14 Jul 2017

If NZ politicians were Game of Thrones characters

4:44 pm on 14 July 2017

Watch the throne.


Bill "The High Sparrow" English.

Bill "The High Sparrow" English. Photo: The Wireless/HBO

The most popular show on TV, Game of Thrones, returns to New Zealand screens on Monday.

As Season 7 debuts, the world of Westeros seems on the brink of a war bigger than any before, as a massive army of the undead lurks beyond its borders.

"Enemies to the east, enemies to the west, enemies to the south, enemies to the north," are the ominous words of Queen Cersei in the season’s trailer.

We, at The Wireless, are equally excited for another competition for power raging a little closer to home. A political battle that culminates on September 23.

It’s worth mentioning we didn’t use an exact science for this. For example, Todd Barclay has never asked someone if they’d rather lose their fingers or their tongue (that we know of).


Winston Peters and Walder Frey.

Winston Peters and Walder Frey. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Dear old Winnie, leader of the New Zealand First party, has been in politics for 42 of the 72 years that planet Earth has been blessed with his existence. Walder Frey is head of House Frey. He has more than 100 descendents and is almost 90 when Game of Thrones begins.


In 1990, as Minister of Māori Affairs, Winnie publicly sparred with Jim Bolger’s National government, making him popular with The People, but distrusted by his colleagues. He was sacked from Parliament, set up NZ First, and since the introduction of MMP has oft been called the “kingmaker.” In 1996 neither National nor Labour could form a majority without him. He eventually sided with National, in exchange for being made deputy PM and Treasurer.

Walder Frey formed an alliance with the Starks on the agreement that Robb - King of the North - would marry one of his daughters and Arya Stark would marry one of his sons. When things didn’t go the belligerent Walder’s way, he massacred Robb, his pregnant wife and his mother, Catelyn. Who knows what will happen if Winnie doesn’t get his way this year?


Andrew Little and Stannis Baratheon.

Andrew Little and Stannis Baratheon. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Little has been the leader of the Labour Party since 2014. Stannis is the eldest brother of King Robert and after the latter’s death, contested the Iron Throne in the ‘War of the Five Kings’.


Beyond the obvious physical similarities, Stannis is known for being grim and humourless - a reputation Little has unfortunately acquired. Yet Little is a union man who defends working people; both have a strong sense of justice. In combat, or in Parliament and major speeches, both can be inspiring leaders, but for long stretches between battles, they have dealt with internal struggles. Stannis’ men eventually mutinied. Some of Little’s caucus have spoken against party lines.

Stannis was convinced of his divine right to be king, but was ultimately doomed. Little may not be doomed quite yet, but is struggling in the polls.


Judith Collins and Queen Cersei.

Judith Collins and Queen Cersei. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Cersei is beautiful, privileged and cut-throat, but tends to leave behind her a trail of destruction. She makes all sorts of backroom deals, and has many enemies. Despite this, she is hanging on in there and is currently Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. As Minister of Police, Corrections, Justice and ACC, Judith Collins gained a reputation for being quite, erm, hard line. In 2009, she earned the nickname “Crusher” after proposing to crush boyracer cars.


Both Collins and Cersei are tough and independent and have had tumultuous careers - Cersei lost and regained her position as queen, while Collins resigned from Cabinet after A. Few. Scandals. But she came back, made a failed attempt at becoming leader of the National Party, and has now settled back into ministerial life.


Shane Jones and Jon Snow.

Shane Jones and Jon Snow. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Old mate Shane Jones is a former Labour MP who is now Winston Peters’ protege. Jon Snow is the bastard son of Eddard Stark (actually that’s a lie) who became Lord Commander of the Night’s watch, before he died and then came back to life.


Both beloved characters have come back from the dead. Jon Snow once, after being murdered by mutinous night’s watchmen. Shane Jones several times: Once, after using his Crown credit card to pay for porn at swanky hotels, and more recently after announcing his retirement from politics in 2014. Last month he announced he was standing for NZ First as its candidate for Whangarei in this year’s election.


Jacinda Ardern and Sansa Stark.

Jacinda Ardern and Sansa Stark. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Ardern is Labour’s deputy leader and its spokesperson on Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage. Sansa is the eldest daughter of Ned Stark - former Warden of the North.


Ardern’s rise through her party’s ranks has been swift and now, nine years after entering Parliament, she seems destined to lead. Similarly, once seen as innocent and naive, over six seasons Sansa has become an influential political force. She has seen male family members struggle to hold on to any degree of power and learned from their mistakes. Her adopted brother and current King of the North, Jon Snow, should be wary of her.

As Snow is using Sansa’s influence over the northern armies, Andrew Little is hoping to harness Ardern’s popularity this September. Ardern seems more relatable and in-touch with voters, especially the young and urban. Expect big things in Season 7.


Steven Joyce and Brienne of Tarth.

