Attack politics has been practised for a long time, by different parties. It happens to be that the current gutter politician-in-chief seems to be Trevor Mallard. It may or may not be a deliberate whole of Labour strategy, David Shearer has spoken against it, but he seems to have been ignored by some within Labour.
Over the last few months there seems to have been a concerted Mallard led campaign to mudsling with unsubstantiated accusations. The most prominent examples are:
- Accusations in the house and outside the house by both Mallard and Andrew Little that have led to pending threats of defamation proceedings by Judith Collins. There has been no evidence produced to support the claims, and what is publicly known tends to suggest Mallard and Little have little if anything to back the claims made by them and by associated mouthpieces on The Standard.
- Accusations of hotel room rate impropriety against John Banks that seemed obviously a beat up (it took media and Banks nearly a day to wake up to this).
- “Fresh allegations made against Banks” – by Trevor Mallard, who “is asking” speculative questions, again. Hoping the media will do his dirty work for him again?
It is claimed that “holding government to account” is an essential task of the opposition. It is. But there is a clear difference between holding to account and speculative and potentially destructive political attacks.
The opposition should examine Government policies , actions and MPs, that’s an essential part of our democratic system.
When MPs and their operators wage campaigns that appear to be aimed at trying to bring down our government, and are at least aimed at destroying the careers of democratically elected politicians using questionable and dirty tactics, it goes far beyond “holding to account”. I think it amounts to blatant subversion, and a direct threat to reasonable democratic process.
Political mudslinging is also a major turnoff for a lot of the population outside the political bubbles, and I believe is a significant factor in increasing levels of public apathy towards politics and parliament. Politicians as a group are generally not respected – for good reason.
Most MPs go into parliament with the aim of doing good for the country. Most give it their best shot. Some MPs give the whole group a gutter level reputation through the use of gutter tactics. And little seems to be done about it, although some do talk about the ideals they think they should follow – see Richard Prosser’s comments.
It may be no coincidence that Labour continue to struggle to recover from their 2008 defeat. Some in Labour blamed their 2011 defeat on the media, declaring that if only the media had properly conveyed Labour’s “brilliant” policy messages properly the million who didn’t vote would have flocked to the booths to tick Labour. They refuse to accept that the electorate are thoroughly ticked off with Labour and with gutter politics.
Is this post an attack on Trevor Mallard? No, it’s holding him to account. The media and David Shearer don’t seem to want to do it. Are the media likely to bite the hand that feeds it scandals? Maybe not. Is Shearer likely to cut off the festering sore that keeps preventing a Labour recovery? It doesn’t look like it – I don’t know whether that is due to impotence or hypocrisy.
But I do know that much of the voting public has had a gutsful. It’s a political disgrace.