Guest post: A character formed very early

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A guest post by Norman Wildebeest* 

Andrew Little’s failure to pay a contractor’s bill doesn’t surprise me in the least. I knew Andrew when he and I were kids growing up in New Plymouth, and I saw for myself his true character. It was a character formed very early on, as I saw to my great dismay one day back in the early 1970s.

I didn’t know Andrew all that well at the time, but I sometimes hung on the fringes of his little group of friends. My house was a few doors down from his, and sometimes he and I walked home from school together. But we were never close. I must have sensed even then what sort of man he would become.

On this one particular occasion we were walking home from school with a few other boys. We had decided as a group to play that game where you try to walk along the pavement without stepping on any of the cracks in the concrete. It was a game I was especially adept at, but Andrew lacked my talent for avoiding trouble, and he soon trod on a crack between two sections of the footpath.

You may wonder at the import of this particular reminiscence, but bear with me. It goes directly to the integrity of the new Labour Party leader. When a man enters into a contract, he gives his word that he will perform his part of the bargain. He agrees to give something, and he receives something in return. When a man breaches that contract he breaks his word. He shows the world that he is a man without honour.

A man who will not do as he has contractually agreed is a man of low character, a man who does not deserve to be serving in our Parliament.

And that’s what Andrew Little did on that day back in the early 1970s. He stepped on a crack, but he refused to marry a rat.

We had all agreed the consequences of stepping on a crack before commencing the game. We had all agreed that anyone who stepped on a crack would have to marry a rat. And yet despite giving his word that he would do so, Andrew Little has to this day failed to keep his side of the bargain. Not only has he failed to marry a rat, but to my knowledge he has never even dated one.

For many years afterwards I scanned the nation’s newspapers, certain that if any man sought to marry a rodent the matter would most certainly be reported in the media. I wrote to Mr Little on a number of occasions, demanding that he honour his pledge. But instead of marrying a rat, as his solemn promise to me and the other participants in the game demanded, he married a woman. A fine woman, I’m sure. But not a rat.

I consulted a lawyer on this matter some years ago, and he told me that Mr Little’s promise could not be legally enforced. It was not a legal contract due to our lack of capacity to contract. We were only minors at the time, he explained. In any event, there was no intention to create legal relations, and no court in the land would enforce such a “silly promise.” Moreover, he went on, how was Mr Little to marry a rat when the law did not permit inter-species marriage? I was quite taken aback by my lawyer’s dismissal of Mr Little’s commitment, although I am now forced to accept that I have no legal recourse against the man.

But shall a man only do that which the law requires of him? What of honour? What of a man’s word?

Andrew Little may well point to the narrow definition of marriage under the Marriage Act. He may well argue that he is prohibited by law from honouring his promise. But this will not do. Andrew Little is a politician. He is the leader of New Zealand’s second-largest political party. If he was serious about honouring his pledge he would be campaigning right now to change the law to allow people to marry rats. But unless I am mistaken, I have seen no indication from Andrew Little that he wishes people and rodents to be wed.

In short, it is clear to me that Andrew Little has no intention of honouring his promise. Thus, if a man won’t honour a pledge made forty years ago, nobody should be surprised that he failed to pay a contractor for four months.

But it’s not too late for Andrew Little to do the right thing. All he has to do is marry a rat. All he has to do is go through the motions. I don’t expect him to show love or commitment to the rodent in question, because that’s not what he promised us all those years ago. He can get the pest controller in the next day, for all I care. And I certainly don’t expect any sort of consummation of the marriage. That would be depraved, not to mention challenging from a physiological perspective.

Little may not have the numbers right now to push through an amendment to the Marriage Act, but if he becomes PM in 2017 he will. I know victory is far from certain, but I would like to at least see a commitment from Little to change the law if Labour wins the next election.

Do the right thing, Andrew Little!

* Norman Wildebeest is a respected town planner, wine judge, and serial arsonist. He is currently the subject of a compulsory treatment order under the Mental Health Act (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992