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Lone National supporter pleads crowd for a ‘fair go’

Nov 24th, 2011 | By | Category: Latest News, News

SWAYING THE VOTE: From left, Ken Rickeby, Grant Robertson, Stephen Whittington, James Shaw (standing), Laurence Boomert, Michael Appleby (hidden)

National may be leading the opinion polls but there was no sign of it in Mt Victoria last night.

The final candidates meeting for Wellington Central electorate drew a diverse crowd to Crossways Community Centre.

The first time voters stuck together in the back, while the more experienced amongst the crowd seated themselves up front with an air of expectancy.

The hecklers’ were out in force, crossing the board in age and political leanings; however joining forces when vocalising their dislike of National and its policies.

When introducing themselves, Act candidate Stephen Whittington was the first target.

“Are they still going?” yelled the loudest of the hecklers’, casually leaning against the back wall flanked by three other like minded 30-somethings.

Grant Robertson for Labour was the first to give his spiel, by far the best public speaker of the six candidates, and the only one who finished well before the allocated five minute mark.

His assurance that under Labour the ‘ugly flyover by the reserve’ would be stopped was met by rapturous applause, as well as his call for increased emergency housing, reducing child poverty and the ever popular decrease in the gap between rich and poor.

Green party candidate James Shaw stepped up to the loudest applause.

He smoothly outlined his party’s intentions to clean up the rivers, increase the minimum wage, create employment and improve Wellington’s transport system.

Ken Rickeby of the Pirate Party provided some cringe-worthy entertainment, an extended ‘arggggggghhhhh’ the first sound out of his mouth and the rest of his five minutes taken up with promises to amend the Copyright Act.

National candidate Paul Foster-Bell rose to speak with a sombre expression, looking as though he was resigned to the fact the audience was filled with anti-National supporters.

This was confirmed when his first sentence was drowned out with protests from the audience, who only became quiet after the one National supporter called for the audience to ‘give him a fair go’.

Foster-Bell gave credit to National for reducing the waiting list for cancer radiation treatment from four months to four weeks, claiming Kiwis no longer had to go to Australia to receive treatment, and instead were filling New Zealand hospitals.

“Labour built the hospitals!” one man yelled.

“Yeah, but they didn’t put anything in ‘em!” yelled the lone National supporter.

Foster-Bell then went onto the contentious topic of National’s plan for the Basin reserve flyover, which almost had the crowd on its feet.

“B*******!” yelled one red-faced man.

“Get on yer bike!” yelled another.

Foster-Bell, obviously accustomed to such responses, swiftly moved on to the next topic, gratefully sitting down when the buzzer sounded.

Laurence Boomert for the New Economics Party followed, managing to gain favour by immediately smashing National.

“A vote for National is a vote for death and disease,” he stated.

Stephen Whittington then had his turn, introducing himself as the Wellington Central candidate for Act, and was immediately pounced upon by the now over-stimulated crowd.

“Hooray for you!” called out the cool 30-something professional heckler at the back.

“Thank you”, replied Whittington, appearing to relish the challenge of addressing an audience of anti-fans.

After a lengthy attack on National, and reasons for the audience to give their vote to Act instead, Whittington launched into his party’s polices.

“Number one,” he said.

“To keep the same leader for two years running!” yelled the pro heckler in the back, met by hearty laughter and a smattering of applause.

Unfazed, Whittington powered on, looking like a confident head prefect at a national debating competition, no doubt secure in his oratory abilities after his 2009 title of 15th best speaker in the world.

The ever-present Michael Appleby for Legalise Cannabis got on the anti-Act bandwagon, playing to the audience by claiming Act stood for Aotearoa Cannabis Tolerance party, in reference to recent support from Don Brash on legalising cannabis.

While raising some valid points and providing a semi-convincing argument for making cannabis legal, the audience treated Appleby as though he were the perpetually stoned uncle who provided the often funny yet mostly heard-before jokes.

Overall, the meeting for the Wellington Central candidates provided little new or surprising information.

However it did expose the dynamics between the candidates and their constituency, while giving the audience an insight into the personalities of their hopeful future representatives.

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is A Whitireia journalism student.
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