2016 local body elections: it’s been exhausting. Although that might just be me, life is pretty tiring at the moment and one of my arms is bigger than the other from sawing so much firewood. Still, mustn’t grumble.
2016 local body elections: the dirt thrown, the promises made, those pesky hoardings everywhere, leaning over the grass like top-heavy daffodils, plastered with the faces of people you’ve never heard of and won’t again after today. Like billboards of the disappeared.
2016 local body elections: the candidates are weary. Every morning they pluck new greys. It’s been a gruelling three months on the hustings and their partners are sick to death of all the smiling, it’s like living with the Joker. They look forward to sitting on the couch in red wine-stained trackies, retiring from social obligations and snubbing the neighbours.
2016… ah, f*** it. Voting closes at noon. Who will be the mayor of this fine almost-metropolis? Who will park their bottoms in the seats of power for hours and hours, gradually going numb with making the important decisions about mud tank hoovering, shifting the Delta debt around and where to bury the sand sausages?
We must all do our bit for democracy − but sometimes it’s hard to give a stuff and, quite frankly, there seem to be a lot of candidates who would suck at it or use public office as a platform for alien abduction stories. Well, that’s freedom though, isn’t it: the egalitarian, unalterable right of the loonies to inherit the earth should someone vote for them. As the Americans say, anyone can grow up to be president. I bet they’re regretting that.
In a race where voter apathy is usually the only winner, last weekend a new contender emerged while the sleeping city slept. Perched atop the old post office, brooding, chin on fist, like a giant bat or an undertaker with flappy lapels: Bingle Struthers. Who is this mystery man bringing up the rear; long of face, funeral of suit? Uncommonly handsome, if you have a thing for cadavers, Bingle is a former navy man with a love of ska. Granted an exclusive interview, I asked him if there were any skeletons in his closet. Despite rumours he would often start drinking his own urine before the ship had even left port, did his years of seamanship end in an honourable discharge? “With respect, the over-inquisitive media shouldn’t enquire about one’s closet or discharge,” said Bingle, remaining hereafter aloof, a virtue in politicians, if you ask me.
Bingle’s campaign staff of soccer hooligans and anarchic design graduates have painstakingly condensed his 500 page, at-times-rambling manifesto into a series of bite-sized slogans containing the wisdom of proactive solutions and the comfort of empty pandering:
· Sludge tanks or slush funds? Your choice with Bingle.
· When times are hard, Bingle is really hard.
· Let’s make Mosgiel great.
· Hearts and heads up moving in an agreed direction.
· Not derision but vision for erosion.
· Transparency, accountability, rather nice upholstery and washing taken in.
You wouldn’t let him get close enough to kiss a baby, if you cared for it, but one has to agree some of these sound just vague enough to be mistaken for quasi-philosophical Facebook memes. While you might think it’s down to the strength of both your pelvic floor and morning coffee, actually, local government shapes pretty much every aspect of our daily lives. If, God forbid, you fell ill and had to go to Dunedin Public Hospital, you’d see just where ignorance of that fact gets you: 1960s healthcare, complete with gruel.
I don’t have the time to do something about yucky patient food or half-finished cycle ways or backyards that look like swim-up bars because I’m trying to build muscle in my other arm so I don’t look so lopsided, but someone has to. And while you, maybe, have to admire his tenacity in standing for council in 2006, 2010 and 2011, not to mention this year, a tick for Bingle will definitely invalidate your voting paper, because he isn’t on the ballot, and because you’re supposed to number the candidates in order of preference. Bingle, Bingle, Bingle … it’s almost as if you don’t exist.