It is quite something to walk into a kitchen at 6.30 in the morning to discover your partner in tears. And then, when asked why, for her to gasp out “Notre Dame is burning down”.
There’s a mute moment after something like that. A flicker of time where you wonder if it’s all a joke and then a sinking feeling. The realisation that something of great beauty, something with 850 years of history, something extremely rare could be gone in an hour.
I often used to wonder if you could take a resident of Athens from 2000 years ago and bring them into the present and showed them the Acropolis today, and see their shock of how that temple broke. The Roman Forum was a centre of all world civilisation and is now a rubble pit with ghosts.
It’s a reminder that nothing lasts forever. There’s a transience to our existence. One we wilfully ignore. It’s human nature.
It’s what the National Party is learning after the Key Years. So enamoured of their popular leader they thought nothing could spoil the party, so the shock at his sudden bailing out after just under a decade was profound and it’s hangover continues.
Last night’s poll shows the National Party is stuck in an unenviable rut. It’s popularity is still high, but not high enough. It’s leading politicians still register, but not enough. And there are no friends to make a coalition partner.
Some National Party supporters are saying the left wing celebrations at their dominant position are exaggerated but I don’t think they realise how deep in doo-doo they are.
The Dominion Post’s opinion writer Dave Armstrong tweeted this out this morning “Hey all you celebrating Lefties. Bear in mind a Nats/Green/NZF/Act coalition would beat Labour 51/48”. As if that will ever happen!
Meanwhile, their beleaguered leader on the telly last night cut a forlorn figure as he prayed for a white knight to save him and his party. It was so desperate I transcribed it.
Simon Bridges said: “There’s ah a new green party being talked of ah there is um ah ah the idea of a Māori party up and running again and there’s a variety of conservative-type parties there in the wings as well.”
If this is the National Party strategy to regain the treasury benches then Grant Robertson is going to have a couple of terms at least to get a Capital Gains Tax over the line.
There’s a quiet desperation in the thought that things might change for the party if they put Judith Collins in charge. She’s too polarising, she’s too abrasive, and there will always be what I call the “Chinese Whispers” about her. She’s no Mother of the Nation, more a grumpy Aunt who will tell you off when Mum wouldn’t.
So not only is the party missing a coalition partner after a decades of condescension to New Zealand First, they are also lacking real leadership. Leadership is not something you turn on and off whenever the nation’s cameras are on you. It’s not an act. It’s something you either have or you don’t. I saw no leadership emerge out of the National Party through the terror crisis.
It’s gone from an unbeatable juggernaut to a timid party full of middle managers.