Cullen Backdown Unleashes Storm of Retractions

Published: Wed 1 Jun 2005 05:51 PM
Cullen Backdown Unleashes Storm of Parliamentary Retractions
Oh, wait - actually that's not true at all.
By Lyndon Hood
The recent experience of Dr Michael Cullen seems to have given his colleagues ideas. For years they have struggled with the burden of it being inadvisable - and in some cases expensive - to declare obvious and demonstrable falsehoods. Or at any rate, to do so outside the House of Parliament.
This stricture is of course almost intolerable to a career politician. And the proposed changes to Parliamentary privilege rules address the problem in the same way the Labour's budget provides tax cuts.
But now Cullen has, in a burst of ingenuity, applied the "Withdraw and Apologise" technique - long favoured by those wishing to break the rules inside Parliament - to real life. And given the other other 119 MPs proof that, as long as you disavow it quickly enough, you can say whatever damfool thing you're patronising enough to think your voters want to hear.
The method has been used for a variety of political effects.
Rodney Hide told a press conference that he had heard reports that, during the late 70s, David Benson-Pope had caused the death of millions of innocent civilians and left their bones in piles. He said that he had found these reports "credible".
Shortly afterwards Hide released a clarification, saying that his information in fact related to one Pol Pot.
WInston Peters, addressing the Tauranga bowls club, had this to say: "Have you noticed all the funny-coloured people wandering around in the streets these days? Why is that allowed? Not content to be greasy and smelly, now they want to blow us up! Hold on, I appear to have my notes upside-down. Um... I hold in my hand a list of migrants. One of them must be dodgy."
Greens justice spokesperson Nandor Tanzcos has given the trend a new spin. "We are pleased to help the Government pass Phil Goff's Prisoner's and Victim's Compensation Bill, which we had so violently opposed on human rights grounds," he told reporters. After a moment's pause he pulled away the hand Mr Goff was about to shake and pretended to smooth back his dreadlocks, crying, "Ha ha! Just jokes!"
"Ooo. Burned!" he added.
Popular though the method is becoming, none of the practitioners have quite matched Cullen's technique. Novices still speak with hushed awe of the double-whammy he achieved on his first attempt. Even as he berated entirely the wrong television station, he threw in a perfect retrospective projected flipflop:
"Remember when I said it wasn't appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation? Well, I've got a few things to tell you about false accusations in a bit. Oh yes."

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