Don Brash is an ideas man. He has never been politically adroit.
As National leader, he allowed his minders to talk him into spectacularly ill-judged photo opportunities. Presumably it was thought that news footage of him teetering awkwardly on a gangplank or trying to squeeze himself into the confined cockpit of a speedway racing car would show him as a man of action. In fact all it did was make the bookish Brash look ridiculous. Television delighted in replaying the footage ad nauseam with the clear intent of making him look buffoonish.
Oh, and he had secret meetings with leaders of the Exclusive Brethren. That came back to bite him big-time.
Later, as Act leader, Brash almost destroyed the party’s credibility by anointing John Banks – rightly seen by many as an unreconstructed Muldoonist, and therefore anathema to Act purists – as the party’s candidate in Epsom. It’s a marvel that the party survived.
Brash has now once again shown lamentable political judgment by allowing the Hobson’s Pledge website to include rhetoric that’s almost comically colonial in its sentiment and could be construed as anti-Maori – an accusation he’s been careful to avoid in the past.
Intentionally or otherwise, the website conveys the impression that at least some of the people behind Hobson’s Pledge pine for the days when we all stood for God Save the Queen at the movies and sang Anglican hymns at school. It also expresses sympathy for a visiting Danish politician who objected to being confronted by a half-naked man shouting and screaming in Maori (that is to say, doing the haka).
I’d be very surprised if Brash wrote this stuff himself. In fact I suspect I know who did. But in allowing it to be published on the website, Brash has played into the hands of critics who are keen to portray Hobson’s Pledge as a bunch of sad old curmudgeons who yearn for a return to the comfortable 1950s, when Maori knew their place and the whites were in charge.
It’s a spectacular own-goal because it deflects attention from Brash’s core message, which is a principled one about democracy and equality before the law. But it confirms his reputation for having bizarrely insensitive political antennae.