Some tough love for the Green party

Ex political journalist John Armstrong has some views on Metiria Turei and her political crash and burn,  which is unlikely to go down well in the Green camp. Tough truths.

Metiria Turei could have said a lot during the seven or so months which have passed since her hugely dramatic and equally traumatic exit from politics.

Her ghost stalks the Greens, however. In particular, it is stalking the upcoming election of a new female co-leader to fill the vacancy created by her spectacular demise.

In some quarters of the party, Turei the Welfare Fraudster is both martyr and saint; a veritable Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa all rolled into one.

It was much easier to blame the media for her fate, however, than admit to the real reason why she had to quit.

Her consistent refusal to divulge any detail about the circumstances surrounding her fraud was tarnishing the party’s image.

The party’s stance was untenable. It was blaming the media for doing their job. It was saying it was okay for James Shaw to join the Opposition hunt for the scalps of Bill English and Todd Barclay, National’s errant former Clutha-Southland MP.

The application of similar scrutiny to Turei’s behaviour was somehow deemed out of bounds.

That’s fairly typical of Green supporters, in my experience. They are very critical of people and ideas they disagree with, but get almost apoplectic when their party or MPs are put under scrutiny.

Turei’s downfall was the first time in a very long time that the Greens had felt the heat of the media blowtorch on its highest setting.

Now that they are party to government, such bouts of relentless questioning and grilling by the media will be the norm. The Greens can expect it to occur on anything and everything no matter how big or small or how important or trivial.

They really wanted to finally be a part of a Government. Now they are in power they have to expect they will be put under more scrutiny – they were generally given a very easy time when in opposition, so the scrutiny of power is coming as a bit of a shock to some.

The question is whether the Greens have the necessary political management mechanisms in place to ensure the party is not an accident constantly waiting to happen.

The omens are not good. The party’s handling of the New Zealand First-instigated legislation which will block MPs from party-hopping has been as shambolic as it has been shabby.

Perhaps they (the Green Party and their MPs) will learn how to deal with being in awkward political situations that inevitably occur when in Government, and the scrutiny that goes with the territory, but those learnings are likely to be lagging or lacking in the rank and file.

One senior party figure should be exempted from such accusations of complacency, however.

He suggests that Julie Anne Genter is unusually realistic for a Green and would make a good replacement for Turei as co-leader. More on that in Green leadership – sickly sweet political correctness versus political realism.