According to Parliamentary legend, a certain National MP once called the Labour Party "a bunch of woolly, woofterish w**kers" during a heated exchange in the debating chamber.
A Labour MP immediately challenged this on the basis the last word in that sentence was clearly un-parliamentary (we will spare NBR ONLINE readers' blushes by not spelling it out in full, but any of our readers who attended primary school from around 1960 onwards will be familiar with it).
The Speaker of the time, though, was not, and said he could not rule the word out of order because he did not know what it meant.
For a brief period, parliamentary decorum (a vastly over-rated concept, in my experience) hung in the balance. If the Speaker ruled the word not out of order, MPs would be able to use it in the future.
Someone – probably the Clerk of the House – explained to the Speaker the meaning of the dreaded word (oh, to have been a fly on the wall during that little tutorial) and the term was quickly ruled out.
In the context of parliamentary exchanges, yesterday's fit of the vapours over Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett's appellation of "sweetie" to her Labour counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, hardly looks worthy of the attention given to it.
Not only did it trigger what appeared to be a collective swoon on the Labour benches about "offensive" language, but it seems to have led to the kind of blanket coverage normally used for Hobbit premieres or David Bain retrials.
Granted, an MP saying "Zip it sweetie" to another MP isn't all that edifying behaviour, and perhaps suggests that MP has been watching rather too many episodes of comic TV series Absolutely Fabulous, but the reaction has been absolutely fatuous.
It caused a "furore" and an "uproar" in the House.
Well, a few MPs did the whole quivering with outrage thing, but this is what opposition MPs – of any party – do, most of the time. Its meant to convey outrage at whatever the dastardly government is doing but it usually just conveys their own frustration at not being on the Treasury benches.
Their supporters in the online world of the blogoverse and twittersphere did much the same, with knobs on: but again, this is all very well rehearsed, kneejerk ersatz indignation.
I stress this is a universal thing. It happens whoever is in opposition, and I suspect having to be in a constant state of fake indignation must be one of the most soul destroying aspects of being an opposition MP.
It is certainly wearisome to watch.
If Labour's MPs – or anyone else – is genuinely outraged over this rather silly but utterly innocuous comment they really need to get a bit of a better perspective on these things.
This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about MyNBR Tags
Most listened to
What's the story behind the story? Our special feature audio offers a mix of comment from journalists, experts and panel discussions.
- Tech commentator Paul Brislen breaks down the latest telco sector report
- NBR reporter Tim Hunter discusses Intueri's problems
- NZ ambassador to Turkey Jonathan Curr talks about improving Turkish - NZ relations
- Hamish McNicol discusses Masala Restaurants and Kim Dotcom in this week's Court Report
- Conflict controversies, increased sports rights competition and MIA IPOs: Chelsea Armitage and Nick Grant on NZ media