Steven Joyce and Brienne of Tarth. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Steven Leonard Joyce is the Taranaki grocer’s son with a heart of gold. The self-made millionaire who went from rags to riches. The loyal, hardworking National party hack. So many portfolios! Good on ya Steve. Brienne of Tarth, you tall, majestic badass. You don’t care what the people say, you just get the job done.


Both are fiercely loyal to whoever their boss is at the time. Both have no desire to lead. Both have been teased a bit in the past. And both will fight to the death.


Gerry Brownlee and 'The Hound'.

Gerry Brownlee and 'The Hound'. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Brownlee is fourth on National’s list and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and is responsible for the Earthquake Commission. The Hound is a former bodyguard for the Baratheon house.


Both are big, imposing figures known for their savage, belligerent nature and are impossible to kill off. You would want them on your side in battle/Parliament, though. The Hound makes enemies quickly and is no longer welcome in King’s Landing in the south, while Brownlee certainly isn’t the most popular man in Christchurch.

Over time, a more compassionate side has emerged alongside the gruff exterior. Look past the fearful facade and both are intelligent, reasonable men who haven’t been served well by their confrontational personalities. As Sandor is an experienced, skilled fighter, few know how to navigate the world of politics better than Brownlee.


Maggie Barry and Melisandre.

Maggie Barry and Melisandre. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Everyone's favourite red-haired gardening show host turned MP Maggie Barry is now New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation. Melisandre, the Red Woman, worships the Lord of Light, to whom she has sacrificed many innocent people.  


Because they both have red hair, obviously. But also, both Maggie and Melisandre have made sacrifices for their cause. Melisandre burns young Shireen Baratheon alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Maggie leads the charge against possums, stoats, rats, feral cats atc, to protect New Zealand’s tourism industry ... or rather native fauna and flora, from these murderous introduced species.


Bill English and the High Sparrow.

Bill English and the High Sparrow. Photo: RNZ/HBO


The High Sparrow is a religious zealot who holds considerable influence over the Iron Throne. Bill English is New Zealand’s God-fearing 39th Prime Minister.


They both love God, and wield quite a lot of power. Bill is a Roman Catholic who has voted or spoken out against abortion, marriage equality, prostitution, and cannabis reform. The High Sparrow doesn’t like adultery or incest, and he definitely doesn’t like gay people.


Chloe Swarbrick and Arya Stark.

Chloe Swarbrick and Arya Stark. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Swarbrick is a candidate for the Green Party. Having just turned 23, she stands to become the country’s youngest ever MP. Arya is the youngest daughter of Ned Stark-turned secret assassin.


After a brief stint overseas, Arya is back in Westeros ready to kick the old regime’s ass. Meanwhile, in Middle Earth, former mayoral candidate Swarbrick is back in politics, ready to kick the old regime’s ass.

Don’t let their youth deceive, both Arya and Swarbrick are dangerously shrewd. As Arya brutally murders those who wronged her family, Swarbrick is unafraid to hold rival politicians to account. As Arya is cold-blooded with a knife, Swarbrick, when discussing issues such as equality and housing affordability, is never flustered and speaks with an astute poise that belies her age.


Todd Barclay and King Joffrey.

Todd Barclay and King Joffrey. Photo: RNZ/HBO


Parliament’s current baby of the house, Clutha-Southland MP Barclay is embroiled in a taping scandal in which he is alleged to have recorded a staffer in his office. Young King Joffrey was poisoned at his wedding reception.


Choking on a piece of poisoned pie in front of a large crowd, Joffrey’s demise was dramatic and public. Barclay, who will stand down at the election, is in political exile. The scandal broke during National’s annual conference and overshadowed what was supposed to be a glorious time of celebration.

Barclay was billed as a career politician, and while certainly not the sadistic, maniacal character Joffrey was, he was chewed up and spat out of a world he was groomed for. Perhaps it was the exuberance and arrogance of youth that did for them.


A logo for a now-defunct student group and White Walkers.

A logo for a now-defunct student group and White Walkers. Photo: RNZ/HBO


The alt-right is a collective name for a group of people that advocate for Pākehā rights. White Walkers are an ancient race of humanoid ice creatures intent on destroying any living thing.


Game of Thrones seems headed towards an inevitable war between Westeros armies and White Walkers. While our current political state is not so dire, or at least, not as dire as in the US, the alt-right movement is … moving.

Writing in the NZ Herald this week, Kirsty Johnston reported New Zealand’s alt-right is gaining momentum. Many of us may refuse to believe there are Kiwis who would say, “Heil Victory” or, “I want someone to get rid of the Indians and Chinese”, but there are, and not even a firewall will stop them.

Still, while the White Walkers are stronger than humans and control a powerful army of the undead, the alt-right is a smattering of racist keyboard warriors who will, like the original incarnation of white walkers, fade into legend over the centuries.

New episodes of Game of Thrones are available each week on SoHo and NEON.