I've written a lot about Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker in recent weeks because he keeps on saying and doing things that are profoundly offensive.
His most distasteful action of late,of course, has been to increase the rents of council tenants by a massive 24 percent. This is an economic attack on some of Christchurch’s poorest and most disadvantaged people.
On my desk beside me is a copy of this morning’s The Press newspaper. Its leading news story is reporting that Christchurch social agencies are ‘bracing themselves for a harsh winter as price rises and cold weather combine in a perfect storm to batter the most vulnerable in the community.'
The article goes on to write about 81 year old pensioner Graham Reed who is facing a $30 rent rise for his council flat - as are most of his neighbours.
Mr Reed says he fears for his friends and neighbours. ‘The lady three or four flats down doesn't put her heater on. She just puts on three or four coats to keep warm. We're worried all right.’
This rent rise was inflicted on tenants when food, power and petrol prices are going through the roof. Food prices have risen over 10 percent over the past year.
And where is Mayor Bob Parker at this time when so many people are facing desperate and uncertain times?
Why, he is hob-nobbing with Irish boy band Westlife and talking grandly about a grandly expensive commuter rail system.
It was interesting to observe Sideshow Bob at the council meeting where he succeeded- backed by his council cronies-to push the rent increase through, against the wishes of local MPs, social and welfare agencies and church groups.
Parker barely acknowledged the large crowd in attendance (mostly council tenants), except for - in best headmasterly fashion -to threaten people with expulsion from the meeting if they dared to speak out.
But otherwise he was pretty damn uncomfortable and he swiftly left the meeting once it was all over.
A few days later an article appeared in The Press- probably written by his press officer - where Parker attempted to defend the rent increase. It's easier to do this, apparently, safely ensconced in you're mayoral office, away from the ugly masses.
The problem with Bob is that he doesn't like ordinary working people much.
Sideshow Bob doesn't mind passing by-laws and rules about what Christchurch people can or cannot do, he doesn't mind taking the rates money from ordinary people, he doesn't mind occasionally exploiting them for some political grandstanding (eg his so-called ‘fight' against boy racers), but he doesn't like to spend any time with them.
He doesn't want to hear how they're hurting, economically. He doesn't want to hear about they're dreams or aspirations.
Check out the photos on Bob’s mayoral website. There he is in the company of the rich, famous, the influential. This is Bob with his kind of people -the people who backed his mayoral campaign. There's not a council tenant in sight, no ordinary folk.
And Bob doesn't seem to mind what his mates say or do. So you're a right-wing bully who may still be associated with a bizarre right wing cult? No problem Dave Henderson - Bob still likes you because you're ‘entrepreneurial', you're made of 'the right stuff'.
You're a representative of the Chinese Stalinist dictatorship presently engaged in violently suppressing the Tibetan people? No problem - because Bob wants to make business deals. In fact Bob ends up suggesting that maybe the western media are putting out only 'one side' of the story.
One of you're councillors defends an Auckland businessman who allegedly stabbed to death a sixteen year old kid who was tagging a fence? Do you ask him to resign - no, you defend him and say he's a good councillor.
Listen to what Sideshow Bob is saying. He talks about a cosmopolitan city which apparently means spending $60 million plus on new council offices, its about expensive bars and restaurants, its about over-priced lattes in trendy coffe shops. It's about spending $50,000 to bring American ban Bon Jovi to Christchurch. It's about spending $2 million on an Auckland garden show.
It's about creating a city for people with money, people like Bob and the people who support him.
Watch Sideshow Bob. There he is in his expensive Italian suits, driving an Audi sports car that cost $100,000. He's a wealthy dandy in a working class town where wages are low and people struggle everyday - and people don't like him much.
He'll be voted out of office at the next council elections and with him will go the likes of Barry Corbett and Susan Wells. Parker and his supporters are about protecting wealth and privilege- but that wealth and privilege won't be able to save them at the ballot box in some two years or so.