Out Of Options: The conversation on poverty ignited by Metiria Turei’s personal candour and courage has been enormously productive. But, her best hope, now, for turning talk into action: for making sure that the Greens’ radical policies for alleviating poverty and empowering the poor become a Labour-Green government priority; is to make sure that the conversation about poverty is not reduced to a conversation about her.
CRUEL NECESSITY drove Metiria Turei’s decision to rule herself out of any ministerial role in a Jacinda Ardern-led government. Dramatic changes in the Left’s fortunes, initiated by Andrew Little’s resignation on Tuesday morning, presented the Greens female co-leader with very few realistic alternatives. For those shocked and angered by this stunning reversal of Metiria’s fortunes, a brief examination of those limited political options, may make her self-sacrifice slightly easier to accept.
The most tempting option must surely have been to double-down on her radicalism by throwing the condemnation of her quarter-of-a-century-old transgressions against WINZ and the Electoral Act straight back in her critics faces. Metiria could have challenged the politicians and journalists clamouring for her resignation to acknowledge the clear implications of their denunciations. To accept that if they are prepared to allow relatively minor legal infringements, committed many years in the past, to debar a politician from wielding executive power 25 years later, then what they are really saying is that no radical activist can be a Cabinet Minister.
Responding to Kelvin Davis’s less-than-friendly comments on the AM Show this morning (4/8/17) she could have pointed out that the first Labour Cabinet contained a whole swag of radical activists whose youthful union activities in the Red Feds regularly involved breaches of the law. She could have pointed out that Labour’s second prime minister, Peter Fraser, had been jailed for sedition during the First World War. Would Kelvin Davis have told Peter Fraser (or Paddy Webb, or John A Lee) that they had made their own beds and now they would have to lie in them?
The problem with this argument is that the transgressions of Fraser, Webb and Lee were committed in full public view and, like all acts of civil disobedience, undertaken in the certain knowledge that they would be met with an equally public official response. John A Lee, similarly, had made an open book of his juvenile delinquency by penning the largely autobiographical novel “Children of the Poor”. Had Metiria done something similar, her list of options would now be longer.
Upping the radical ante would, almost certainly, be a counter-productive response for another reason. With Labour in what looked like terminal decline, it made perfect sense for the Greens to stake their claim to its apparently moribund relationship with the poor and marginalised. If nothing else, it would at least ensure that one political party remained to defend these New Zealanders’ interests. Sure, it meant taking votes off Labour, but with the erstwhile socialist standard-bearer in the grip of what appeared to be a suicidal lethargy, wasn’t that a good thing?
With Labour led by Andrew Little? – Maybe. Under Jacinda? – Not so much. Formerly despairing left-wing voters, inspired by Labour’s new leader, have been swarming back to her party in droves. Moreover, with the heady scent of victory in their nostrils, they have – virtually overnight – become highly sensitive to anything and everything which might impede the progress of Jacindamania. Rightly or wrongly, Metiria’s youthful indiscretions have come to be regarded as an impediment to Labour’s expected electoral recovery.
Ignoring the rising clamour against Metiria’s indiscretions, or, doubling-down on them, is no longer the way to pump-up the Green vote. On the contrary, either course of action will now be interpreted as evidence that the Greens are deliberately hindering Labour’s chances. Were that perception to become entrenched, then the most likely consequence would be a decline in Green Party support. The in-your-face radicalism that drove the Greens’ numbers up, would end by dragging them down.
Not for nothing did the British Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, observe: “A week is a long time in politics.”
The over-riding imperative for Metiria has been to keep alive the long-deferred but much-needed conversation about the material circumstances of New Zealand’s beneficiaries, and their appalling treatment at the hands of this country’s social welfare bureaucracy.
That conversation was ignited by Metiria’s personal candour and courage, but now, her best option for turning talk into action: for making sure that the Greens’ radical policies for alleviating poverty and empowering the poor become a Labour-Green government priority; is to make sure that the conversation about poverty is not reduced to a conversation about her.
That is what she has done – and who on the Left would dare not applaud her for it?
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 4 August 2017.
If she is not worthy to be a minister she's not worthy to be a co-leader of the party surely? It seems very ill advised to stay on as I can't help but feel she will hurt the Green brand for the next 7 weeks. The Greens too often come across as sanctimonious and holier-than-thou so any indiscretions run the risk of being punished because of the perceived hypocrisy.
I suspect there will be applause from the right for her doing enough to effectively admit she did wrong in the public eye but not getting herself out of view of said eye. Her attempt to present herself as fighting the good fight for beneficiaries looks more like someone who is willing to rort the system and is now attempting to use this for political benefit. Again hypocritical. Very highly so.
I predict the Greens will struggle to get in to double digits percentage wise come September 23. This may well have prevented the left coalition hitting the mid 40s in the coming election (now a possibility with the Jacinda effect) and improved National's chances of a fourth term.
" Formerly despairing left-wing voters, inspired by Labour’s new leader, have been swarming back to her party in droves."
Inspired by what exactly? Her looks? Her ability to communicate effectively? It can't be her policies, because there is nothing new and inspiring – yet. This is the problem with the presidential style election system that we seem to have adopted from the US. I don't give a shit about her personality, though she is probably a nice person. Andrew little seemed dull, but I would have voted for him in a New York minute if he had come up with some decent policies. Doing it any other way is partly the reason were in this situation in the first place.
A very good piece,
I still believe that Metiria should have resigned the leadership.
"A vote for Labour is a vote for the Greens" will resonate as long as she remains the co- leader.
John A Lee was convicted of theft, sly grogging, and burglary.
He went on to become a very effective minister.
You've gotta have heart. That was one of the old songs that registered in my brain aeons ago. And Turia has laid hers on the line to make a point.
