Own goals and sins of omission
To mix up the sporting metaphors, when the government was on the ropes last week, the Labour opposition still somehow managed to score an own-goal.
Just as the Todd Barclay taping scandal was threatening to do serious damage to the Prime Minister’s preferred image as Honest Bill, the no-frills straight shooter… in rode Labour, and deflected the media’s attention.
For months, Labour leader Andrew Little has invested a lot of his political capital in allegations that low quality, poorly paid students and migrants have been depressing wages, competing for housing and (even) contributing to road congestion in Auckland.
Subsequently, the news has surfaced that Labour itself imported over 80 foreign ‘‘interns’’ to work on its election campaign, and housed many of them in allegedly sub-standard conditions.
Barclay would have been grateful for the respite.
In fact, Barclay had many reasons to be grateful, despite the fallout from his secret taping of his electorate staff. It has hardly been a case of him cleaning out his desk and being turfed onto the pavement.
Reportedly, the CluthaSouthland MPwill remain on the public payroll for three months until the election, and for three more months afterwards.
Since the pay rate for backbench MPs is $160,000 a year, that amounts to a circa $80,000 payout for being engaged in potentially criminal behaviour.
In the meantime, the government will be happy to use Barclay’s tainted vote in Parliament to help pass its legislative agenda.
English hardly covered himself in glory, either. His claim that he had made a statement last year to the police (kept under wraps) and to the electorate chairman Stuart Davie (in a private email) has still left a gaping hole in the picture.
Arguably, as Greens leader James Shaw has said, English owes the public an apology for what – to use the language of Catholic theology – amounted to a sin of omission. The sin wasn’t in what he did about Barclay, but what he failed to do.
The police belong in the same confessional. By choosing not to prosecute Barclay and declining to pursue the matter after he refused to co-operate with them, the police left themselves looking