From B-Rabbit to B-ugger off. The rise and fall of Metiria Turei

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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.

Jacinda says “let’s do this!”

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Jacinda Adern talks to The Slightly Correct Political Show in 2014

Last week I wrote that Andrew Little’s decision to make public that he had thought about resigning was catastrophic for Labour as it showed weakness, which is something voters do not want to see in a future leader, the day after I wrote that piece Andrew Little resigned and Jacinda Adern took over as leader of the NZ Labour Party.

I think it is fairly obvious that if Little had stayed leader catastrophe awaited Labour at the upcoming election, however with Adern at the helm we might be up for a more interesting run.

As embarrassing as Labour’s poll results have been over the last few weeks, hovering around the mid 20s, there was still a mathematical chance that they could join forces with NZ First and the Greens to form a government. This means if under Adern’s leadership if Labour can achieve a small bump in the polls the chances are greater still that a left wing bloc, Labour led government could be a reality in the upcoming election.

If we have learned nothing else from the recent US election, we should now know that the media can play a significant part in helping put politicians names into the heads of voters leading up to the elections. Whilst not the sole reason for his election, it cannot be questioned that the free $5 billion dollars of media exposure given to Donald Trump helped to get him into the Whitehouse. Whilst the US numbers are unfathomable to a NZ audience, the principle is the same.

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Here is Stuff’s front page two days after Adern took the leadership. On that front page there are 9 mentions of her name and stories related to her. Bill English, our Prime Minister, is not to be seen anywhere and whilst the immensity of her coverage has declined, I still would suggest that there are many more ‘Jacinda Adern’ stories hitting our headlines currently that any other party or politician. This is nothing but good news for Labour.

So the question is can her new leadership give Labour that bump, can they hold that bump, and what does it mean for the Greens?

Long story short it is bad news for the Greens, because there is a sector of the voting public that saw no vision and leadership in the raft of dowdy, white, middle class men that Labour had tried since Helen Clark left office who have moved to the Greens. Some of these people will now see youth(ish), vitality and energy in Adern and come back. National had John Key who people ‘wanted to have a beer with‘ and on many levels Jacinda Adern has a similar vibe, she’s fun and friendly and has a good sense of humour and people will be drawn to her. She, along with Simon Bridges, were my political panel for a year in 2012 for a radio show I was doing and I can attest to her skills as being likeable and engaging. I already hear many of you sighing and saying that those are not reasons to vote for someone…and I actually agree…but it would seem that the population en masse will look at someone and some will make a decision based on who the person is, rather than the policies they stand for. Adern has this advantage over Bill English in spades. I have always been of the belief that we tend to vote for the leader…not the party. People voted for John Key more so than for the National Party…people will want to vote for Jacinda Adern irrelevant of the party she belongs to.

So will Labour see a bump. The answer is ‘Yes’

Voters get energised by a party who has disappointed for a long time making a dramatic changes that resonate with those voters. The last time we saw this was probably in 2004 when Don Brash made his now infamous ‘Orewa Speech’. National was languishing in the polls in the mid to high 20s. Brash made the speech, which resonated with the National voter, and within two weeks they were in the mid 40s, ten points clear of Labour. Yes they went on to lose that election, but if that bump had of happened 6 weeks out from the 2005 election rather than 20 months out there may have been a very different result. The change by Labour is not policy, it’s personnel, but the effect will be the same, it is dramatic and has shaken up this cycle significantly…”this is not the way politics is supposed to be done, changing a leader 7 weeks out from an election is madness!” Labour will see a bump from this change, and with only six weeks to go the question is will that bump be enough to change the polls significantly, will it be enough to offset any potential Green demise, and if so will it carry them to the election? I think the bump will definately be significant so the remaining question is will it carry Labour through only time will tell.

Jacinda Adern has re-energised this election cycle. For many political tragics like me who love to keep their eye on the American debacle and have largely been ignoring what’s happening in NZ this year, and now tuned in…as is the rest of the country.

Game on!

Why Len Brown’s Affair Should Matter to the Public

I have been reading with great interest the conversations over the last few days about whether Len Brown’s affair should impact his political career. That is an interesting question but what we need politicians to know is that what happens ‘behind closed doors’ does actually matter.

Here’s why.

Politicians ‘sell’ an image, people vote on that image, if that image is false then voters have been somewhat hoodwinked. If you set yourself a public ‘standard’ and then fall short of that standard there are downstream effects. If this information about Len Brown had been released the week before the election would he gotten re-elected? If not should he step down?

Mayor Len Brown has ‘sold’ his Christian credentials, and there is no question that there have been many, especially in South Auckland, that have given Len Brown their vote because of the label he has chosen for himself.

Here is some audio from 2010 when he chatted openly about his faith and his desire to emulate a political figure due to his integrity.

Mayor Len Brown chats openly about when he attended church and what denomination he was attached to, then Len was asked if he prayed.

 

The interviewer then went on to ask about going through trial and tribulations which at the time were accusations about credit card misuse

 

The interview then asked if his Christianity affected his policy

 

Len Brown finished the interview by sharing why Mahatma Gandhi was the most inspiring political figure to him.

 

I don’t judge Len Brown for what he has done, neither do I think he should necessarily be forced to step down, the whole purpose of this post is to point out to public figures that you need to stand by the standards you set for yourself, the ones you choose, the ones that help you win votes and when you fall short of those standards you need to be aware there are consequences.

There is an argument that says we are all failed beings and one can class themselves as a ‘Christian’ and have these failings. My advice to the political world is that you shouldn’t choose those labels then. I avoid the word ‘Christian’ like the plague, not because of what it means, but what people think should go with it, both positive and negative. Len Brown has chosen to let the public of Auckland define what kind of person he is by actively using the word ‘Christian’, it’s gotten him votes but then when you fall short of the publics expectations of that label you cannot claim that ‘no one has the right to know’. If you invite us in with this image, you cannot expect us to stay out when the image falls apart. I’m not saying that is fair…I’m just saying that’s the way it is.

I’ve been having the conversation about how people ‘sell’ themselves for ever. In 2010 when Jeremy Elwood and I ran a political podcast we interviewed Don Brash and I think we were the only people to bring up one of the most obvious questions to him. After talking about ‘behind closed door issues’ when he ran advertising that claimed he stood by his morals and integrity so I asked him how can we trust you, if your wife/wives can’t trust you?

Don Brash was selling a public image, that didn’t match up with his ‘real’ image. Your ‘real’ image is what happens ‘behind closed doors’.

Again let me say I don’t condemn Len Brown, in fact speaking with a mate this morning the phrase ‘feet of clay’ came out and I think that’s fair. We have all fallen short of the expectations of those around us, I would just say to political figures to be careful about your ‘public’ persona if your ‘behind closed-doors’ persona doesn’t match up.