When Metiria Turei spoke of how when she was a solo mum she lied to her Work and Income case worker about how many people she was flatting with, and so, what her accommodation costs actually were I thought ‘risky move’. However the move ended up being genius for a couple of reasons.
The first was that there was a ground swell of support behind Turei from those who have been on benefits and those who sympathise for lower income families. It also gave us the incredibly popular #IamMetiria hashtag. The second was that it’s difficult to criticise someone who is looking to get some extra money to feed their kids…without looking like a bit of a cock and so what you saw was very few attacks from the right about her statement. Also it it very unlikely that anyone in parliament has not fudged some government department somewhere, at sometime, to their own ends and help them financially. Whether it was a student allowance, or a business write off, or a cash job, or a family benefit most, if not all of NZ adults, will have done something…so if you’re going to throw stones at Metiria you better be ‘sinless’
In her inadvertent honesty, Metira Turei had pulled off a ‘B-Rabbit’ moment. You remember B-Rabbit, he is Eminem’s character in the movie 8 Mile. In the movie rappers come together to battle, freestyling lyrics that cut down their opponent to size, mock them, and leave them a (proverbial) bloody mess on the floor. Well in the films finale, B-Rabbit flips the table and mocks himself viciously (NSFW).
I know everything he’s ’bout to say against me
I am white, I am a fucking bum
I do live in a trailer with my mom
My boy Future is an Uncle Tom
I do got a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob
Who shoots himself in his leg with his own gun
I did get jumped by all six of you chumps
And Wink did fuck my girl
I’m still standing here screaming, “Fuck the Free World!”
Don’t ever try to judge me, dude
You don’t know what the fuck I’ve been through
B-Rabbit, 8 Mile
At the end of the battle, B-Rabbit’s opponent has nothing left to throw at him and bows out of the competition in silence.
With the admission of benefit fraud Metiria Turei has put her ugly, uncomfortable truth on the table and left nothing for her opponents to throw at her.
I am interested to know whether the admission was a planned event, or an off the cuff statement which landed well with the public. If it was planned then that person needs a pay rise, if it was an off the cuff statement then Turei, and the Greens, hit that one thing that every politician aspires to, a grassroots movement, with a catchy slogan and a viral element.
However, as they say, a week is a long time in politics.
The feeling I get is that perhaps the ‘B-Rabbit’ moment was unplanned, yet very successful so, after it came out that she had committed electoral fraud, maybe Turei thought speaking openly and honestly about falsifying an address she was living at, to vote in an electorate she wasn’t entitled to, would add to the grassroots viral movement. It did not.
Falsifying ones address for the sake of voting in an electorate you are not entitled to is serious and very few people will have done it or at the very least, will have done it to add a vote to a specific candidate. Maybe people have moved and not updated their details etc…but Turei has admitted she did it to specifically vote for someone she was not entitled to. It was a calculated move to defraud the electoral system.
It’s also something that every politician can now put in their cannon and fire it at Turei without fear of reprisal.
We now hear that tonight the Greens are in turmoil with the resignation of two MPs who insisted that Turei resign over these two stories combined. I suspect if the latter had not come out there would have been no insistence by some for Turei to bugger off.
So where to from here?
If there are more Green MPs that insist on Turei resigning, then there will be significant issues for the Greens heading into the next six weeks…not ‘not getting into parliament‘ issues…but, along with the rise and rise of Jacinda Adern, the ‘dropping from 15% to 9%‘ kind of issues.
Voters do not like a sense of trouble in the camp close to an election, just ask Colin Craig, so if this story is not quashed very, very quickly it will be very, very bad for the Greens. How bad only time will tell.