Gotta feel for old Gerry today.
The poor bugger is copping a great deal of flak over his comments that Finnish people are uneducated and disrespectful to women.
A Stuff report says his remarks have sparked outrage and made headlines in the European nation, although Alf can not verify this because he does not read Finnish newspapers.
Hence he is reliant on the aforementioned report at Stuff, which is somewhat discomforting, because no-one at Stuff (Alf imagines) reads Finnish either.
And so they are reliant on the fulminations of a few furious Finns.
“The story is flaming in the Finnish media,” Juha Parikka, counsellor to the Embassy of Finland said.
Auckland lecturer Merja Myllylahti has even started a Facebook group, calling for Brownlee to visit Finland “to learn some facts”.
“I think anyone in that high of a position should be very careful and not make such comments without knowing their facts,” she said. “It’s no wonder Finnish media have picked it up.”
So that’s what happens when (as Gerry did) you bother responding to speeches delivered by Labour Leader David Shearer.
Shearer is best ignored. Otherwise he might get the idea he is important.
In this case he called for New Zealand to follow in the footsteps of Finland, which he said “transformed their economy through innovation and talent”.
We each have our own techniques for dealing with that sort of stuff.
Just ignore it is not the only option.
The Boss – much more deftly than Gerry – brought some fresh facts about Finland to bear.
Shearer was badgering him – or trying to – on the subject of partial asset sales.
Michael Woodhouse (who shows promise, at least at asking patsy questions) disrupted Shearer’s flow by asking Key what reports had he seen on mixed-ownership models in other countries?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a very interesting report about a country that has well and truly embraced the mixed-ownership model. That country—wait for it—is Finland. The large energy company Fortum is 51 percent owned by the Finnish Government and 49 percent owned by a mix of other investors, including Finnish mums and dads.
The national airline is 56 percent owned by the Finnish Government, and the balance is owned by Finnish mums and dads and others.
This is the same country that is repeatedly held up as a shining example of where New Zealand should be going by none other than David Shearer.
We on the far-flung back benches hooted with great mirth at Shearer’s discomfort.
Alf blew a raspberry, although none of the public recordings picked it up.
The truth is The Boss had done some homework.
Gerry’s office did, too, of course.
There were a few things we needed to understand about Finland, he told the House.
“It’s unbelievable isn’t it. That you’d actually get someone to go out there and make a speech saying I want New Zealand to be like Finland which has worse unemployment than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women.”
Actually, that sounds more like a description of Australia.
Well, some bits of it make it sound like a description of Australia, where they have given the heave – in Queensland – to their first female state premier.
But no. It was Finland.
And as it transpires, the Finns found it unfunny (which only goes to show that Gerry should have added one more phrase – “and where the people are bereft of a sense of humour”.
Mind you, living right next door to Russia can be no laughing matter and maybe this explains why they take things so bloody seriously.
Anyway, this Parikka feller said he strongly believed Brownlee’s comments did not reflect “the Finnish reality”.
He said Finland did not have any problem feeding its people.
Parikka said Brownlee’s speech seemed to be aimed more at the opposition, than Finland.
“It looks like internal bashing and Finland in a way is collateral damage.”
Yeah, there’s something in that.
In other words, Gerry should have said Labour supporters have worse unemployment than the rest of us, can hardly feed themselves, have a terrible homicide rate, hardly educate themselves and have no respect for women. Not women who are happily married with lots of kids.
Gerry, of course, will insist he did do his research.
Brownlee’s spokesman said the comments were made in humour, were based on OECD figures and were part of a general debate.
But Myllylahti said Brownlee needed to put things into context.
“If you know your facts then you say whatever you want it shows that Brownlee doesn’t know the basics – he hasn’t done his homework,” she said.
“It’s well known we’re one of the best educators in the world – we’d be happy to educate Mr Brownlee.
Gerry should take advantage of this invitation.
When he comes back, that much better informed, we can say he has been to Finnishing school.