Would you have voted for him?
Well, it’s nearly over – the election that is.
Just when we’ve got used to those expensive billboards on virtually every corner they’ll all be spirited away in the night in the last few hours of Friday before the polls close.
This ruthless purge presumably dates back to those near-Victorian days before mail-in voting. In those days there was some crazy theory that voters must be protected from everything that’s been promised, lied about or denied – and vote without any reference to goings-on in the previous three weeks.
Now you can post your vote while the faces on the billboards still stare you down with an implicit ‘‘vote for me’’ when your choices actually disappeared into the nearest mailbox weeks before.
There has been a low key ruckus over camp followers wearing large, coloured ribbons showing their support for whoever.
With that said, I still think it’s worthwhile asking: Would you have voted for this candidate?
Most of his earnings – 90 per cent of what he gets in salary – goes straight into a charity for the needy and homeless.
And his home isn’t one of those which shouts ‘‘I’m a success!’’ as you stare in, perhaps jealously, at tennis courts, swimming pool, billiard room and six-car garaging either.
No, he and his wife live on a small farm away from the big spender suburbs. In fact, if you voted for him, when the count was finished he would have headed home in his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle for a quiet meal.
When he lists his assets he includes the old car and the ancient tractor off the farm – well, you would, wouldn’t you?
His wife Lucia might not have been there to greet him anyway. She could be out talking about chrysanthemums. She grows them on the farm and sells them on at the local farmers’ market.
An admirer summed up: ‘‘He really practises what he preaches and lots of people really love him because of it. It’s rare but needed more than ever,’’ she says.
There are some plans in his agenda which sound very familiar – like low cost houses for poor communities. A lot of that money he gives away goes into his own government’s scheme for low cost accessible housing.
When a media man suggested he might be the poorest man in his job in the world, his response was quick: ‘‘I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle and always want more and more.’’
He has tried to align himself with his voters in choosing a life of simplicity and he meets as many of his needs from his small farm as his busy schedule will allow. As far as I know, he doesn’t haul a chair out in suburban main streets and sit listening to people’s gripes. He doesn’t need to. People talk to him anyway. And he apparently won without promising underground railways, white water rafting or bread and circuses.
He and his wife have already admitted they ‘‘belong to the old cash generation – we have no bank accounts and have never owned credit cards’’.
Which caused a stir among the more affluent people. Particularly big-time bankers. As it would, wouldn’t it?
He’s always been different. The son of a poor farmer, he hasn’t worn a tie for 20 years. Which presumably has him catching up in the fashion stakes with those trendy young suits with open shirt necks.
Under his watch, unemployment has dropped from 20 per cent to 6 per cent.
When his term is over, most are betting he will get into his even rustier VW with Lucia and his dog Manuelo and drive back to the farm he loves.
That’s a pretty fancy name for his dog, you say. Well, yes, but I realise I haven’t told you his name yet. Sorry about that. He’s Jose´ Mujica voted in as 40th president of Uruguay in 2009.
I skimmed through that book of Auckland election candidates but I couldn’t find anyone who seemed to match him.
Well you wouldn’t would you? I mean just try this from his CV: ‘‘Founder member of his local bowling club, became involved in the armed guerrilla activist group Los Tupamaros. His status rose among the movement, setting the foundations for a future in politics.
‘‘During this ascent he was imprisoned by the dictatorship for a total of 14 years, shot six times by police and kept in isolation at the bottom of a stone well for 18 months until his release in 1985 when democracy had been restored.’’
That certainly would be unusual if the man in the photo happened to be the chair of your local community board, wouldn’t it?
But I reckon there could be something in that old VW, a wife who grows flowers for the farmers’ market – and you might even get away with a dog called Manuelo.
But steer clear of a high impact biog about being shot umpteen times by the police – although worryingly that’s catching on here.
And certainly don’t go down a well for all those years. Particularly if the water isn’t fluoridated. Or is!
Depends which election material you got foisted on you.
In the mailbag, another angry voter:
‘‘Penny Webster has made herself unpopular with her remarks about lawnmowing in regions outside Auckland and earned some undeserved brickbats for us outliers as Auckland residents look at our rates and theirs. I’d just like to point out the ins and outs of being a reluctant Rodney resident of the super-city ... (we were pressganged into it).
‘‘Over the past seven years, our lawnmowing bill for the wide berms (our garden has no lawn) has cost nearly $5000 – we are pensioners.
‘‘We pay $2.75 for a rubbish bag every week which is another $142 a year on top of rates.
‘‘We never have an inorganic rubbish collection.
‘‘We pay for our own water – two refills of the tank over the summer drought was $400.
‘‘Bushy grass is growing out of the tarmac along the kerb it’s so long since anyone came and sprayed.
‘‘We have no trains or buses or public transport in these outlying Rodney areas and since it costs approximately $24 plus to drive into Auckland Central to make use of the libraries, art gallery, theatres, etc, not many of us get there.
‘‘We also pay the tolls to get to Auckland, just under $5 every time, so living in Rodney is not quite the free ride other ratepayers may perhaps believe.
‘‘We are also the possessors of something like 700km of unsealed roads. No sign of any progress there in three years of super-city rule.
‘‘We’re told that the tax take from Rodney is $42 million and what is spent on this district is somewhere between $5 and $10m – no $20m white-water rafting projects for us.’’ – Name provided