negative piece of writing that neither the programme nor its presenters deserved. It was picky and hypercritical. And, as I say undeserved.

The thing is I broke the first rule of reviewing – never review the first programme in a series. It’s on that programme that things are most likely to go wrong. Nerves usually. So you have to allow any programme to bed in before you put pen to paper. Read the rest of this entry »

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Been watching Trump on the telly? Given up on American politicians? Well, check this guy out!

Give yourself 15 minutes at least to listen to him.

Then ask yourself this question: Have we got a single politician in New Zealand to match this guy? Let me know what you think.

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Second Story

ankle bracelet

Here’s a free piece of media advice for you: if you or your company are in the gun and you’re invited to appear on a live TV current affairs show like Fair Go or Seven Sharp or Story, either politely decline the invitation, preferably without giving reasons for your decision – that’s giving an interview! – or, if you’re pretty confident you can handle it, agree to be interviewed “live” in the Auckland studio or not at all. The airfare will be worth it.

Don’t agree to be interviewed “down the line”, which can involve standing in the middle of a paddock or sitting behind your office desk with a hearing-aid thingee occasionally falling out of your ear as you try to talk to some extremely hostile person you can’t see. TV interviewers are most courageous when you aren’t sitting directly opposite them. And least courageous when you are. Well, it’s so much easier to cut someone off or talk over them when you’re the people controlling the switch.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Story!!!

Garner and du Plessis-Allan

You will have read that, following his unceremonious dumping by the Board of TV3, John Campbell is to join his close friend and former producer Carol Hirschfeld at Radio New Zealand where he will host Checkpoint. He’ll do the job very well of course, but the visual dimension will be lost. John’s face told you as much as, and sometimes more than his words. His approval or disapproval of a guest was invariably patent.

And then of course there was his ENTHUSIASM!!! That too will be missed.

Campbell may nonetheless be more suited to the hard-edged current affairs that Checkpoint offers than the high-rating, soft-serve confections that apparently turn the TV3 Board on. But I’ll still miss him on the box!   Read the rest of this entry »

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Tribal Politics and the Death of Reason

armies-clash (1)

Since 1964, when I arrived in this country, I’ve mostly, though not always, voted for the Labour Party. My core political belief is that in a caring society the haves have a moral obligation to support the have-nots. I see progressive taxation as the only reliable mechanism for bringing this about. “Trickle Down” won’t cut it. Little or nothing “trickles down” and the concept smacks of charity. Nor can charity itself ensure social and economic justice for those at the bottom of the heap. Charity is capricious and unreliable. So the rich have to be compelled to do their part. That includes me.

If you want to give a name to it, I suppose you’d call this Socialism. I see myself as a Socialist. Not surprising, you might think, since I was an only child raised by a solo parent in a council flat in Belfast. Though John Key had  a not dissimilar background.

Bit different now. Judy and I have a nice house, a nice car, a bach up North and a few dollars in the bank. And of course we both get the pension. But I’m still a Socialist. That’s more about principles than party politics. And not complaining about paying tax.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Confessions of a victim of Hosking’s Disease

images (2)

 Mike Hosking is an opinionated chap. He’s paid an enormous sum of money to be opinionated, not only as a breakfast talk-back host on the ZB network, but as a Herald columnist and the co-host of TVNZ’s Seven Sharp. So you can’t really blame him for being opinionated. It’s his job after all.

It was only after the sacking of John Campbell as host of the programme named after him that I took a look at Seven Sharp, the shape-shifter of prime-time current-affairs programmes.

After watching the programme for a couple of weeks and reading his columns I’d had enough of Mike’s opinions and had reached that critical mass of the emotions where I was in danger of putting my foot through the screen and cancelling our subscription to the paper.

I was suffering from what I suspect may be a common complaint in this country: front-person-overload, the medical term for which is Hosking’s Disease. [Note: This can sometimes be confused with Pitt-Hopkins disease, a genetic disorder whose symptoms include developmental delay, a wide mouth, distinctive facial features and intermittent hyperventilation.]

It’s a real disease. Trust me, I’m a Doctor.

Mr Hosking’s role on Seven Sharp appears to be that of lecturer. His class currently comprises only one student, a bubbly and attractive young woman who hangs on his every word. The lectures are, however, telecast to a much larger group of students. The TVNZ calendar lists the lecture series as “Seven Sharp or Everything I Know About Everything – an enthralling series of 2,000 half-hour lectures by one of New Zealand’s most admired long-form interviewers and commentators.”

