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elections nz

Ranking NZ Politicians’ Most Bogus Election Year Attempts at Relatability

We investigate Bill English’s pimples and other politicians on the quest to seem human.
Ben Thomson

It's election year, the billboards are up, and the politicians are out in force: baby-kissing and selfie-taking and trying their best to relate to us, the plebs they hope to one day rule. Given that most politicians are giant nerds, sometimes their election-year attempts have a slight air of the surreal, like alien lifeforms trying to approximate normal human behaviour. Starting out with Bill English's too-much-information revelations about his days as a pimple-ridden teen, we've ranked politicians top most transparent attempts to convince us they're everyday Kiwis that you'd want to have a beer with.


Bill English's Pimpled Past
Poor Bill's had a tough act to follow in his much-loved predecessor John Key, king of breakfast radio stunts and selfies. But today, he tops our list thanks to his recent interview detailing how he'd suffered from terrible acne for around five years. With Jacinda riding so high in popularity stakes, maybe Bill felt it was time to appeal to the youths—and who can't relate to acne? The PM then veered into the fairly suspect territory of comparing his own pimple-popping self-consciousness to the experience of those discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour or disability. "It helped me understand how, in different versions, that happens to other people—whether they've got a disability or whether they're seen in a particular way because of the colour of their skin or how they look." Hmmm.

Jacinda Ardern's Sus Fat Freddy's Claims
Jacinda's currently riding a wave of the "Jacinda effect" and for now, at least, it seems she can do little wrong. But we're suspicious on one front: in a recent Facebook Live interview, Ardern claimed a deep love of dub band Fat Freddy's Drop. Frankly, we feel this could be a fat freddy's fib; calculated to appeal to the ever-mysterious "middle New Zealand". Is it possible Jacinda, the DJ whose playlist includes Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Iggy Pop and TLC, could have held the dearest corner of her heart for a bbq-reggae band whose popularity peaked in the mid-2000s? We smell a rat.


Almost Every Week of John Key's Prime Ministership
Our planking, derp-facing, catwalk strutting, homophobic-slur loving commander-in-chief was the king of the good-kiwi-bloke-relatability stunt. The only reason our beloved ex-Prime Minister won't be making it to the top of the rankings is even his corniest moments of appeal to the Kiwi public were surprisingly plausible. Peeing in the shower? You know he does. Favourite movie Johnny English? We kind of believe him.

Metiria Turei's Admissions of Fact-Fudging in Her Beneficiary Days
Ok, so it's not bogus, but it was ultimately disastrous. Metiria's admission that she'd lied to WINZ about having flatmates while living as a single mum on the benefit exploded into weeks of media coverage, and ended in her resignation as leader of the Green Party. For just a second there though, it looked like New Zealand was on the brink of a meaningful conversation about the compromises made by families in poverty. The #IamMetiria hashtag offered a glimpse into the lives of New Zealand women who are rarely given platform or representation in NZ politics. A moment when relatability—briefly—goes right.

Bill English's Pizza Toppings
Before he turned to acne, Bill found international fame by publicising his controversial culinary choices with a now-infamous spaghetti-pizza selfie. While he was denounced by chefs and enraged Italians, let's secretly acknowledge that tinned spaghetti on carb is a true Kiwi delicacy, and following the news of Bill's food-faux-pas most of us went home and made it ourselves.


Shane Jones Buying Porn on the Taxpayer Credit Card
Ok, so it's unlikely this was a stunt—we just wanted to take a moment to reminisce about that [highly relatable] time Shane Jones got busted for charging his porn habit to the company card. The hapless Shane was betrayed by Sky City Hotel's pricing system, which charges out standard films for $14.90 a pop, but hits you with a $19.90 charge for 'adult' movies. You'd think they'd at least make the Titanic or something $19.90, to give people the option of plausible deniability.

David Cunliffe/John Key For Being Sorry/Not Sorry For Being a Man
A joint prize to the ex-leaders of our two biggest political parties for their bumbling attempts to ingratiate the NZ public by touting various levels of shame/pride for their maleness. Cunliffe started it out with a speech where he apologised for being a man. He was widely criticised and mocked for what was actually an admirable sentiment—Cunliffe was speaking at a women's refuge event for victims of domestic violence; and if there's ever a place deserving of an apology for the grossness of masculinity it's there. Never one to lose an opportunity to embrace the more dubious aspects of NZ blokeyness, John Key hit back with an appearance on talkback radio wearing a t-shirt saying "I'm not sorry for being a man". Cheers John, we're sure New Zealand's victims of domestic violence appreciated it.


Paula Bennett's Pink Field Day Gummies
For the MP most often clad in various amazing manifestations of leopard print, field day was always going to be a challenge. Bennett even admitted that it had been "20 years since she'd touched a cow". She made a key concession to the rural crowd—donning the traditional gumboots. But she made the moment her own by steering away from the standard black-with-red-band farm boots and opting instead for a pair of hot pink rubber booties. We feel you Paula—even when trying to fit in, one should never truly abandon one's principles.

Winston Peters Searching His Own Name on Twitter
What a moment this was. With Key gone, Winston's gunning for the reigning king of kiwi relatability (especially if you're a racist retiree), but this was a moment we could all identify with. No doubt looking for the latest chatter, he apparently vanity-searched "Tweets on Winston Peters New Zealand politician"—but typed it into the 'compose tweet' box rather than the search bar.

Congratulations to all MPs who made an effort. And civilians, brace yourselves for 5 long weeks till the election.