The Gilmore damage

Aaron Gilmore has been back in Parliament just a few months, and is as low and ineffectual as National MP could be. But his drunken stupidity and his subsequent dishonest apologies and possible dishonest assurance to the Prime Minister could have a significant effect on our politics, albeit mostly negative.

Gilmore has damaged his own political career, possibly terminally.

There is also some damage to his party, reinforcing a belief by some that that all of National see themselves as privileged rich pricks. Some critics on the left are trying to inflate this damage.

And there could yet be damage to the National Government. If John Key has no choice but to have Gilmore excommunicated from National and Gilmore remains in Parliament as an independent MP (Key can’t remove him from being a list MP) that could be problematic for a Government that frequently has a majority of one.

There is also wider damage.

Many people outside politics view all MPs in the same light – dimly. Gilmore reinforces a wider impression that all MPs are arrogant and full of self importance.

Gilmore has also highlighted another problem, in two ways.

He is a symptom of the lack of depth of quality of MPs in Parliament. All parties with multiple MPs suffer from this, from NZ First and Greens to Labour and National.

And second, he be helping discourage people putting themselves forward to be an MP.

One probable reason it is hard to recruit quality political candidates is the exposure it gives the people and often to their families. If an MP makes a mistake or few, as Gilmore has, the media switch to over exposure mode. Criticism of Gilmore has now also become ridicule, with Campbell Live running showing Gilmore in a very unflattering way, going through things he has said about himself in the past.

Gilmore has not only trashed his own reputation, he has also impacted on the reputation of National and of Parliament.

Some people may be prepared to put themselves forward to be considered as MP prospects because they think they could at least do better than Gilmore.

But more people are likely to be further warned that the life of a politician can expose you to sometimes extreme scrutiny and criticism.

I’ve had a taste of this, I only operate in a small way on the very periphery of politics, but I have experienced targeted abuse and attempts to discredit simply because of being seen as a potential threat to someone or some party who thinks i could be competition, or could be critical of them.

On a bigger scale media give super exposure to MPs given any excuse. The Gilmore gaffs gave them a license to shrill.

Such is the vagaries of modern society, where one night getting pissed and in this case flaunting political power can potentially cause a lot of flow on damage.

Conflicting Gilmore claims

Did Aaron Gilmore threaten he would get the prime Minister to end a waiter’s employment?

According to Andrew Riches’ statement:

I felt compelled to leave a private note of apology directly in relation to one incident at the conclusion of the night where Mr Gilmore attempted to use his status as a Member of Parliament to his own advantage once he had been denied further alcohol service.

He threatened to have the Prime Minister’s Office intervene and end the waiter’s employment.

His business card was presented to verify his identity.

John Key’s statement:

“My Chief of Staff has rung Mr Gilmore this afternoon and Mr Gilmore refuted the allegation.

Mr Gilmore indicated that he did not believe that he used the words claimed in Mr Riches statement.”

One person’s word against another.

Without the waiter giving his version it may remain at that, Key has said that he has to accept Gilmore’s assurance without getting a formal complaint. Presumably Andrew Riches could make such a complaint. There is no indication that he will.

How convincing is Gilmore’s denial? From the original news report (Aaron Gilmore – dickhead unapologetic):

Gilmore told The Press restaurant staff had unfairly blamed him for the behaviour of the whole group, and there was “no story” in what occurred.

He said he had apologised to the hotel staff after two members of the dining party became “grossly intoxicated”, with one needing to be escorted away.

However, he was “not aware” of being rude or making the alleged comments to the barman.

He could not be sure if he or another member of his party told the waiter to “stop being a dickhead” while discussing liquor-licensing laws.“I don’t know if that was said by me or another colleague. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.”

He later said, “It may well have been me.”

However, he later retracted the comment.

Take from that what you like.

Gilmore digs deeper with half arsed apologies

Aaron Gilmore “apologised” in Twitter:

Aaron Gilmore ‏@aarongilmore

I’ve apologised again for any offence that may have been taken from the behaviour of my group and I that a waiter may have received on Sat.

That’s no better than his last attempt, and repeating the same mistake makes it worse.

Toby Manhire at The Listener: “which frankly amounts to a fraction rather less than half-arsed”.

A fairly big fraction.

Gilmore has been reported to be refusing to do any interviews, but has issued a media statement.

Aaron Gilmore
National Party MP

Media Statement

2 May 2013

MP Aaron Gilmore apologises

National List MP Aaron Gilmore is this morning apologising to staff and patrons at the Heritage Hotel Hamner Springs following a dinner he atended there on Saturday 27 April.

“As a group of diners our behaviour was at times boisterous and I sincerely apologise for any offence this may have caused any staff and/or patrons”, Mt Gilmore said.

“I intend to convey my apologies on behalf of the group to hotel staff and understand that Members of Parliament should uphold, and be seen to uphold, the highest of standards at all times”.

“On this occasion I believe as a group, our behaviour fell short of this mark, and I should have recognised this at the time”.

“I also plan to pass my apologies on to the Prime Minister for failing to meet the standards I believe National MP’s should uphold.

That’s another half arsed apology, trying to spread the blame across the whole group and failing to accept full responsibility for his own behaviour. As per my previous post – Aaron Gilmore – dickhead unapologetic – one of that group was embarassed by Gilmores own specific behaviour:

A lawyer friend of Christchurch-based MP Aaron Gilmore was so embarrassed by the politician’s behaviour after a bottle and a half of wine that he wrote an apology to hotel staff.