Having now watched Seven Sharp for two weeks and read several of Prof Hosking’s treatises in the Herald, I am now the trivia king at our local pub quiz. But Judy says I’ve changed – I’m arrogant, up-myself, a bad listener and a pretentious bore! And I speak warmly of John Key.

She’ll get over it!

Hey, by the way, did you know that the latest research on women’s menstrual cycles shows that the commonly held view that wome… CLICK!

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On the tragic deaths of a mother and three children – a dissenting view.

pic - George FM

Pebbles Hooper 

I read that Pebbles Hooper, described variously as a “socialite” and “gossip columnist” in today’s Sunday Star Times, has removed a Twitter comment in which she described the deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning of Ashburton mother Cindy George and her three children as an example of “natural selection”.

Tweets are of course easy to remove: ideas are a different matter. It remains a fact that Hooper thought and then gave public voice to the thought that George’s mistake in leaving the car engine running in her garage was an example of such stupidity that it rendered her unfit for survival in the modern world.  And, unfortunately, her children too.

The unspoken conclusion from this line of thinking would seem to be that when people make stupid mistakes they deserve what’s coming to them. And, unfortunately, it would seem, their children too. No point in wasting  your sympathy on such lost causes. C’est la vie!   Read the rest of this entry »

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Good news from MediaWorks. Story!

heather-du-plessis-allan-duncan-garner

Good news from MediaWorks – their new current affairs programme at 7pm, Monday to Thursday, is to be hosted by Duncan Garner and Heather du Plessis-Allan.

It’s good news because these are, in my estimation, two of the most professional and accomplished reporter/interviewers in the county. And, if we have to make the comparison, both could hold their own anywhere in the broadcasting world.

So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, there are some hints in MediaWorks’ news release about the new show:

First the title: Story. Well yes, journalists do refer to items as ‘news stories‘ and maybe I’m being picky. But when you take the word by itself, it does rather suggest that 7pm Monday to Thursday on TV3 will be story-telling time. Are we all sitting comfortably?    Read the rest of this entry »

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Sh*t happens, but what the f*ck!

 Alex

[As predicted, the National Business Review did not republish this post. Entirely their prerogative of course. And they were kind enough to promote the post on Twitter.]

Here’s a question: when you read the title of this post, did the fact that the “i” in the first word and the “u” in the last word had been replaced with an asterisk mean that you had no idea what either word meant or referred to, or that you did know what the words meant but, thanks to the asterisks, weren’t offended by them?

I would be astonished if anyone over the age of 10, and quite probably many under that age, could honestly answer “yes” to either part of that question. What will come into the minds of the vast majority of English speaking people when they see “sh*t” or “f*ck” in print are the words “shit” and “fuck” and the sound and meaning of those words.

So if I’m right and the absence of these letters makes absolutely no difference to a reader’s understanding of what the words refer to and no difference at all to their feelings about those words, then what is the earthly point in removing the letters at all? I’m b*ggered if I can see any.

Now if these words really are offensive to a majority of the readers of a publication intended primarily for adult readers, then the most sensible thing to do would be not to print them at all. That definition would presumably include every newspaper and most magazines available and on display in New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »

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There’s always more room at the bottom of the barrel.

Rachel-Glucina

The departure of “gossip columnist” Rachel Glucina from the pages of the New Zealand Herald will be warmly greeted by lovers of quality journalism across the country. Had Glucina’s role been restricted to showbiz gossip and the back pages of the paper, traditionally reserved for this sort of material, her influence on the general tone of the Herald might have been less malign. But the volume, scope and placement of her material over the past year or so have led to an exponential increase in that influence. Glucina has been a major player in the “tabloidisaton” of the Herald.

Her departure to join the ranks of MediaWorks, whose stable includes TV3, TV4 and a raft of radio stations across the country, was announced by Glucina herself on Twitter:

“I’ve resigned.  MediaWorks has headhunted me for a joint-venture partnership to create, run and co-own a new digital entertainment platform.”

Mediaworks CEO Mark Weldon, helpfully explained:

“Digital entertainment brands featuring snackable, shareable content [especially video] are the fastest growing part of the media landscape, and there is a gap in the New Zealand market in this area.”

