Boys say go

The fuss over David Cunliffe’s apology for being a man revealed the extent to which the nation’s leaders are modified by the beltway.

At the moment, David Cunliffe can’t get an even break. Like Ed Miliband, his hapless goofy UK counter-part, the media is fixated on mischievously misinterpreting everything Cunliffe does.

It’s easy and predictable, because like Miliband, Cunliffe is running through a banal right-on political liturgy. He is allowing the media to cast him as a paint-by-numbers Labour politician.

In another time, apologies for being men have gone down well with feminists. Cunliffe was reading from a successful old Labour script. But that was then, and now bolshie interest groups in the community are demanding more.

Cunliffe doesn’t have the networked crew to tell him what interest groups or the public want, nor the inventiveness to create something new.

To be fair, it appears that his speech went down well at the Women’s Refuge forum, including his remarkable request that men “out there”, “stop this bullshit”. Nice – now go along to a pub in Hamilton East on Tuesday and say that.

His use of the common vernacular was a pandering attempt to co-opt the the ordinary man in an effort to win over this conference attendees. I doubt many ordinary men would be impressed to be used that way, but I also doubt they even gave it a moment’s thought.

John Key’s comment that Cunliffe’s apology was ‘quite insulting’ showed him to be as much a product of the beltway as Cunliffe.

“Insulting” is a beltway word – claimed to be felt by people on behalf of a group, when they’re aiming for some sort of advantage.

Few men would have felt “insulted” by Cunliffe. We might have thought him a dick, or an embarrassment – and that doesn’t give him any strength to insult us. Moreover, most men are only familiar with insults that are delivered directly and question your masculine self-image.

While Key described Cunliffe’s words as “odd” and “silly”, he felt obliged to also pander to Cunliffe’s target market and quickly added “the issue of violence is a very serious issue,”

Both men were guilty of pandering, but in politics it’s all about how you do it, so only one got caught out.

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