Mrs Grumble has become disconcertingly fascinated with the Caribbean.
This has happened since The Boss announced the Government’s intention of opening a diplomatic post in Barbados.
She fancies Alf’s chances of being rewarded for his years of service to the National Party by being landed with the job of High Commissioner.
She has phoned Mrs Key – with whom she has more than a nodding acquaintance – to ask for the right words to be whispered into The Boss’s ear.
Alf is not so sure it’s a good idea. He isn’t quite ready to take the next step towards being put out to pasture, as Lockwood Smith was when he landed the London post earlier this year.
Sure, Barbados sounds pretty good if you are into cricket, cannabis, calypso music and what-have-you.
But as you will learn from a newspaper report here, this post won’t be the plush one Alf wants to land, but only when he is ready to step down as the long-serving member for Eketahuna North. And that’s not yet.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully emphasised that the new embassy in the capital, Bridgetown, would be “not too grand” and New Zealand would be sharing a site with the British ambassador.
The CIA Factbook says the country of 290,000 people is the wealthiest and most developed in the eastern Caribbean, with an economy built on tourism and sugar exports, but it also has some problems with forced labour, sex trafficking and child prostitution.
A country of 290,000 people happens to be smaller than Wellington, in population terms.
And landing the job would open Alf to some barbs from the Opposition he would prefer to avoid.
The pinkos have a few grouches about the Government’s decision (although fair to say, they always have grouches, perhaps a consequence of having to sit in a caucus over-populated by bitchy gays).
Labour foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said after large cuts to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staffing last year, it seemed unusual to be opening an embassy on a tiny island state known for “cricket and marijuana”.
“Other than cricket I can’t think of many other ties other than pretty tenuous links with a small island,” Mr Shearer said.
He acknowledged Barbados would have strategic value for winning votes from Caribbean nations for New Zealand’s United Nations Security Council bid, which he said was an important goal.
Murray McCully, our splendid Minister of Foreign Affairs, has stressed this is not a trade-focused posting but a tactical one.
“One of the challenges is that bigger countries, particularly at the United Nations, are looking to occupy more of the space, particularly in time on the Security Council, and that can only be at the expense of smaller countries. Unless smaller countries that have the same sort of strategic interests work together we’re not going to improve our overall influence and that should be a long-term project for us.”
He said placing an ambassador in Bridgetown made perfect sense because Caribbean nations faced similar pressures to Pacific Island countries, in particular oceans and fisheries management, climate change, and renewable energy.
Murray also said the next “obvious” continent for expansion is Africa, where New Zealand has posts in Cairo, Pretoria, and, as of this year, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia – home of the African Union.
“There are more diplomats in Addis Ababa than there are in Brussels,” Mr McCully said, noting that the post provided access to 54 countries.
New Zealand was also considering posts in Nigeria, where Fonterra was aiming to capitalise on a market of 200 million people, and in Bogota, Colombia.
Gotta declare here and now that Nigeria and Colombia are best avoided.
Barbados sounds much more tempting.
But Alf would have to become a rum-pot, rather than a whisky lush.
And he would miss the Eketahuna Club.
There are good reasons, therefore, to stay put…at least for now.