Caught up on a bit of fun reading…now, fun reading for me, when it isn’t a middlebrow novel, tends to be political history.
Yeah, I know. Sad Git. Sue me.
Skimmed through Dominick Sandbrook’s political and social history of Britain from 1956 through to 1970: ‘Never Had it So Good’ and ‘White Heat’.
What can I say? ‘White Heat’ skewered some of the myths of the sixties, but that wasn’t the good stuff. Sandbrook mixes the weighty with the light and at times it is hard to tell the difference.
Especially when George Brown, deputy prime minister and successively Minister for Economic Affairs and Foreign Secretary in the Wilson 1964-70 Labour government, sways into view.
Brown’s every appearance is a sign farce is imminent. Brown was…well, you know the phrase ‘tired and emotional’? It was first coined for him.
Incidents abounded, especially when he became Foreign Secretary and had to attend a lot of diplomatic functions and be, well, diplomatic.
Which he seemed to have found quite difficult, especially after a few drinks. He’d insult someone, or grope one of the women present, or both.
Best example: Brown was at some function at the Peruvian Embassy, wandered in late, and pissed. Staggered up to a very attractive figure in a purple frock and, breathing brandy fumes, suggested they dance.
The object of his attention declined, giving three reasons:
1. Brown was drunk;
2. The band was not playing dance music but, in fact, the Peruvian national anthem;
3. The figure in purple was the Archbishop of Lima.
If Brown had been to a function the night before, officials would gather early and try to find out what he’d done. There would usually be some incident. If there was no word, they would assume the worst: whatever Brown had done was so bad it was being kept very quiet.
Reading all this, my thoughts turned to our own Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion he is letting us down. Badly.
What is the point of making someone like Winston Foreign Affairs Minister if he can’t entertain us in this way?
It simply isn’t good enough.
When Peters was Treasurer, just over a decade ago, and New Zealand’s currency nosedived, Tom Frewen wrote a satirical column in the National Business Review which ended with Peters swaying down the Terrace at 2am, screaming “F*** the dollar!!”
The incident never happened of course, Tom was just exercising his imagination.
But I feel it’s the sort of thing we should see Mr Peters turning his mind to.
There are things the country needs which cry out for his skills but international diplomacy is not one of them.
The recent shenanigans over donations have been only mildly diverting: yes, Winston has had the chance to get all shirty with reporters, but really, its pretty tame stuff.
Come on, Winston.
Show us what you’re made of.