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Absolutely Fatuous: the 'zip it sweetie' over-reaction

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. 

More by Rob Hosking

Comments and questions

Come on, where are the Labour supporters! I am suitably surprised and indignant at the lack of online support and the outpouring of grief over the deteriorating and lack of manners not just in the society, but, tsk, tsk, in parliament! What is the world coming to?

Well put Mr Hosking !

Labour MPs have called National and John Key far, far worse - so I say to Labour: "Diddims".

If Labour weren't so bereft of credible alternatives and had some realistic ideas perhaps NZ might listen to them... instead, let's tell them ... and especially Jacinta to "suck it up sweetheart".

Perhaps Labour should spend some time trying to figure out how to build 100,000 homes in Auckland for under $300K each... hahaha

Imagine the hoohaa if Bennett had said "Zip it, toothie".

Or if someone told Bennett to have a doughnut.

She has had far too many already.

Where is John Tamihere when you need him.

Surely he would have had the (lack of) grace to add gender equality to his "big fella" contribution, by way of adding "big girl".

She is a spitting image of my sister.


Difficult for a horse to say "aye".

Interesting to see it was Trevor Mallard who was incensed at the use of the term. Perhaps it would have been more "Mallard-like" behaviour if Paula Bennett had crossed the floor and punched Jacinda Ardern a few times in the jaw, just like Mallard did to Tau Henare in a lobby off parliament's debating chamber in 2007.

I think you have exaggerated the Mallard/Henare incident a wee bit.

During a rushed visit to the supermarket to buy bread I found two women blocking access to my favourite loaf as they chatted over their inconveniently parked supermarket trolleys.
'Zip it Sweeties' did the trick.

Or if she had said "zip it moron", like she should have.

Or if she said "Zip it horsie", like she could have.

Or "zip it Bugs Bunny". Hahahahahahaha.

Paula should make a peace offering to Jacinda -- carrot and some oats.

Consider if the same words were spoken by a senior male MP like Winston. Now that would have probably caused outrage - labelled as sexist and ageist! But just because Paula said it, it's OK?
Our society is lot more PC than it used to be, Rob, and pulling out historic instances of uncouth behaviour by our leaders in not the best benchmark for civilised etiquette.

Seeing Mallard get on his high horse on this was hilarious -- it was akin to a melodramatic buffoon jumping to the defense of his lover. Hmmm, disturbing image that. Labour are as childish as ever. I can't believe they wasted parliamentary time discussing this. Pathetic use of tax payer's money. Mallard should be put to pasture along with his hairline.

If Adhern wants to behave like a child she should expect to be treated (and spoken to) like one.

She certainly ain't the sharpest brain in the country.

Or for Mallard, "Thip it Twevor"

Adern is no sweetie, so clearly the remarks were not addressed to her? The fact that some PC purists (like #7 Anonymous) object is all the more reason for dismissing the complaint.

Paula Bennett is actually very saucy. Ardern looks like a tree.

What type of tree?

oh...come-on now...give me a tough one will ya...ha.........nah...look....

an old, withered, drawn out, oak.....some sort of spinelessly wretched old stump ....kinda representative of the knackered ole labour socialism policy arguement?? (or the national same arguement that its in play now....).....but, no life??? just a rotten stump??

fair point?

What type of sauce?

I was thinking perhaps a spicy parmesan sauce with a light Cajun seasoning or jue?

But then, a creole mayonnaise came to mind.

But, then ... I started thinkin of some sort of lemon caper sauce thing... perhaps a delicious piquant combination lemon sauce With capers

What say you?

This kind of talk (and mannerisms) from female to female is equivalent to a male kicking the teeth in of another male. Females fight differently and it can be far worse than physical fighting. This is female emotional battery at its worst.

Adhern might normally control herself but she didn't this time and that is her fault. She should be ashamed and she should have been told to apologize to set a proper example for the other females in the country.

I agree with your sentiment, with one key exception. It was Bennett who lost control and who needs to apologise.

I meant Bennett not Adhern

Looks like bennet knows all about sweeties, she's obviously first in the lolly bag.

I'm sorry, but "sweetie" in that context is clearly meant as an insult, and, in particular, an insult that applies to women. Just because it's not a curse word does not make it any less offensive. It's not appropriate in any professional setting. It's childish, petty and bullying.

"This is a universal thing."

Maybe. But then, the only two examples you've got are from members of the National Party.

Although you're right. Bennet's guilty of far worse crimes. Like dismantling the same welfare system that put her where she is today.

Welfare spending is now $25.7 billion, rising to $29.6 billion in 2016.

Where is this 'dismantling' of the welfare system?

I see the Labour feminist brigade finally woke up to these comments on the NBR site, a place they rarely visit due to the fear of becoming rational. The Labour feminazis target anyone who injects sunlight into their covens of PPTU and DPB where they recruit their current and future membership.

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