New Zealand’s COVID lockdown is about to be eased. As far as Swimwatch is concerned that means we can get back into the Millennium Pool. For 15 weeks there has been no swimming in Auckland. Oh, Eyad and Alex have gone for the occasional swim around the buoys at Takapuna Beach. But that was mainly to sit in the sun drinking coffee afterwards.

Lydiard once told me I should try doing distance training in the sea. He said, it might achieve the benefits that running the Waitakeres did for runners. This 15 weeks is proof enough that Takapuna Beach is not the Waitakere Ranges. I’m looking forward to the smell of chlorine again.

A feature of the break I have enjoyed has been the freedom to discuss topics apart from swimming. Some have been important. The chaos of Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand’s mismanagement of sport. Highlighted by the death of Olivia Podmore and the attempt to ban Alan Thompson. Swimming went through their own version of that in the Jan and Bruce era. It has brought into focus that the problems of sport in New Zealand begin at the top. They say a fish rots from the head down. Well so does New Zealand sport.

However, this last lockdown post allows me the opportunity to comment on a political change that took place in New Zealand this week. The leader of the National Party changed again. Even the most loyal National Party voter has to admit sacking the old leader and voting for a new model is not all that unusual. What is it? Something like 5 leaders in four years or is it 4 leaders in five years. Either way it is a huge number. This time the anointed ones are Christopher Luxon and deputy Nicola Willis. How they get on with three previous bosses still in their caucus will not be easy.

Twice in my business career I was appointed to the role of company chief executive with the old bosses still around. Once at a large processing plant outside Palmerston North and the second time as CEO of the New Zealand stock exchange listed company Colyer Watson. In both cases the previous bosses made my life miserable. And the guys I had to deal with were nothing like as vicious as “Crusher Collins”. Good luck with that Luxon and Willis.

But apart from the prospect of the National Party continuing to tear itself apart, what else comes to mind about these two. Well, quite a bit actually, and none of it is good. Let me tell you about Nichola Willis first.

My daughter, Jane, and Nichola Willis are about the same age and went to the same school, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School. Before I was aware of that connection, I had wondered whether Willis was a Marsden old girl. She has the tell-tale features. Jane went to Marsden for eight years and hated every minute. The school breeds a personality that is hard to miss, arrogant, vicious, superior, fake snobs.

I remember Jane asking her mother, why was it the girls prayed in chapel everyday and five minutes later acted like Taliban terrorist towards each other in the playground. I think Alison explained because that’s the way some people with lots of money act. Anyway, “Marsden old girl” tells you all you need to know about the endearing features of the new Deputy Leader of the National Party.

A few years later we moved Jane to a more respectful and better school. I’m glad we did. There are quite enough Nicola Willis types already.

So, what about Luxon? Well, the really scary part about him being leader of the National Party is his religious convictions. A religious zealot is not the best person to run the country. Governments deal with many norms that have religious implications. For example, liquor laws, abortion, euthanasia, contraception and gay rights. The list goes on and on. The table below lists the disadvantages of having Luxon anywhere near the Prime Minister’s office.

Alternative opinions are rarely welcomed 
Religious zealots preach peace, but they teach discord. Marsden School for example
Minority groups are not tolerated. Gays, Muslims and so on 
You cannot have a unique faith under a theocracy unless it’s Luxon’s faith.
Zealots change the beliefs of a nation. Education gets twisted towards the leader’s beliefs
It places cultural expectations of one society against others. NZ foreign policy will align more with right wing USA military.
Facts don’t matter. Luxon’s God has it covered.

We will see whether Luxon turns out this way. However, the signs are not good. In one year, he has already voted against euthanasia, recreational drug use and liberalising abortion. It would be hard to convince me that Luxon’s voting record wasn’t the result of his religion. I have yet to find a religious zealot who does not display these bigoted features. And that is not the New Zealand I want to live in. Religious zealot and liberal democracy are not synonyms. Luxon and Willis are something new, that’s true. Problem is, they look a bloody sight worse.

Seems to me Jacinda is a safer, more New Zealand, option.

PS – “The gov’t is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. Government should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” George Washington – America’s first President.


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