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Artist’s impression of the Downing Street bilateral. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Artist’s impression of the Downing Street bilateral. (Image: Tina Tiller)

PoliticsJuly 1, 2022

What New Zealand music should Jacinda Ardern give to Boris Johnson?

Artist’s impression of the Downing Street bilateral. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Artist’s impression of the Downing Street bilateral. (Image: Tina Tiller)

If gifting fellow prime ministers a stack of local LPs is the new tradition, here are 10 suggestions to take to No 10. 

When Jacinda Ardern popped across the Tasman a few weeks ago for her first official meeting with Anthony Albanese, prime minister, she presented her friend and counterpart with a clutch of New Zealand vinyl. Grant Robertson had gone shopping and picked out records by Aldous Harding, The Clean and Reb Fountain. Albanese responded in kind, giving Ardern an album by Midnight Oil and a pile of other Australian muck.

Tonight, with Nato and the EU out of the way, the New Zealand prime minister engages with another storied European institution: Boris Johnson. And what better way to rock up to No 10 Downing Street than with a bag of records under your arm? Minister for the Dunedin Sound Grant Robertson has come down with Covid, so we’ve gallantly stepped into the breach, and humbly present some homegrown New Zealand music that might carpe the Boris diem. 

Aldous Harding – Party

Ardo gave Albo Aldo, or more precisely she gave him Aldous Harding’s eponymous debut album. For Bojo, a better bet is her second, Party. If such a thing is available, the perfect format would be a Party gatefold edition, a cheerful nod to the numerous lockdown-breaching parties attended by Johnson, which landed him a fine from police. Among the tunes on Party: ‘I’m So Sorry’ and, of course, ‘What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming’, a title which captures as well as anything the essence of post-Brexit Britain.

Goodbye Pork Pie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Chuck in a VHS of this, too: the entertaining yarn about a desperate man who will stop at nothing to stay in the game, desperately gripping the steering wheel as the country yellow Mini swerves wildly in horror. Mostly, though, this is a reassuring title for Boris to prop by the gramophone, as he faces the re-emergence of the pork pie plotters. So-named because one of the MPs involved represents Melton Mowbray, birthplace of the pork pie, they’re determined to find another way to roll him despite the no-confidence vote a few weeks back failing by 211 members to 148. 

The Clean – Tally Ho

The glorious first single by the Flying Nun giants might be 44 years old, but the lyrics read just like Boris Johnson answering questions at a hastily arranged press conference after another yet another cabinet minister’s resignation in protest at inept, amoral leadership. “Now, you said it was yesterday, yesterday’s another day,” said the prime minister, gesticulating furiously at the assembled media. “Had a lot of make believe, I don’t know if it’s you or if it’s me. Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know. Tally ho! Tally ho!”

(Johnson once encouraged defiance of a ban on fox-hunting, by the way, and wrote about how part of his love for hunting with dogs was the “semi-sexual relation with the horse”.)

Dave Dobbyn – Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tail Tale 

A no-brainer. Because it’s Dobbo, obviously. Because it’s about a dog, and Boris has dubbed himself The Big Dog. And because it includes various pigs, and David Cameron has dubbed Boris The Greased Piglet. In case you doubted whether Murray Ball could see the future, one of the pigs in Footrot Flats was in fact called Boris.  

Lorde – Pure Heroine 

The breakout ‘Royals’ is very relatable for any graduate of Eton and Oxford. Bloodstains. Ball gowns. Trashing the hotel room. Jet planes. Island. Tigers on a gold leash. It reads like a shopping list for the Bullingdon Club AGM. 

Toby Morris for RNZ

Maria Dallas – Pinocchio

In 1970, country singer Maria Dallas topped the charts for six weeks with ‘Pinocchio’. That’s a name that has been flung a number of times at Johnson, for the simple reason that he does lie rather a lot. Fellow old Etonian and former Conservative MP Rory Stewart described him as “perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister”, going on to say: “He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie and the bullshit lie.”

Straitjacket Fits – Blow

This goes in chiefly for the track ‘Done’, given Johnson’s most vaunted achievement, in the words he’s uttered innumerable times: he “got Brexit done”, despite, as he might like to sing, red lights flashing madly and a stop sign saying no more road to go.

Air New Zealand ‘Men in Black’ safety video – Israel Dagg ft. Stan Walker

The prime ministers will tonight celebrate the freshly inked NZ-UK free trade agreement, a deal the British PM welcomed last October with a bit of sporty banter. “We’re absolutely thrilled that we seem to have driven for the line, we’ve scrummed down, we’ve packed tight and together we’ve got the ball over the line, and we have a deal,” said Johnson, whose prowess at the game of rugger is legend.

In acknowledgement of that expertise, why not chuck on a USB stick the greatest New Zealand rugby song of all, sung in stadiums around the country: the Air New Zealand Men In Black safety video. (Maybe add the Sean Fitzpatrick giant fist car thing, too.)

Six60 – Six60

What better than the first album from the groundbreaking band that named themselves both for a Dunedin street address and to deeply confuse foreigners unfamiliar with the New Zealand accent. Among the tunes that will resonate for a man with a complicated past is the triple-platinum ‘Don’t Forget Your Roots’. 

OpShop – Second Hand Planet

Pretty obvious why this one goes in. Not for the cri de cœur of the award-winning ‘One Day’ (“All I can offer you is me / I’m all I can offer you right now / I’m all I am / All I am, yeah”), but because Jason Kerrison, the apocalypticist bunker builder and OpShop lead singer, recently won The Masked Singer dressed as a massive tuatara, and – as you know – during Boris Johnson’s last trip to Aotearoa he had a lovely time at Zealandia with a tuatara. 

Jason Kerrison during The Masked Singer (left) and with Boris Johnson (right). (Images: Three; Getty Images)

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An earlier version incorrectly and foolishly located ‘Done’ on the album Melt. We’ve corrected that to Blow. 

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