“Snackable, shareable content” – interesting! A quarter of a century ago media guru Dr Joe Atkinson coined the term “morselisation” to describe what was happening in the field of television news and current affairs in New Zealand. The term referred to the view of television executives at the time (and ever since) that the viewing public was not interested in watching lengthy news or current affairs items or interviews. They wanted their information served up in “bite-sized chunks”. He could equally have said, “snackable, shareable content”.

I rang my friend Joe this morning to inform him of Glucina’s departure from the Herald.

“The trouble with this,” he said, “is that these people don’t realise that there’s no room left for them at the bottom of the barrel. TVNZ’s already taken the entire space!”

My personal view is that, with determined digging, New Zealand television executives will always be able to find more room at the bottom of the barrel.

Watch this space.

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Hanging’s too good for them! (I rule on humourless people.)

Paul Henry Mug 2

Over the past three or four months I’ve made several appearances on The Paul Henry Show, theoretically in the role of informed media commentator. If you type ‘Paul Henry’ into the search box at the top of this page, you’ll find a number of seemingly contradictory posts on the controversial Mr Henry. They range from enthusiastic approval of his jbroadcasting skill to a call for his immediate sacking in the aftermath of ‘moustache-gate’, his mirth at the name of New Dehli’s Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, his description of Susan Boyle as ‘retarded’ and his offensive question to John Key as to whether the next Governor General after Anand Satyanand would look a bit more like a New Zealander.

I was right on both counts. Henry is a brilliant broadcaster who is never far from and occasionally crosses the line of acceptable broadcasting standards. I know I will regret having said this, but he’s also extremely bright.

Henry and I are of course politically poles apart. I stood as a Labour candidate in Miramar in 1972; he stood for National in the Wairarapa in 1999. And Judy and I were media advisors to Helen Clark for well over a decade. So there’s a bit of generally good-natured sparring between us on the morning show. A month ago, after he had described something I’d said about him as ‘vile’, I responded, ‘I like you Paul – when I am world dictator your death will be swift and painless.’  (I stole the line from one of my stepson’s T-shirts!)

This morning I told Paul that my appearances on his show were costing me my friends and cited an entirely fictional email from Helen Clark in New York warning me against any continued association with him. This gave Paul a wonderful opening to get stuck into the bullying, humourless bloody left. In response I felt obliged to withdraw my compliment of the previous month and inform him that I’d never actually liked him, though I very much liked his mother. Was he sure that this lovely woman really was his mother? It’s  quite a fun exchange.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Hey Kids, the rodeo’s coming to town! (Animal torture for all the family!)

The video below was sent to me by the cameraperson who shot the film for the animal protection organisation SAFE. He/she quite reasonably prefers to remain anonymous. The men in this video are not nice people. They are all guilty of animal cruelty and, in a just society, would be in prison. Those who attended, watched and enjoyed this spectacle are equally reprehensible.

This brutality occurred at several rodeos. What you see here, the cameraperson informs me, was only the tip of the iceberg. The bull was shocked much more frequently than is seen in the video. Such cruelty is common in rodeos across the country:

“I have been to other rodeos and can say this is not isolated, it is systemic. At that one event I witnessed shocking, anal interference, rope burning a cowering bull’s neck for several minutes, severe tail twisting and this was all done in front of children and their parents.”

This is entertainment only in the sense that what happened at the Colosseum in Rome was entertainment. It is the uncivilised and brutal torture of animals for sport and it should have no place in New Zealand society. It should and must be banned. NOW!

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Shit Happens! An Open Letter to John Campbell

 

Shit happens, John. I’ve been “let go”, sacked from more broadcasting jobs in New Zealand than I care to remember. And, more than once, with absolutely no warning.  To add insult to injury, the sackings generally occurred at a time when the show was enjoying both public acclaim and ratings success.

Top of the Morning (1994-1999)

In December 1999 my producer, Catherine Saunders, and I were summoned to Wellington for a meeting with Radio New Zealand CEO Sharon Crosbie, an old friend of both of us.  “Summoned”  is perhaps the wrong word. Catherine and I had made a habit of going down to Wellington just before Christmas to persuade Sharon that the success of TOTM merited yet another increase in our pay. Sharon would sigh wearily but to date had come to the party.

