Turei the victim

The Green Party has been badly compromised by the Metiria mission in which she used her life experiences as a solo mother to promote pro-beneficiary anti-poverty policies.

When Metiria Turei started her confession based campaign against poverty and the pressures imposed on beneficiaries she got quite a bit of sympathy and support, and this was reflected in a jump in the polls for the Green Party.

But things turned sour, for three reasons.

First, Turei proposed a reform of the social welfare system that would substantially increase the amount of benefit paid (by 20%), and also no investigation policy with no pressure to move off a benefit – “everyone has different life circumstances and everyone is entitled to support for as long as they need it”, meaning as long as they chose, no questions asked. See Green policy Mending the Safety Net.

Second, it was revealed that Turei had not just fibbed a bit about having a flatmate to ‘feed her baby’.

She may have fibbed for up to five years with different flats and flatmates, one of whom was her mother for a year or two.

She was enrolled to vote at the same address as the father of her daughter. She claims they didn’t live together at all ‘since before the baby was born’ and that this was so she could vote for a friend in a different electorate (she stood for Parliament in the same election so one could wonder why she wouldn’t vote for herself).

Questions remain about why she didn’t name the father so he would be required to pay child support, and whether the child supported the child under the table, and if not why did he not support his child.

Third, Turei is complaining about any scrutiny of her family. She wants her years as a benefit and voting fraudster to be ‘no questions asked’. She is claiming to be a victim of a witch hunt.

RNZ: ‘Outside opponents want to see us fail’ – Metiria Turei

Green co-leader Metiria Turei is accusing outside opponents of making “wild accusations” in a bid to bring down the party.

That’s an unfortunate fact of politics,there are some people who want to ‘bring down’ every party other than the one they support.

But Turei left herself open by refusing to be up front about her whole story. She wanted sympathy without wanting to take responsibility.

She took aim at other opponents outside of the party who had attacked her.

“They want to see us fail at the election and they’re using me as a target.”

And she said she expected the critics to continue making “quite wild accusations” over the coming weeks.

“I understand that’s the game some people want to play, but we have a much bigger kaupapa to carry through.”

Mrs Turei also objected to the level of intrusion into her and her family’s personal life as ”a little out of control”.

“We have to be very careful that this doesn’t turn into a witchhunt.”

She chose to use part of her story to promote a policy and a mission. She has been an MP for 15 years, she is a party leader seeking power in government, she can’t be that naive that she expects no scrutiny.

Playing the victim is a risky game, as she has found out.

She accepted she had opened herself up to questions and criticism by going public about lying to Work and Income in the 1990s.

But she did not expect her family to be targeted.

“Having my family paraded in the media has been really tough

“My family didn’t deserve the kind of exposure they’ve had. I might, but not them.”

Her story was about her family and about her family situation. How could she have expected for them to be left out of it?

“The kinds of questions that have been asked of me are questions that are asked of beneficiaries every day.

“The scrutiny I have been under is the scrutiny they are under … people don’t like that. They think it’s unnecessarily punitive and I agree with them.”

Here she is again using her family experience to promote her campaign, but expecting no scrutiny.

She is playing a double victim card, portraying herself as a victim of an oppressive and miserly social welfare system, but wanting no questions asked about her choosing to break laws.

But she is a victim of her own actions. I think most people would barely care about a fib 25 years ago. However they would be more concerned about several years of fibs about multiple things – the electorate fiddle is what turned media against her more than anything, because it suggested a habit of not caring about the law.

And this is the crux of the reason why two Green MPs created turmoil on the party this week.

Having a lax attitude to laws two decades ago is justifiably questionable but history.

But as an MP and a party leader now, not condoning law breaking, and going as far as proposing an amnesty for all benefit law breakers, is problematic, and this is Turei’s real problem – her attitude to benefit fiddling and law breaking now, as a law maker.

The Labour Party has distanced themselves from this stance. Last week new leader Jacinda Ardern made it clear that it rules Turei out of consideration for a Labour led cabinet position.

