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Thursday, 25 April 2019 03:54 am

Candidates raise laughs, hackles, heckles and awareness

HANDOUTS: Party pamphlets sitting on chairs at a local candidates meeting in Karori.

HANDOUTS: Party pamphlets sitting on chairs at a local candidates meeting in Karori.

THINK political meetings are boring? Think again.

I’d never had much interest in politics before studying journalism. Having never been to a political meeting the thought of having to report on one seemed nothing short of tedious. Had I known it would resemble an amateur stand-up comedy night, I would have put my hand up sooner.

Karori Rotary is hosting nine of the Wellington Central candidates. The crowd was bursting at the seams, extra chairs are brought in but the crowd still spills out of the doors of the hall.

The atmosphere appears relaxed at first, the crowd has no intention of sitting back when it’s time to confront the candidates.

Lined up before them are Labour’s Grant Robertson, Greens’ James Shaw, National’s Paul Foster-Bell, NZ First’s Hugh Barr, Conservative’s Brian Hooper, Aoteoroa Legalise Cannabis’s Alistair Gregory, Iwi Independents Movement’s Huimaono Karena Puhi, Democrats for Social Credit’s James Knuckey, and Independent Peter Robinson.Conservative Party’s Hooper takes the lead, saying he wishes he could hear the other candidates first.

While giving anecdotes about the United States and Australian relationship, Hooper says “I am married to a lady”, with enough of a pause to put the crowd into fits of laughter.

Is it a Conservative Party pause against gay marriage? Or a pause-like jab at incumbent Grant Robertson’s relationship?

Not fair, protests Hooper, accusing the laughing crowd of not letting him finish. What he means to say he is married to lady who is from the US and who does not like Obama. Phew. The statement coincides with the bell and an end to his six minutes of Karori fame.

It was just the beginning for a passionate and vocal audience.

National Foster Bell starts off well, but seems to the get brunt of the crowds heckling.

He talks up his party’s commitment to raising teaching standards and cops it: “So your scrapping national standards then,” says a heckler.

National’s child healthcare is great, he says: “The Wellington children’s hospital is an absolute disgrace,” a crowd member shouts.

The National candidate then joins a short game of verbal ping-pong with the heckler which ends in Foster-Bell striking a blow at the Labour Party.

“This is not the debate like the other night where David Cunliffe suffered from debate related tourette syndrome,” he says.

“Low-blow,” yell the crowd.

Note to Foster-Bell – using a syndrome as a joke is not funny.

Labour candidate Grant Robertson  is in Labour heartland, and he knows it:

“Good evening and it’s great to be back. You might remember me from shows such as Election 2008 and Election 2011,” he says, and the crowd laughs in amusement.

Robertson does better at making jokes at the opposing major parties’ expense which work.

“Most of you will know that our slogan for this election is Vote Positive and that’s what I’m going to be tonight, except that when we drew the lots I was after Paul. So you need to help me remember that it’s Vote Positive,” Mr Robertson says.

At this point I don’t think the night could get any more entertaining, but the best is saved for last.

A Q&A section concludes the evening. The last question is for the Green and Labour parties and is posed by a lady with deadpan accuracy.

“If anybody’s chief motivation is to get rid of National, how do we vote strategically in this election,” she asks. Both the crowd and candidates burst into laughter.

I could go on, but you get my drift.

After one-and-a-half hours of entertainment host Allan Frazer from Karori Rotary gives his view on what is to come.

“Over the next few weeks, isn’t it going to be fun,” he says.

Humour aside, it’s time for a quick survey of crowd reaction, and many are impressed by the Green Party candidate Jame’s Shaw’s presentation.

“He came and he engaged with the audience. He got right in the middle of everybody rather than standing above them and looking down and speaking to them,” crowd member Jim Thorpe says.

He says the night has helped him narrow his candidate options down to two.

In the same boat as myself, it was Inge Doig’s first political meeting. She says it was inspiring.

“I’m not going to say which way I voted for our [Wellington] Central candidate last time but I actually think I’m going to change my vote, as result of what I’ve heard tonight,” she says.

The crowd at the local candidates meeting in karori

FULL HOUSE: The crowd at the Wellington candidates meeting in Karori.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student
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