We were pretty sure of a warm reception. The latest radio survey had just come out. TOTM, whose previous incarnation had a cumulative audience of around 80,000 when I took over the slot in 1995, now had an audience of 340,000. It was the highest rating Saturday morning radio programme in the country, not to mention outrating almost every other programme on National Radio. We had every reason to expect a warm reception from the boss.

We were called in separately to be told the news. I’d been sacked.

To this day I have absolutely no idea why I was sacked as host of TOTM. Poor ratings? Get real! Poor listener response? Ditto! My role as media advisor to Helen Clark, the newly elected Prime Minister? Hardly, TOTM was a politics-free zone with the exception of one personality-style interview – with Jenny Shipley! Which leaves two defamation writs in 5 years, neither of which, in my reasonably informed opinion, should every have been settled.

Certainly not the second, in which Paul Holmes claimed $5,000 for allegedly having been defamed by yours truly on the show

This is what happened. A close friend of Paul had told me Paul had been highly disappointed by the low-key nature of a TV election debate he’d chaired between Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark. Paul had, according to the close friend, “been hoping for a cat fight”. I mentioned this in passing on the show. Paul issued a writ against RNZ for defamation and RNZ caved. I’m not sure which is more unbelievable – for a broadcaster of Pauls’ reputation to be so thin-skinned, or Radio New Zealand so chicken-livered as to settle this preposterous suit.

You know the rest, John. When the news got out, you interviewed me on TV3 News about the sacking. You were very supportive.

Then there was a public outcry. Thousands of people wrote to Radio New Zealand to protest. A couple of “offers they know you can’t accept” were made to me by  RNZ during all of this.

Sound familiar?

Shit happens, John.

But wait, there’s more! Read the rest of this entry »

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Teasing Out The Ponytail Affair

female-bully-1

John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand,  liked to tease Amanda Bailey, a waitress at the Cafe Rosie in Parnell, by pulling her ponytail. He did so repeatedly over a reasonably lengthy period, despite being asked by the waitress on more than one occasion to stop. His initial response was that he was, with his wife Bronagh, a regular customer at the the cafe where, despite his being the PM, the atmosphere when he was there was always jovial and jokey. He didn’t think he had been doing anything wrong. It was just a bit of fun, a bit of “horseplay”. He has since apologised publicly to the waitress, essentially saying that he’d misread the situation and got it wrong. He won’t, we can be reasonably certain, ever pull a waitress’s ponytail again.

So what we’re talking about here is teasing. The school playground is probably the most common place to encounter teasing. If ponytails are allowed in New Zealand schools, I have very little doubt that girls (and quite possibly boys) with ponytails will have had them pulled on numerous occasions and will be thoroughly fed up with it. They will no doubt have asked their tormentors on numerous occasions to ‘cut it out’. Their pleas will almost certainly have been ignored.    Read the rest of this entry »

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From Omaha to Hotel California

View from the bach at Leigh

View from the bach at Leigh

About 6 months ago we bought ourselves a bach in Leigh. It’s not terribly posh. You could easily mistake it for a Lockwood, but it’s half way up a cliff and all you can see from the deck is the sea and the horizon and, jutting out, the distant peninsula that is home to the Tauwharanui Regional Park and, on a clear day, Great Barrier Island. And all you can hear are the waves breaking on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

To get from Auckland to Leigh, you head for the Warkworth turn-off to Matakana, then on to Leigh bypassing the turn-0ff to Omaha.

I remembered that John Key has a holiday home at Omaha where he barbecued chops and sausages for John Campbell.

I’m a nosy bugger and about a month ago could no longer resist the temptation to check out the resort which our Prime Minister had chosen as his Kiwi  – as distinct from Hawaiian – holiday destination.

I gather there’s a fashionable and unfashionable part of Omaha. Homes in the “unfashionable” part have apparently just hit the $3 million mark, so the price of a “bach” in “fashionable” Omaha must be astronomical.

To satisfy my curiosity about Omaha Judy and I made  a detour on our way from Matakana to Leigh.

There are a lot of posh and a lot of not-so-posh-looking houses. The land in front of the houses is flat, so the only elevation above sea level, and therefore the only view of the sea, is from any storey above ground level. The streets in front of the houses form a grid of roughly parallel lines.   We drove down Street One for as far as we could go, then did a U-turn round the median strip into Street Two which ran parallel and brought us back to our starting point.

It was a deeply depressing excursion.