A political sacrifice to some extent. She has not joined the conga-line of politicians that are looking the other way from the frayed humans lying on the pavement, or working for a pittance (what is that by the way, a half piece of pita bread?). Getting to work by whatever means, dropping the kids off at the end of the road with something to eat and tearing off for the bus to get to work on time. And getting roses, roses all the way for being tryers?? Hah hah.
Turia aimed higher and applied herself to getting there. It is the eternal story of the determined self-made man or woman in the USA. 'I succeeded because I worked hard etc.' And the lower down the ladder the more you had to try and sometimes go against the shibboleths of smug society.
Metiria has every right to hold her head high for having achieved in this degraded society. And stay on as co-leader though she is right to resile from ideas of being in charge of social welfare. It would send mixed messages beyond the understanding of many in NZ. Just reading the opinions of certain commenters here show they are mired deep in their own rut with no idea of the problems of people in today's existential crisis.
What is it? Oh something that some French academic bod thought up - nothing to do with real life of course!
The whole point is that not many people believe that she wasn't living at the fathers house. Not to mention the obvious that she could have used contraception or. taken the morning after pill. What ever happened to protestant values?
Metiria demonstrates a new religion of the left - feminism (and whatever).
John A Lee was a bloke, and was convicted of blokey crimes. We tend to be a lot less sanctimonious about stuff like sly grogging. And I think the burglary stuff was done when he was a kid right? Seems to me that to a certain point, if a woman does something wrong people tend to pile on a lot more. And when you rort the benefit system, the sanctimonious just gushes out. Because it's my taxes don't you know. Just a thought.
I can't believe you imagine that Metiria's tale of woe is finished? She either goes at a time of her choosing or she'll be turned into a crispy critter at a time of her political opponents choosing.
A biblically stupid political stunt that will destroy her and probably the Left's ambitions for another three years. Hubris is a bitch.
The McGillicuddy Serious catch cry" 10 years of taking the piss" says it all really...
I feel warm thinking about the Greens' new policies. Mebbe not an election winner, but I feel warm -- a prominent political party speaking for the truth. If only there were more heart and less design in dear, young, NZ's modern politics.
Joe Savage was 65, and my own (appalling to his family)g. grandfather was 70 when Labour achieved power in 1935 (sorry to bring him up again Chris). They wouldn't raise him up to the upper house because of his insistence through practice a proper sentence was subject, verb, object, expletive (the practice included a Labour Day address on national radio ). 'They' , of course, and til this day,are wrong.
Peter Frazer mentioning to the future 'Father of the House', after his maiden speech, he shouldn't mention 'socialism' set the seal on our downfall. It was 25 years between my unionist boss telling me Muldoon was better than--well now , I can't remember the PM, just-- Roger Douglas, and a Swede so very casually describing herself as a Socialist and expressing her sorrow at beggars on the streets in Stockholm. In between the Rich rose.
jh if your mother had used a morning after pill you wouldn't be here and oh what a difference.
Again with the contraception bullshit. I don't know about Metiria's situation, and I'm not prurient enough to want to know TBH. But – Do you think that is beyond the bounds of possibility that 2 people might make a rational decision to have a child and then find that they are incompatible? People get divorced all the time, husbands run off quite a bit, and contraception isn't 100% effective. So "what's a girl to do?" You can't drown babies like kittens – can you? If we all waited until we were absolutely sure we were compatible enough and rich enough to have kids – no one would have any. You know there was a time when the Labour Party stood for giving people on a benefit enough money so that they could actually take part in society. Conservatives just seem to want them to stay out of the way and hide their shame. This is a reactionary meme that needs knocking firmly on the head.
How embarrassing when your own colleagues start resigning! They must remember when the Green Party aspired to a higher plane of ethics.
I wonder where this train wreck will touch down next?
trouble at mill....
Rebels and recalcitrants eventually get things done - for the better.
"How embarrassing when your own colleagues start resigning! They must remember when the Green Party aspired to a higher plane of ethics."
No, they are just middle-class like most of the green voters. They've never been on a benefit, they don't know what it's like to be on a benefit except in their own imaginations and they imagine it's some kind of holiday. Free money! I've always said that the right has nothing to fear from the greens they are so middle-class.
All this mechanical stuff, we have the technology, let's live by it.
But Metiria probably wanted to have that baby, the guy might have not been 50 years husband material, but it was her baby and she wanted her little boy or girl whether she was ready or not. At this point in our civilisation one would think that our society would not still be immersed in Victorian dogma. The women's movement pushed the idea of a woman being able to keep her baby, train and get some work and keep herself and child. Or at least until she found the sort of life partner that would result in a warm family life.
Thanks Grey, I am left wondering about society today. At 60 I recall that when a callow 20 year old I had no concept that you could get married with a get out clause called easy divorce, and consequent social stigma. To be a solo parent was not seen as anything other than a failure by both mother and father, there was no concept that a child could be brought up without a father. Now both of the above are common place, and it would seem welcomed by progressive people. I as a social conservative do not welcome this, to me it is a failure.
These changes do not happen in a vacuum, and I do believe they are strongly linked to the libertarian view of the world socially and economically. We don't appear now to have a very good grip on the concepts of personal, societal and economic responsibilities, as opposed to those imposed and regulated. Boundaries have been moved, in essence got rid of, consequently there are fewer common boundaries to mark where a person should take responsibility for consequence. That said, I think we needed to liberalise a lot of the old conservative dogma, note liberalise, not remove.
Have you read Lord Jim Chris Trotter?
Elvis has left the building. Lying every step of the way but hoping that the evisceration of her story will now cease.
What happens to Shaw? Lashed to Metiria's mast as the ship founders.
The most spectacular own goal in recent political history?
A story that with a little more honesty and humility could have worked as intended?
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