This election is becoming truly messy. Less than ten days ago we had key opposition leaders, Andrew and deputy Jacinda (Labour), and Metiria as one of the Greens' co-leaders. Now Jacinda and deputy Kelvin have replaced Andrew and Jacinda for Labour. Metiria is gone this afternoon from her Greens co-leadership role. Just this morning I listened to her give a very good interview on Morning Report, calmly telling the world she was going nowhere.
Now, no one is sorry for Andrew Little. Performing badly in the polls, he had to go. And Jacinda taking over is absolutely the right and correct thing because in the first poll since those bad polls, she has added some 10% to Labour's figures, putting them into the mid 30s for the first time, well, it seems for ever, and some 20% to her own personal figure as preferred PM, coming in a msidgeon under Bill English's figure.
But Metiria? Despite TV3 trumpeting otherwise tonight, that their poll drove her out, Radio NZ claims the credit, citing a disgruntled family member, aghast at Metiria's "fake news" about her personal situation some 25 years ago. Either way, a theme in Twitter tonight is that she is a martyr for the cause of poor beneficiaries in NZ, and the media have cruelly hounded her from parliament. Others are not at all sad. Seemingly ignoring the other lying, dissembling politicians around NZ and the world (Hi, Donald!), to say nothing of all those white, male, business fraudsters who seem to stay out of jail for amounts of other people's money far in excess of what Metiria would have defrauded the taxpayer, they see Metiria as getting what she deserves. Or will do when she is charged by the authorities for her self-admitted fraud.
It is easy to be aggressively against Metiria - her story has become complicated compared to its initial simplicity and heartstrings' appeal. And it seems to have involved less than full honesty in the present, whatever confession of dishonesty in the past it may have involved: was the 1990s situation for the Turei family actually one of desperation about feeding a child, or simply desperation for financial stability? But is that temptation to cast stones of condemnation and criticism something a Christian should resist? We are called to not judge, to not cast stones, to forgive. We are called to side with the poor, to work for justice and to challenge the rich lest they make their wealth a millstone around their necks.
I agree with Finlay Macdonald that some political foolishness on Metiria and her party bosses' part has occurred, but I admire Metiria for her courage in drawing attention to the hard time poor people have, both beneficiaries and those on low wages.
Temptations to cheat "the system" must be extraordinary when you are anxious about feeding your children. Temptations to take a loan from loan sharks to help one's children - perhaps with sports fees or new shoes or a treat on a birthday - must be difficult to resist. It is all very well saying that if the beneficiaries are not poor relative to workers then there will be no incentive to work, but does "the system" have to ask so many intrusive questions of people who, in many cases, have not made a career choice to become a beneficiary.
Mind you, a national conversation about whether we treat the poor in NZ well should also ask whether, just possibly, a rogue few beneficiaries rorting that system have contributed to ever increasing rules, regulations and restrictions on all beneficiaries?
But, my sense, prompted by Metiria Turei's brave but ultimately tragic step into the limelight, is that we taxpayers might ask whether we could more generously support our government loosening the purse strings and loosening the ropes of regulations in order to be a fairer society. Is there any particular reason why Christians should not be pushing that conversation along?
An irony of the messy situation our election season is experiencing, in my view, is that Metiria Turei asked questions which are the natural provenance of the Labour Party and they, in tonight's poll, are (bad pun) the beneficiaries of her work.
I wonder, conversely, whether the Greens will question themselves over what has become a debacle for them. Their natural provenance is care for the environment. The Lord of creation knows we need a huge kick up the behind on that score. (Anyone in Canterbury travelled up to Hanmer recently, and observed the preparations for dairying on Ngai Tahu land just north of the Hurunui River? Where are all those nitrates going to run to? Hint: it will be downhill towards the river and not uphill towards the mountains).
The Greens are our conscience on that matter, and very good at it too. And, in my view, they should be available to be that environmental conscience for any left or right government. Their combination of Marxism and ecology has kept them in opposition every year they have had members in parliament. Time for a divorce? Marx won't mind remarrying Labour. Developing businesses in a clean environment is a tough, complex problem ($15 cabbages, anyone?). It would be good for NZ if the Greens focused solely on that.
Finally, in really great news, New Zealand First dropped in the poll tonight.