For some time now Paula Bennett has said that she is proud to be a westie.
She has been an important part of National’s senior line up. She was a teenage mother on the DPB who according to her pulled herself up by her bootstraps although thanks should really go to good old New Zealand Inc which supported her getting a tertiary qualification while on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. She then formed a friendship with Murray McCully, got herself on National’s list and rode the National wave in 2005 to enter Parliament.
She won the Waitakere seat in 2008 on the back of a strong surge of support for National although the margin over Lynne Pillay was not great. She was rewarded with a Ministerial position. One of her major roles as a Minister has been to pull the ladder up after her so that others in her former position would not enjoy the assistance that she did.
Her ministerial promotion was straight out of the Crosby Textor play book. Instead of being white, male, and rich she was of a mixed ethnic background, female, and not so rich. And she had been a teenage mum and on the DPB. It was a much better look if she, rather than her white rich male colleagues, bashed beneficiaries. It was presented as if she was trying to help the poor whereas the reality was that it was a cynically targeted dog whistle that caused a great amount of misery but let National supporters think that something useful was being done.
National’s confidence in Paula was overly optimistic. In the 2011 election despite Labour experiencing its worst result for a long time Paula was almost defeated. Carmel Sepuloni and her able team led by Enzo Giordani ran a superb campaign and almost won the seat. They created history by losing on election night, winning on the final count but then losing on a judicial recount by the slimmest of margins.
Yesterday Paula confirmed that she was no longer proud to be a westie but wanted to be a North Shore MP instead. She announced that she wanted to seek the nomination for the new Upper Harbour seat which contains no part of the former Waitakere seat which she represented. TV3 thinks that she wants to eat Colin Craig alive. My brain is finding it hard to process this piece of information.
She now claims a strong affinity with the North Shore. As any real Westie will tell you the North Shore is a foreign place to Waitakere. You may as well take your passport when you move from one area to the other. For someone who used to hold meetings on what it meant to be a westie her change of heart is somewhat disappointing.
Paula it is time for you to hand in your leopard skin. Because it is clear that you are no longer proud to be a Westie.