And this week two Greens broke rank and said that they couldn’t  remain as MPs alongside this breach of integrity and principle.

They were attacked by Green party officials for making a principled stand. Co-leader James Shaw threatened to have them expelled from the party for bringing it into disrepute.

But the damage and disrepute had already happened through Turei’s stance, through Green party policy, and through the support of this from most Green MPs.

A well intentioned ‘mission’ had been poorly thought through and it turned to custard.

The nastiness of some Green supporters was exposed, especially with their attacks on their own MPs who stood up for principles that their party had discarded.

Turei is now playing the victim card. She seems unable to see or accept that she is the victim of her own actions – her actions from 1993-1998 to an extent, but mostly due to her actions and attitude over the past month.

She took a gamble and lost. The Green Party allowed her to take that gamble, they took it with her, and they have lost a lot of credibility, and potentially a lot of support.

Turei, Shaw and the party have chosen to not back down, so they all remain compromised. This is likely to keep blowing up in their faces through the election campaign.

They can play the victim as much as they like, but that is unlikely to repair the damage or win back lost support. It may well ensure that they don’t get it back.

Many of those who have supported the Greens for their environmental activism will be very disappointed that the party focus is obviously elsewhere now.

The Greens have strong core support on social issues and should still get back into Parliament, but this has been a major step backwards for the Greens, with no sign of a change of direction.

Turei claims that things have got out of control. What got out of control was the integrity of her mission.

Blaming others won’t repair the massive damage she has done to her party’s chances this election, and to the party’s credibility and mana.

Talking responsibility for it would help, but there is no sign of that. So the party continues to spiral out of control. It probably isn’t a death spiral, but a crash landing looks inevitable.

Nothing left for the Metiria mission?

No valiant last stand on the environment – instead the Greens went social red and bled.

Has james Shaw admitted that in effect there is nothing left for the Greens? That’s what the party seems to be promoting.

That’s quoting Shaw from Q+A yesterday:  Green Party co-leader James Shaw on a tumultuous week


I supported her decision to share her story with the public in order to get this conversation going about how we treat poverty in New Zealand.

He refers to ‘her decision’ and not to it being a Green Party decision.

I knew it was a big risk for her to take, and that she was going to take some hits, and that’s played out but it was really her choice…

About risks for Turei and not about risks to the Greens.

…here’s the thing. For fifteen years she has been trying to get this conversation around poverty going, right, we’ve tried everything, we’ve tried Members’ Bills, we’ve tried policies and campaigns, we’ve done virtually everything we could.

Except consider a coalition arrangement with National, the party in power for nine of those fifteen years – Turei in particular seems to have been staunchly against it.

And, at this point sharing her story was pretty much the last thing we had left.

And if we had just released a policy it would have been over and done with in forty eight hours.

Jessica Mutch: But she’s had to pay the ultimate political sacrifice in that she will not be able to be a minister if you are to form a government.

James Shaw: She has, and I think that shows her commitment to this cause, it shows her commitment to this mission.

…what is yet to come is the remaining seven weeks of the election campaign and Metiria is going to continue up and down the country, standing up for people who are trapped below then poverty line.

Jessica Mutch: In terms of the ministerial position, before Jacinda Ardern rang on Friday morning, was she going to tough it out?

James Shaw: Ah look, the decision was Metiria’s to make, right. And so from Thursday night forward she was working through what are the options, and she made that choice.

What I get out of this was that after fifteen years of wanting to drive social welfare change this was Metiria’s decision, it was her decisions, and it was her last throw of the dice.

It was her passion, and while she did have other options she didn’t want them, it was her way or the highway.

Metiria gambled her political future on her mission.

The Greens allowed Metiria to gamble the party’s future on her mission.

And the likely result now looks like less influence from the Greens in Parliament, less ability to make a difference.

And not a bit of environmental (green) policy involved. I wonder what the result would have been if the Greens had made a major play like this on water quality, or climate change?

Instead the Greens went  social red and bled.

According to Shaw there was nothing left for them but this gamble. If it fails as looks to be the case that means nothing left in the Green tank?