Local ElectionsSeptember 25, 2019

Tubby Hansen’s voting booklet blurbs are precious works of art


Every three years, veteran election candidate Tubby Hansen releases major new literary works in the form of his Christchurch voting booklet blurbs. Often they go unappreciated. Not this time.

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Tubby Hansen has run in every Christchurch local election since 1971. His resilience is impressive, but his literary craft is legendary. Every three years, Hansen releases candidate blurbs which are, by turns, evocative, avant-garde, cryptic and compelling. If these works were on Reddit and signed ‘Q’, they’d be the foundational documents of a massive online cult. Instead, they’re marooned in the world’s least likely repository for cutting-edge writing, often appreciated only as a curiosity to skim before turning the page to another rant on rates policy. 

Hansen deserves better. This year he has released three major new works to accompany his candidacies for the Canterbury District Health Board, the Christchurch mayoralty, and the Spreydon-Cashmere Community Board. We have opted to critique them through the medium of a power ranking.

3. Christchurch mayor


Hansen’s blurb accompanying his 2016 mayoral candidacy is still his seminal work. It begins with a promise to be a “take it easy, completely, obnoxious and sneaky Mayor” and ends with one of his most beguiling sentences. “John Key is certain to be re-elected prime minister next year, while Labour faces a landslide defeat, my truck has been sabotaged again,” it reads, in what I take as a commentary on the petty personal traumas underpinning political bombast.

Like many artists putting out sophomore efforts, Hansen has struggled to recapture the magic of his earlier work. That’s not to say his 2019 mayoral blurb is bad. It expresses a progressive economic agenda, along with some classic law-and-order conservatism, and it references his driving doctrine – euthentics. But it feels too austere and staid to be from the same freewheeling artist who told us “I was born in 1945, the year of the rooster, so I have plenty to crow about”.

2. Canterbury District Health Board


This is a controversial choice. Many observers would rank this blurb #1 for 2019. Certainly it has received the most viral attention, and it contains Hansen’s most stirring line of the year: “Something must be done about the thrush and cladmidia (sp) boom.”

But the story told in the blurb feels fevered and angular, with its references to “overheating diodes” in ceiling fans, which speak in “high-pitched voices” when removed. It’s prickly and uncomfortable, while this year’s highest-ranked entry is calm and soothing. Also, its opening sentence – “there is no such thing as schizophrenia” – feels medically inaccurate.

1. Spreydon-Cashmere Community Board


The best Tubby Hansen blurb of 2019 isn’t flashy. It doesn’t announce itself with grand proclamations about medicine or economics. Instead, it begins with Hansen at peace; at home. “We used to live in Holcolme (sp) Place, off Studholm (sp) Street towards the river, and I caught the bus on Somerfield Street to the Square,” it says.

The blurb goes on to talk about the need for new bus and cycleways, but Hansen couches his progressive transit policies in a deeply personal, nostalgic story of suburban domesticity. In doing so, he expands our ideas about what local election voting blurbs can be. 

Imagine if more candidates eschewed listing their biggest achievements and opted to communicate their visions through the lens of their own lives instead? Would politics be a better, more open-hearted place? Unfortunately, local elections are too often the home of the boastful, the conservative, and the stuck-in-the-mud. In the words of Tubby Hansen, “it would be better to build a rest home on the site”.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism, click here.

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