A meeting, somewhere in Wellington:
David Shearer: People, we have a problem. We have been banging the “no asset sales” drum for the better part of two years, and still the polls are flat. Why don’t they like us?
David Cunliffe: Speak for yourself.
Grant Robertson: Forget the polls. Everything that happened before now has been a prelude to this time. I’ve always said the rubber would really hit the road once the first SOE was put up for sale.
Annette King: It’s a pity I didn’t hear you say that when we were planning our election-winning strategy in 2011.
Shearer: It’s also a pity that the rubber happens to be the tyres of the asset sales juggernaut, and our party is in its path. Have you seen the number of pre-registrations for Mighty River Power?
David Parker: The numbers are meaningless. People will always act where there’s a personal benefit to be had.
Shearer: But haven’t we been saying that the country will be worse off if we sell these SOEs?
Phil Goff: David, you’re not in Somalia any more. People here are apathetic. Most of them don’t like the idea of asset sales, but few of them care enough to do much about it. All they care about is that John Key has such a nice smile.
David Clark: Can I just put it on the record that I think he does actually have quite a nice smile? I mean I’m not a fan of his politics or anything, but when he beams that lovely smile it does brighten up my day.
Cunliffe: So much for the reshuffle.
Jacinda Ardern: Come on, everyone, don’t be so down! The polls are on the way up, and there’s real opposition to asset sales. We just need to sell our policies better. We need to stop being so negative and oppositional.
Trevor Mallard: But I am the leader of the Opposition, for pity’s sake! I’m supposed to be negative about the government.
Shearer: That was my line, Trevor.
Mallard: Sorry David.
Ardern: But we need to tell people what we’re about. If we’re so against asset sales, what are we actually for?
Darien Fenton: I’ll tell you what we’re for. We’re for destroying this wretched Tory government and sending the lot of them back to the opposition benches! Who’s with me, comrades? Fly the red flag and throw up the barricades! Onwards to victory! Down with fascism!
Mallard: I’ll tell you what the solution is. We’ve been too nice. It’s time to take the gloves off and get our hands dirty.
Cunliffe: Great idea, Trev. It’ll be the H-Fee all over again.
Goff: Trevor’s right. The trouble with this party is we’re all too nice. But our enemy is anything but nice.
Cunliffe: Leave me out of this!
Goff: I’m talking about the Nats. We have to match them. Their lies have poisoned the well of political discourse in this country. We’ve tried to clean the water, but it hasn’t worked, so let’s heap some more poison in.
Shearer: I’m … um… I’m not sure I like the sound of that.
Goff: We tried to have a rational debate about asset sales, but it didn’t work. So let’s have an irrational one.
Goff: They say asset sales will be good for the economy, and we say they won’t. But people aren’t responding to our message, so let’s up the ante. Let’s come up with some really bold argument why asset sales are bad.
Shane Jones: How about “Asset sales will give you cancer”.
Ruth Dyson: “If you buy shares in Mighty River Power the terrorists win.”
Clayton Cosgrove: “Jesus will hate you if you buy those shares.”
Ardern: No, this is all ridiculous. How do you expect us to be regarded seriously as a party if that’s the best we can come up with? Why don’t we just come up with a credible policy platform that shows we’re serious about holding onto these assets? Let’s pledge to buy the shares back upon becoming the government, but cap the buyback price to what the shares originally sold for.
Shearer: But that would be socialism.
Ardern: I’m still not seeing the problem.
Shearer: Well let’s not be too hasty. Why don’t we all calm down and think this through? I have another idea. What if we all secretly pre-register ourselves for the Mighty River Power share offer, and then when the news breaks we’ll angrily deny doing so, insist we have no intention of buying any shares, and argue that it points out the flaws in the registration system?
Robertson: That’s a great idea, but there’s only one small problem with your plan.
Shearer: Which is what?
Robertson: What if some of us are planning to buy shares?
Phil Twyford: Traitor! Shame!
Robertson: Hear me out! How else are we going to keep the shares in New Zealand? If we can’t beat ‘em then let’s join ‘em! Oh, come on, who here hasn’t already pre-registered?
[A long silence follows]
Shearer: Well never mind that. I have one more trick up my sleeve. Grant?
Robertson: Sorry, David, but Helen’s not answering her phone.
Shearer: Oh shit.