There is a particularly resonant piece by Tim Watkin in Pundit. “National’s problem with privacy and privilege“. I’m only surprised that he seems to think that the National party is at all redeemable. Personally I think he is somewhat to charitable. I think that the corruption is embedded too deeply. I suspect that with the diminution of of their caucus after the coming election – all it will have done is concentrate the bile.
National has a problem. And it’s time they said it out loud. It can’t be dismissed as a one-off anymore or excused because ‘everyone does it’. No, it cuts deeper than that.
National has an ethics problem. Especially when it comes to privacy and using ordinary people as pawns in the cut and thrust of politics.
In the following four paragraphs, he gives a very brief overview of some of the political examples about what he is talking about. I could easily double that just from the ones I’m aware of.
For years the party has been able to shrug off the issues because they confuse – and frankly bore – most voters. And because their opponents had issues and dysfunctions of their own. Such antics do not directly influence the wealth and health of voters, and because of that, most voters don’t let the details trouble their busy lives. Ironically, because politicians are already held in such low regard by voters, MPs can get away with troubling – some would say appalling – ethical decisions because we assume the worst anyway.
But there’s no denying a worrying pattern for National. Under four consecutive leaders now, party MPs have used their privileged positions as representatives of the public in an attempt to score political points and play games. They have used private information for personal, political gain.
In the ever present journalistic trait of ‘balance’, Tim then points to two instances in Labour – reaching back to:-
Think back to the Helen Clark years and you think of Taito Phillip Field and his Thai tiler or Chris Carter sneaking around leaving an anonymous letter about a leadership challenge against Phil Goff. You might think of Clark herself speeding across the Canterbury plains.
I could add a few more there as well. However I’d point out that these were either arguably just for personal gain (even getting between appointments) or Labour infighting. If you wanted to take it down to that level for National, then you’d have to write a book. Labour just isn’t orientated to this kind of ethical crap in the same way that National is at a political level.
Almost all of the exposed examples of National MPs being complete arseholes involve them using their privileged position to dump on others in less powerful positions. The nearest Tim Watkins could point to was Taito Phillip Field in Labour with a tardy and outright stupid personal cost saving.
It also isn’t exactly hard to find instances of straight personal gain if the rumours that swirl around about National MPs are in any way correct. For instance Richard Worth in my neighbouring electorate of Epsom with his 2009 trip to India, that got him in disfavour with John Key when they became public.
But National has a specific, recurring problem: Using power and privilege for political gain. And a complete disrespect for New Zealanders’ privacy.
The question now is whether Todd Muller is willing to ask why. He wants to be focused on new policy and campaign strategy ten weeks from an election, but as the saying goes ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Unless the culture is addressed, these sort of self-inflicted wounds will keep happening. It’s surely in National’s best interests to stop excusing this behaviour as normal, hard-ball politics and face it head on.
It’s no longer tenable for National to excuse these incidents as one-offs or the perpetrators as rogue MPs. Or for Todd Muller to dismiss the behaviour because “it doesn’t support the values of the National Party I know”. I’m sure he’s right to affirm that most party members and most MPs have the country’s best interests at heart and it’s natural to defend your team. But it’s time for Muller and the party, for its own good, to admit it has a problem. Otherwise it won’t be able to face it and deal with it. And if it won’t face the problem, voters have every right to draw their own conclusions about the character of the people wanting to run the country.
So far, that hasn’t been apparent. What we’re hearing is the same dumb-arse excuses from the leader of a political party that just keeps doing this over and over again.
Sure Labour has an annoying tendency at present of over-promising and under-delivering on policies. But they are progressing things like KiwiBuild, and more importantly the building of Housing NZ stock – that ultimately underpins the rental market. The planning for transport towards the airport is proceeding – even if I still think light rail is hopeless compromise.
The problem is that Todd Muller will over-promise not only on political matters, but is blind to the ethical and corruption problems in his own party. You get the idea that National simply thinks that it has a right to rule and that all of the peasants should kowtow to them.
For me, I just look at their record not only on ethics, but also their complete inability to be aware of the future. Their clear lack of policy on basic infrastructure like how to grow cities if you want to high immigration. Their fetish on rural roads. Their focus on commodity exports and tourism that won’t provide jobs for either our youth or the kids of immigrants.
National appear incapable of dealing with even immediate issues. I got incredibly irritated by their annoying (but thankfully diminishing) calls to open the country up to a virus that we still don’t know nearly enough about. You only have to look at Melbourne to see the potential consequences as it sinks again into lockdown.
We’re processing at near capacity on returning kiwis. We’ve had something like breaches, mostly from self-entitled idiots, out of close to 30 thousand through quarantine. It could be improved. But there is a delicate balance between the public safety needs of the public, the privacy and public protections of the individual, and the potential for exhausting the capabilities of the police who have the power to enforce the quarantine directives of the direct of health.
National’s response has been to spread fear, uncertainty, and dirty politics. But that is National for you – they’ve consistent…. Stupid, unhelpful and short on ethics.