Thursday, February 22, 2007

Petty racism from Bill English

Yesterday's Question Time saw an interesting exchange in the House, with Taito Phillip Field insisting on proper use of his chiefly title:

Hon Bill English: Has Phil Goff ever discussed with the Prime Minister the fact that he visited Phillip Field’s house in Samoa, met people who fitted—

Taito Phillip Field: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Only a few minutes ago it was pointed out to Mr Bill English that my name is Taito Phillip Field.

Madam SPEAKER: That is true.

Taito Phillip Field: He continues to ignore what is required of him in this House.

Like DPF, I think that Field's insistence on the use of his title is more than a little arrogant; I have no time for titles and I am no fan of the outdated deference they signify. However, it should also be pointed out that English supports knighthoods, and there is no question that he would use the traditional form of address for e.g. a visiting British Lord. So why won't he here? Do titles only "count" if they are borne or awarded by white people?


You really think Bill English referred to Bill Birch "Sir William"?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 2/22/2007 01:02:00 PM

Its polite to call people whatever they want to be called I guess. But in the big scheme of things it's a misterminor barely worth comment.

If we were to make a rule, maybe titles officially recognized by the state (like 'the right honorable' or even 'sir') might have higher priority than 'grand Poobah'.

But Won’t even call Helen RtHn Helen Clarke - its to much of a mouthful and I’m no fan of the deference it signifies, outside of the deference that is warranted by the office itself.


Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2007 02:00:00 PM

And Bill English should be "the Honourable Simon William English". So Field is just as bad.

Posted by G7 : 2/22/2007 02:25:00 PM

Bill English should be whatever Bill English wants to be, which formally in Parliament I suspect is the Honourable Bill English.

I understand that at the start of each Parliament members advise the Speaker (or the Clerk, or someone like that) how they'd like to being formally referred to (so when Helen Clark is called on to answer a question, the Speaker will call on "Right Honourable the Prime Minister", and when Nick Smith is called to speak it is "The Honourable Dr Nick Smith", but when Lockwood Smith is called it is "Dr the Honourable Lockwood Smith").

[this also affects how they'll appear in Hansard]

Taito Phillip Field is entitled to opt for his name to be Taito Phillip Field in Parliament and is within his rights to ask that others respect that in Parliament. Simon English is entitled to opt for his name to be "The Honourable Bill English" formally in Parliament and also to have no problem with people calling him Bill English.

[There are Speakers' rulings to the effect that it is impermissible to refer to other members solely by their surnames, however]

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 2/22/2007 03:05:00 PM

I don't think so - Mr English isn't anti Samoan: His wife and many wonderful children are all of Samoa, arn't they?

Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2007 03:09:00 PM

Depends on the title, and how it is bestowed, I think. I mean, I tend not to use mine (Dr), but I did get it the approved way, from an accredited institution, and did all the work it involves. But there are others out there who have mailorder doctorates from hole in the wall degree mills - and generally, how is someone to know which is which.

I only trot mine out on official occasions, or when I need to beat someone over the head with it.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 2/22/2007 03:14:00 PM

Bill English is not racist at all. Phillip Field must get over it. Calling people their proper names whether they be the first , middle or last , is just enough as long as you don't make fun of it.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2007 03:56:00 PM

However, it should also be pointed out that English supports knighthoods, and there is no question that he would use the traditional form of address for e.g. a visiting British Lord. So why won't he here? Do titles only "count" if they are borne or awarded by white people?

Oh, what a bullshit non-argument. Here's another question: When the death of Robin Cooke was, quite properly marked in the House, I don't recall anyone being pulled up by Madade Speaker for not styling him as 'Lord Cooke' or 'Baron Cooke of Thorndon'? I don't recall Field climing to his feet, and expressing outrage at this disrespect show to a man who is widely considered the greatest jurist this country ever produced.

Anyway, after the very queer - and widely reported - outburst Field directed at Lockwood Smith in the House today, what not so petty prejudice do you think Field was venting? (Hint: I'm not talking about his omitting the honorific 'Doctor the Honourable".)