Riches last night confirmed he left the note for the waiter, saying he did so because he felt Gilmore had been “a bit rude” and he felt “a bit embarrassed by what happened”.

The Press understands the note apologised on behalf of Gilmore for his “appalling” conduct and congratulated the waiter on his professionalism.

Gilmore is still failing to meet the standards expected of any MP.

And MP mistakes lead to a lot more scrutiny. Toby Manhire has added to his post at The Listener:

Postscript: An afterthought. Maybe it was all just research. For guess who said:

We cannot legislate away New Zealand’s binge-drinking culture, but legislation can contribute to a culture change.

And:

We are all worried about the impacts of alcohol; we are all worried about the impacts of alcohol on young people in particular. As one of the youngest members of this House, I have recently experienced and seen many of the things that alcohol can do to young people. In my time as a young man, I have been one of the generation that has been a guinea pig for alcohol laws.

And:

Youth are not always the sole problem in regard to drinking. I can tell members that the most scared I have ever been in my entire life was when I was a bar manager in Christchurch, on the night of a male strip revue, and 20 middle-aged women were liquored up to the max, to the extent that I was frightened to leave the building and I locked myself in the toilet. I was the most frightened I had ever been in my entire life. When 20 drunken middle-aged women were chasing me, looking for action, I can tell members that that was the most frightening moment of my life.

And:

I have seen many, many middle-aged people out of control from drinking. A number of members of this House have had their problems with drinking, with drink-driving, and with other things needing professional help for their drinking.

And:

I enjoy a social drink with my friends and whānau, and I would hate to see a move to restrict too far the law-abiding people who wish to pick up a bottle of wine at the supermarket and enjoy it with good food, or to see a restriction on my ability to know what is the biggest special on wine at my supermarket.

That’s from A balanced plan for alcohol reform

A balanced to apologies and alcohol reform might be in order.

Aaron Gilmore – dickhead unapologetic

An arrogant returning back bench MP appears to have made a dick of himself, and by association of National.

Aaron Gilmore has been back in parliament just a couple of months (he replaced Lockwood Smith on National’s list) but in his rise to excessive self importance his impact doesn’t look pretty.

Stuff report: Apology over MP’s flare-up in restaurant

Sources close to the Heritage Hanmer Springs hotel said Gilmore called a waiter a “dickhead”, handed over his business card and made a comment along the lines of “Don’t you know who I am? I’m an important politician.”

Gilmore then insulted the waiter, the source said.

This happened when Gilmore was in Hanmer Springs attending the National Party’s mainland region conference.

But it is not Gilmore who has apologised, it was a friend who was with him and seems to have been embarrassed by his behaviour.

A lawyer friend of Christchurch-based MP Aaron Gilmore was so embarrassed by the politician’s behaviour after a bottle and a half of wine that he wrote an apology to hotel staff.

Riches last night confirmed he left the note for the waiter, saying he did so because he felt Gilmore had been “a bit rude” and he felt “a bit embarrassed by what happened”.

The Press understands the note apologised on behalf of Gilmore for his “appalling” conduct and congratulated the waiter on his professionalism.

Not a good look for Gilmore, nor for National. Gilmore’s response has not helped his case.

However, the National Party backbencher yesterday called the incident a “misunderstanding” and denied he used his position as a politician.

While “some inappropriate comments might seem to have been made”, they had been apologised for, he said.

Weasely words, not denying it but not accepting any responsibility for his own behaviour – it wasn’t Gilmore who apologised for that.

Gilmore told The Press restaurant staff had unfairly blamed him for the behaviour of the whole group, and there was “no story” in what occurred.

He said he had apologised to the hotel staff after two members of the dining party became “grossly intoxicated”, with one needing to be escorted away.

However, he was “not aware” of being rude or making the alleged comments to the barman.

He could not be sure if he or another member of his party told the waiter to “stop being a dickhead” while discussing liquor-licensing laws.“I don’t know if that was said by me or another colleague. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.”

He later said, “It may well have been me.”

However, he later retracted the comment.

Gilmore also said: “I can’t be 100 per cent sure of everything I say after having a bottle and a half of wine, but I think someone has misinterpreted what was said.”

Gilmore said he handed the barman his business card, so they could talk the next day if there were any more issues.

The comments at the restaurant must have been “a bit misconstrued”, he said.

Gilmore said he thanked hotel staff the next day, and told them the call to refuse to sell his group more alcohol was “fair enough”.

He said there was no mention of him having behaved poorly.

There is plenty of mention of that now. And he is trying to spread blame across the whole group – while there may be some justification for that he is avoiding dealing with his own behaviour.

Getting pissed is risky for a public figure, even for an obscure back bencher. Being an over important dickhead is a bigger risk.

This may sound worse than what actually happened.

But Gilmore’s fobbing off changing excuses are not helping his case. No matter how much of a dickhead he was, his handling of the ensuing attention he has attracted just increases the dickishness.

A bigger person would deal with this with an appropriate apology – a direct apology, not a “if anyone was inadvertently offended” weasel apology won’t repair all the damage but it will stop the dick erecting more of a low ranked reputation.

A spokeswoman for Key said his office had received no complaints from the hotel, but would look into any that were received.

“The prime minister expects the highest level of behaviour from his caucus,” she said.

Gilmore shouldn’t wait for the possibility this embarrassment will rise through the party channels, or he might find himself dropping off the bottom of the party list. If a decent apology is not already too late.