I’m sitting on the couch in our “Lockwood” now, looking across the sea to the horizon, interrupted on one side by Great and Little Barrier and on the other by the Tauwharanui Peninsula. Occasionally you can see the Coromandel. But you can always hear the waves breaking on the rocks.

I’m listening to my all time favourite LP, The Eagles’ Hotel California – The Last Resort:

“Some rich men came and raped the land,
Nobody caught ‘em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus,
people bought ‘em
And they called it paradise
The place to be
They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

“And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it’s like up there
They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye”

Love that song!

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The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View

Campbell Live

I’ve signed the on-line petition which effectively invites TV3 to abandon its intention to replace Campbell Live with what we now know will be a stripped soap-opera made by Julie Christie’s former company Eyeworks.

What has to be acknowledged straight away is that TV3 is a private company and under no obligation to continue producing a prime-time television programme that is losing ratings and therefore revenue. The channel cannot be asked to produce Campbell Live at a loss or to give it preference over a potentially higher rating programme in the same time-slot.

The dilemma here arises from the fact that Campbell is a public service broadcaster working for a private television network. The fault here lies not with TV3 but with the failure of successive governments to provide New Zealanders with a true public service television channel.  While Campbell continued to rate with TV3’s youngish target demographic, his position was relatively secure. The show, which the channel advertises as “New Zealand’s leading current affairs programme”, has been around for a decade. Not a bad run in anyone’s books. But, under the private broadcasting system, once viewers begin to turn off a programme, its host is likely to be shown the door.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Australians: Bad Losers; Worse Winners

AP, Getty Images

AP, Getty Images

It would be tempting to attribute the character of the professional Australian sportsman and sportswoman to that of their nation’s first arrivals. But that would be racist, another area in which we cannot compete with our trans-Tasman neighbours.

The Australians see themselves as a sporting nation. And in one sense they are. The Aussies are very good at sport; they win a lot of games. But in the other sense of the word “sporting” – characterised as sportsmanlike conduct, fair-minded, generous – they are considerably less adept. In that sense, whether in cricket, netball or rugby, they are an unsporting people. It is perhaps the one area in which we have nothing in common.

The difference between the two nations can be seen exemplified in two photographs in this morning’s Herald. In one the gracious Grant Elliott is seen helping a distraught and weeping South African player to his feet after his country lost the semi-final against the Black Caps. In the other, three Australian players – Brad Haddin, James Faulkner and Pat Cummins – are seen sneering and laughing at Elliott, as he walks away after scoring a brilliant 83 in last night’s World Cup Final. And that was merely the culmination of the sledging to which they had subjected Elliott throughout his innings.

These are not sportsmen. They are thugs. The word comes from the Hindi “thag”, meaning a “thief” or “rogue” and specifically a member of a confederacy of professional assassins who travelled in gangs throughout India for several hundred years. Of course that is not what we mean by the word now and I would certainly not want to suggest that this sneering trio deserve such a comparison. They don’t. Today the word suggests something along the lines of an uncivilised, offensive, ignorant, aggressive, nasty and thoroughly unpleasant individual. So that will do quite nicely to describe these three Australian “sportsmen”.

As I said, “It would be tempting…”

 

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Ten Ways To Lose A By-Election Without Even Trying

Ballot box

  1. Assume, as you have always assumed, that voters who have tribally supported you in the past will automatically do so again now.
  2. On that assumption shamefully neglect the infrastructure and social needs of the electorate for years.
  3. Choose an uncharismatic, overweight candidate whom no-one has ever heard of on the basis that he or she can expect no real opposition from anyone else.
  4. Be totally unprepared for any real challenger to that candidate to emerge.
  5. Be totally unprepared for strategic voting by other parties.
  6. In the event of a high-profile, hugely charismatic, popular, extremely well-dressed and well-groomed opponent appearing from nowhere, panic.
  7. Insult the voters in the electorate by assuming that their votes can be bought with a humungous and patently transparent bribe, essentially consisting of all the infrastructure and social items you neglected to provide in the past.
  8. Insult the voters in the electorate further by assuming that all that is required to change their minds is the opportunity to catch sight of the Prime Minister in their electorate, presumably with the prospect of being able to kiss the hem of his garment. And possibly that of a couple of overweight cabinet ministers as well.
  9. Undermine the confidence of your remaining supporters by conceding publicly that you could well lose the seat
  10. Repeat 1 to 9.

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