Aaron Gilmore, MP, was abandoned by people he should have been able to count on; his Party.
National should have counseled the relative newbie on the advantages of speedy public honesty. It should have helped him pick a factor from his behaviour that he could apologize for. Instead, it left the poor guy to be battered by the hypocrisy of the media and general public.
One of the strengths of conservative political parties is a tendency to protect its own. Against the combined power and fickleness of the public, you need to be able to count on your fellow Party members. John Key and National were surprisingly willing to throw a Party member to the mob just for getting tipsy and arrogant at a restaurant.
The Gilmore situation illustrates the difference between whether people will give you a break or not; whether they will say you were drunk and arrogant, or tired and emotional.
The two main factors are;
1) Whether people have a reason to think you’re okay, so behaviour can be excused, and /or
2) Are in a mood to make themselves feel better, or seek the favour of others, by criticizing you
Some lessons then:
- People are hypocritical, but are tolerant if you have given them other reasons to think you are okay (Gilmore’s incident, and management of it, was his first introduction to most people)
- An MP can get drunk and silly in public, but not drunk and supercilious.
- If you don’t seek help from your Party mates within the first 48 hours, you’re on your own.
- Talk directly and verbally to your Party mates, don’t rely on Party officials, written messages, or the media.
- Timing might be against you (National MPs were in a bad mood this week, with Key caught on some sloppy comments, and the Might River Power sale coming off tatty, not glorious)
I confess to feeling soiled by adding to the pile of views already expressed on this banal matter. Even raging against the hypocrisy doesn’t stop it. My general rule is that only silence helps.
But now I’ve used the situation to draw some political strategy lessons, I’d like to compensate by offering some perspective. Here is a random list of clumsy behaviour exhibited by politicians and media. It demonstrates that many of us, if not all, are prone to excess, slips and shifts in character.
Life without this sort of expression would be damnably dull.
- NZ MP helped home by colleagues in 1880
- Clint Brown in scuffle
- Bob Jones in scuffle with journalist
- Drunken ex-MP “Blair babe” tirade after refused alcohol
- Diane Sawyer ’drunk’ during election coverage
- A whole heap of journalists in on-air hi-jinks, drunk or unguarded
- West Australian Treasurer in drunken scuffle
- UK MP too drunk to vote.
- UK MP in drunken bar brawl
- South African MP drunk, tries to open plane door in flight
- Ex-Indian MP drunk and lewd on train
- Wikipedia on being “tired and emotional”
Follow up 13/05/13
Aaron Gilmore has announced that he will resign from Parliament. It demonstrates that there’s few of us who can resist peer pressure. It’s a victory for righteous bullying and blame-culture.