Maxim Institute, that high-minded "think tank" that claims to stand for democracy and justice, showed last night in Tauranga (and obviously other meetings around the country) that they are a narrow-focused, arrogant group of stupid white men who carefully do not claim to be Christians. Yeah, right, just as well, because they give real Christians a bad name. Their website is full of weasel words and patronising articles, but just wade through the schlock and you get nothing more than a power base aimed at advancing the cause of intolerance, bigotry and the economic status quo.
So last night at Baycourt, the Maxim moderator banged on about democracy, gave the audience a patronising lecture about MMP and then proceeded to run a "debate" that was a sham. There were eight of the eleven or twelve parties represented on the top table, seven of them already in Parliament. The eighth was Maxim darling Larry Baldock. Two other candidates present (I was one, representing Democrats for social credit) were graciously allowed to speak at the beginning for two minutes, but were not included in the "debate".
When I challenged this ruling and asked for their reasoning, I was told: "This is a meeting about the party vote." Well, I was certainly seeking the party vote, but that was too bad for me. I just had to try and satisfy myself with interjections.
I sat through the meeting, managing a heckle or two, and was appalled. The questions were loaded, the candidates had no more than a minute each to answer, and what was worse, we were treated to a little "entertainment". Questions like "McCain or Obama?" "Sarah Palin - hot or not?"
Excuse me? Am I the only one who thought that was a pathetic waste of time? Questions like that were sexist, irrelevant and distracting the audience away from some really serious issues facing this country and the world. I know the women candidates were not impressed.
In the audience were groups of people who had come to support their candidates, which is fair enough. However, many of them were rude and noisy to other candidates, booing and catcalling throughout an answer - and the moderator made no attempt to control them in order for candidates to be heard. I was close to walking out at several points, and I could have made it a distracting one, as I was seated down in front and would have had to walk up the aisle in view of the entire audience. I wouldn't have left quietly, either.
However, I didn't walk out, I stayed to the bitter end. When it was over, I went up on stage and spoke directly to the Maxim muppet. I asked him to explain again why I, and indeed other bona fide candidates from registered parties, were not included in this debate. He said, "With respect, your party is not likely to get into Parliament."
Is your jaw dropping? Mine did. I said, "That's not your call. You don't know for sure that Larry Baldock will get in either." He gave me the most disdainful grin, but I carried on.
"You have done a disservice to all the people who came tonight," I said, shaking my finger in his face and waving my arm towards the auditorium. "Don't they have a right hear from all the candidates?"
"But then," he whined, "we would have twelve people on the stage."
"So?" I snapped. "Isn't that the democracy you went on about tonight? Maybe you couldn't be bothered. Maybe you're too busy trying to get through the eye of a needle."
He murmured that we would have to agree to disagree (same thing the Nats guy said - funny how they retire into cliches when they don't have a reasonable answer).
But I was stomping off by then - smiling!
All the way up the aisle and out through the foyer, I was stopped by people who wanted to congratulate me and say "Good on ya!" I wasn't the only one who thought the whole thing was a jack-up, believe me. And if it was meant to push Larry Baldock, it didn't do him any favours.
If it was me, I would have been embarrassed.