It is not often that Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern in Question Time.
It is even more rare for Bridges to be applauded by his own side. But both happened today – until Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened.
Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.
National’s research unit had done their homework and found a quote of Ardern’s from Mike Hosking’s show last week in which she had pressed home what she sees as an empathetic advantage.
It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.
Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.
She herself had run a small Non-Government Organisation (NGO), she had said.
“What was that NGO,” Bridges asked in the House.
In her lengthy answer, an irritated Ardern failed to utter the answer, which was well known to everyone.
Bridges: “Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?”
Ardern: “The member knows how to use Wikipedia – well done.”
And the next ad-lib question almost earned Bridges a standing ovation from his own team: “Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand.”
She protested amid the happy uproar at Bridges’ question that she knew what it was like to hire and fire people, perhaps more than Bridges had as a Crown prosecutor.
It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.
Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters sprang to Ardern’s rescue.
“Ah the businessman,” National’s Gerry Brownlee said when Peters, the former lawyer, former teacher, former labourer and former miner got to his feet.
Mallard ordered a withdrawal and apology from Brownlee.
Apologies are meant to be simple affairs but Brownlee couldn’t resist apologising for calling Peters a businessman, at which point Mallard threw Brownlee out of the chamber.
It is not often that the Shadow Leader of the House, who works closely with the Speaker, gets thrown out by the Speaker, but there no objections from the National side.
They were too full of self-satisfaction at having outdone the Prime Minister for once.