Amid some in-House knitting drama this week, there was more speculation the knives are out for National Party leader Judith Collins. But doesn’t National always have its knives out? James Elliott has the news of the week. 

It was an exciting week for those holding tickets in the “Seymour Sweepstake”, waiting to see which of the shiny new nine Act MPs would make the first significant contribution to the new Parliamentary term. Congratulations go to those holding the ticket for Nicole McKee, who executed perfectly a brilliantly-conceived ruse, knitting in the debating chamber. As in needles and wool knitting, not Urban Dictionary knitting. Naturally there was speculation as to what McKee was knitting which is where the genius of her plan was revealed. It turns out she was knitting a trap for Labour’s Stuart Nash, a trap that he walked straight into.

Minister Nash appeared on that radio show that PM Jacinda Ardern did, didn’t, does, doesn’t, will and won’t appear on and called McKee a “nutter” for choosing to knit in the House during tributes to the late Prince Philip. Act complained to the PM, the PM presumably invoked the “be kind” mandate, and Nash duly apologised albeit missing the obvious opportunity to raise the flattened Kiwi vowel defence. I reckon Nash could have raised reasonable doubt by claiming that he said “knitter” but due to vowel-flattening we all heard “nutter” not “knitter”. He didn’t and the official record is now that Nash called McKee a nutter for being a knitter, and apologised. A quick scan of his Twutter feed shows that Nash doesn’t seem to feel butter about the whole thing.

As Parliamentary historians will tell you, this is not the first knitting saga to have erupted in the debating chamber. In November 2002, then Associate Minister of Commerce Judith Tuzard caused a pearler of pandemonium in the Parliament by knitting while sitting in a Minister’s chair in front of the Speaker during the passage of the Trade Marks Bill. Then-National leader Bull English said such knitting showed the Government’s “contempt and arrogance” for the legislative process, and then Act leader Richard Prubble said that it reminded him of “the worst excesses of the French Revolution” – which gives you a good idea just how dull the Trade Marks Bill was. The uproar resulted in a ruling from then-Speaker Jonathun Hunt that knitting was permitted in the House but not from the Minister’s chair.

My understanding is that Ron Mark did not go ahead and work on his Austin A35 carburetor in the House, which is a pity because it would probably have been the most productive thing he’s accomplished in the debating chamber.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll read about the history of knitting in Parliament so I should complete the narrative for you. Dame Marilyn Waring (MP 1975-1984) knitted 32 garments in the House claiming it was the only productive thing she accomplished in the debating chamber. And in 2003 then-National MP Roger Sowry complained about knitting by then-Labour MP Dianne Yates. Then-Speaker Hunt referred to his earlier ruling permitting knitting while sitting which prompted then-NZ First MP Ron Mark to ask whether he could bring his Austin A35 carburetor into the House to work on it. Speaker Hunt ruled that he could do so as long as it was silent. My understanding is that Mark did not go ahead and work on his Austin A35 carburetor in the House, which is a pity because it would probably have been the most productive thing he’s accomplished in the debating chamber.

From knitting to the sewing circle that is the National Party caucus. Actually, sewing circle is unfair to those who sew; the National Party caucus is more like a shivving circle. There was more speculation this week that the knives are out for leader Judith Collins, which sounds worse than it is because in the National Party the knives are always out and never really get put back in the drawer.

This week’s speculation was of a Luxon/Bridges leadership ticket to replace Judith Collins. If you want to wager on that ticket you’ll need a quinella to cover either of them being the leader, the scuttlebutt raising scenarios in which either could be leader for a period but with Luxon being the favourite for the long term. For his part, Simon Bridges was quick to simultaneously tamp down and ramp up the speculation by saying it was “just chatter”, that he couldn’t be expected to remember everything he said to his colleagues and that Judith Collins had his support at this time. He said later that he didn’t want the media to read too much into what he might have meant by “at this time” so naturally the media read a lot into what he might have meant by “at this time”.

Bridges also reportedly said that he was showing Judith Collins the same support she showed him when he was leader. We shouldn’t read too much into that either, but we should, and we will. As for Christopher Luxon, he avoided saying anything at all which was probably a wise move. The last thing his supporters need is for him to speak up and remind everyone that he’s not in fact John Key.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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