Life Bill Ral­ston

Dis­tract­ing though the beach is, there’s only so long you can shut up about the Ross af­fair.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - BILL RAL­STON

Is it safe to come out yet? The po­lit­i­cal brouhaha of the past fort­night per­suaded me it might be safer to leave our house and head for the wilds of Ocean Beach, where we have a bach. Ac­tu­ally, the house we have just left is also a bach, on an­other beach on the other side of Cape Kid­nap­pers, which is kind of weird, I know.

Bach No 1 at Te Awanga is about to get a dra­matic facelift. Well, it’s ef­fec­tively be­ing de­mol­ished and re­built and, out of re­spect for the builders, we thought it best not to be in­side when it hap­pened, hence we headed for bach No 2. Be­sides, sum­mer seems to have made an early ar­rival.

Nope, it’s no use. I can­not bab­ble on about the joys of Hawke’s Bay in good weather be­cause I can­not ig­nore the Jami-Lee Ross is­sue, even though, since he was com­pul­so­rily ad­mit­ted to a men­tal health unit, al­most ev­ery­one seems to be of the opin­ion that com­men­ta­tors should ig­nore the af­fair. “Move on, noth­ing to see here.”

The Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion warned the likes of me against “weapon­is­ing Mr Ross’ distress against him”, which is a lit­tle harsh as

Ross seemed to weaponise his own distress against his for­mer leader, party and col­leagues and any­one else who poked their heads above the para­pet dur­ing his very pub­lic melt­down.

Still, I will not be­come a weaponiser.

I may, how­ever, be crit­i­cal of the peo­ple be­hind the scenes who ap­pear to have pro­vided Ross with the arms, am­mu­ni­tion and tac­tics for his re­cent spray. Si­mon Lusk, I’m look­ing at you. Cameron Slater, aka Whale Oil, you are get­ting my sus­pi­cious side-eye as well. For any­one who does not know this pair of po­lit­i­cal huck­sters, good. You are bet­ter off in a state of ig­no­rance.

The Na­tional Party is at­tract­ing blame for putting too much pres­sure on Ross once he went pub­lic with his al­le­ga­tions against Si­mon Bridges. To be frank, he had put a blow­torch down Bridges’ Y-fronts with al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­lat­ing the Elec­toral Act’s po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions rules and it was only to be ex­pected Na­tional would strike back, es­pe­cially when Ross re­leased a se­cret record­ing of his leader.

Also, shag­ging two of your fe­male col­leagues while still mar­ried to some­one else, and ap­par­ently be­ing com­plained about by oth­ers, is prob­a­bly not the wis­est course of ac­tion when you are por­tray­ing your­self as a crusading knight on a white horse and a whis­tle-blower.

The whole af­fair is most un­sat­is­fac­tory. At the time of writ­ing, we do not know what Ross had done to be “sec­tioned” by the po­lice. We do not know what other record­ings and ma­te­rial dam­ag­ing to Na­tional he may have.

What is clear is that the furore will con­tinue to dam­age Na­tional’s pub­lic sup­port. Vot­ers are prone to pun­ish­ing par­ties that have in­ter­nal strife. And no one will be sur­prised if, now as an in­de­pen­dent MP,

Ross con­tin­ues to at­tack his for­mer party for kick­ing him while he was men­tally un­well.

Mean­while, the Gov­ern­ment is keep­ing quiet on the mat­ter. Apart from Jacinda Ardern, no min­is­ters or MPs com­mented and the Prime Min­is­ter con­fined her­self to re­mark­ing on the need for greater care for the men­tal health of MPs and a mild de­fence of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal do­na­tion sys­tem.

Me­dia at­ten­tion is firmly fo­cused on Na­tional’s trou­bles; the Ross ruc­tions are the best gift Labour has re­ceived since it came to power 12 months ago.

To be frank, Ross had put a blow­torch down Bridges’ Y-fronts.

“I had that night­mare again last night. The one about the budgie smug­glers.”

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