This is the bullshit that truly brings the House in disrepute, not petty egotism and games of find the phantom racist. Field would do well to consider this saw: Respect is earned, not demanded - he may care to try it in the twilight of his political career.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/22/2007 06:39:00 PM

That was pretty lame, I/S. It's not disrespect for a Samoan, it's disrespect for a guy who exploits vulnerable workers and lies to a corruption enquiry.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2007 06:40:00 PM

I'll add this: A good number of MPs have the pronunciation of their names mangled with tedious regularity by the Press Gallery, other MPs and even Madame Speaker herself. They're remarkably gracious about it - because even though there's no malice in the overwhelming majority of cases, it's still irritating.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/22/2007 07:06:00 PM

However pompous it may be, I think the way a MP in parliament wishes to be names deserves to be respected. The public at large can decide for themselves whether or not it makes them look stupid.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2007 11:21:00 PM

MPs calling each other names, and casting doubt on each other's sexuality, whatever will the buggers think of next?

But Craig, spare us the crocodile tears for the Honourable Hypocrite from Rodney.

Given the frequency with which elements within National try to run with "Family Values", and their rumour-mongering around the PM's private life, and that of various other Labour MPs ("some Labour MPs are really gay, shock horror, but they pretend to be otherwise!") you might direct your cricitism elsewhere.

Posted by dc_red : 2/23/2007 08:48:00 AM


And he next time you accuse me of hypocrisy, you might want to get you facts straight. There was a case of recent occurence, where I was well on the record with my utter contempt for the prurient tittle-tattle about the (alleged) sex life of the Prime Minister, her husband... and the leader of the Opposition.

Let me put it in tiny words: I don't give a shit about ANY Member of Parliament's private, consensual sexual activities with consenting adult human beings of whatever gender. I'm a wee bit more concerned about how they do their fucking jobs that whether they prefer sucking peter or eating puss on the fellatio front.

But don't let the truth get the way of being an apologist for slime.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/23/2007 09:34:00 AM

And let's make this perfectly clear: I'll criticise REAL homophobia and sleazy innuendo about the private lives of any MP, whatever side of the House it comes from. WIll you do the same, dc_red? Or are you just another politi-crit, where there's one standard for 'us' and quite another for 'the other side'?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/23/2007 09:36:00 AM

I'd reckon if the Earl of Coke were to emigrate over here and run for election demanding to be known as "Lord Coke" he'd be laughed down the street.

Why do Samoan feudal titles demand more respect than English ones - at least British peers stopped demanding tribute from their serfs some years ago?

Posted by Rich : 2/23/2007 10:15:00 AM

Bill English might be being annoying, but it isn't racist.

Posted by Muerk : 2/23/2007 10:27:00 AM

Craig - I didn't mean to suggest *you* were/are a hypocrite. Nor was I apologizing for TPF (although who knows how we might respond if our professional lives were in complete tatters, and we'd been under police and media investigation for the best part of a year - a lame "closet" pun might not be the half of it).

My general view is that the private lives of MPs are off limits, and of no legitimate interest to me or any other member of the public, provided:

a) they are not publicly pronouncing on the private lives of others, while acting in ways entirely inconsistent with their own "advice".

b) they are not engaging in serious criminal behaviour.

As for even-handedness, I have said on quite a few occasions that one of the worst hypocrites in politics was Bill Clinton. Especially in his first term, we was very keen on lecturing about sexual morals, esp. to unwed mothers, etc. All the while displaying a remarkable inability to keep it in his pants.

So the answer to your first question is "yes" (to the extent that I care about political name-calling and tattle-tale).

Posted by dc_red : 2/23/2007 10:30:00 AM

Didn't Jim Bolger once attempt, without success, to have people call him "James"?

Posted by dc_red : 2/23/2007 10:33:00 AM


You might like to know that the PM went on the telly and said that senoir members of the press gallery told her that the rumours were being spread by National Party people. The entire press gallery denied that this was the case and all senoir members of the press gallery emphatically stated that they had never heard the rumours being spread by NAtional PParty people. Helen was lieing, she's good at it and does it lots and lots.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/23/2007 01:27:00 PM

to point out the blindingly obvious, it is equally possible that member of the press gallery were lying

Posted by Anonymous : 2/23/2007 11:23:00 PM

Odd as it feels, I have to defend English here. In fact, it would be more correct to accuse Field of hiding behind inverted racism than anything else.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/24/2007 02:38:00 PM