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Right or Wrong.
I’m worried about the pressures on good people in our government. At some point it should be ok that they’re trying to do the best job they can, without an opposition needing to try and break people.
Kiri Allan should, in time, become our first Māori PM. But the way things are going, with the pressures on her, she might decide in the interests of her mental health, and of her family, to do something else. And that would be a great shame.
National seem to take delight in breaking people. Sorry, scratch that. National boast about breaking people. We saw it with Claire Curran who was a decent person and didn’t deserve to be harangued to the point where she lost the ability to speak in a session of Question Time, such was the pressure she was under. All over what? Some missing entries in a diary?
Our system is chewing up and spitting out talented and passionate people. It is breaking them. Meanwhile the mediocre and the monstrous carry on.
Kiri Allan previously stuck up for her partner at RNZ, and opportunities for Māori broadcasters - good on her I reckon. There were the allegations over a donation from Meng Foon - National received a similar donation. Now of course we’ve seen news articles with concerns around her office.
Today the Department of Conservation confirmed it had raised “concerns” about the working relationships in Allan’s office more than a year ago and one staffer had left her office early as a result. Other government departments had also raised concerns.
The news broke soon after Allan posted on social media that she had taken mental health leave last week because of “personal circumstances” and work pressure.
Kiri may’ve had a disgruntled staff member, or they may have a valid employment issue. Either way there are processes in place to deal with such workplace issues. I don’t know what the situation was, there was no formal complaint. But what I do know is that at the same time National and the media were making this year-old issue into a current event Kiri Allan had put her hand up to say she was not ok.
That isn’t right. I don’t mean her putting her hand up, that is exactly what should be happening. What shouldn’t be happening is the political game being played by the National Party. Blind Freddie could tell you what is going on here. National have had a disastrous week in the media, a conference with a stale old policy that they hadn’t even bothered to cost. What they have chosen to do about it is throw Kiri Allan under a bus to take the heat off of them.
I’m not saying this staffing issue caused Kiri Allan to take time off, she was on leave when it broke. But it’s probably not going to help though is it? While you’re on leave due to your mental health having the opposition trying to turn an old employment concern into front page news? In unison, I might add, with a compliant media.
It’s the classic behaviour we used to see from Judith Collins. Destroy someone to take the heat off of herself. Without regard for them, their mental health, or their family.
You might recall she did it with Iain Lees-Galloway, just wrecked his career to distract the media from her own woeful results. Now I’m not going to defend what he did, I have a very low opinion of those who cheat on their partners, but was it really a scandal worthy of ending a career?
Imagine if every CEO in the country that had had an affair lost their jobs over it, let alone people who’ve been MPs over the years. The big scandal is that Judith Collins, after all her links with Cameron Slater, and Dirty Politics, and everything else, is still there. Not as a back bench MP but as one of Luxon’s front bench, his top ten ranked people who would all become Ministers if they win.
Prior to Judith Collins’ time as leader there was the brief period when Todd Muller was leader. We all know what happened. As the pressure became too much and it became impossible for him to do the job. I thought he was brave being open about his struggles and I admire him for that.
I’m lucky to have only experienced panic attacks a couple of times. Crippling is the right word. Your body essentially shuts down. It is not weakness in any way, you become physically unable to continue. It is bloody awful.
It sounds like Kiri Allan is taking the right course of action. I hope the opposition can now show a bit of class and do the right thing. I suspect some will but others, I’m not so sure. And all bets are off when it comes to David Seymour.
But this ultimately isn’t a question of left or right. This is very much a case of right or wrong. Whichever side of the house it is we need to stop attacking people to bring them down over things that are minor, human error, historic, or simply nothing to do with their political career.
I should warn you, some of you aren’t going to like the next bit.
I’m not going to be a hypocrite. Let’s look at the obvious case on the National side - Sam Uffindell. A laughing stock to the left because he sums up every stereotype of privilege and bullying we associate with National. But so what? People do stupid things when they are teenagers.
They take part in things that in hindsight, decades later, look awful. But should something they did as a teenager preclude them from taking a public role for the rest of their lives?
National could have been more open about things and front footed them, but when it comes to it I don’t think something someone did when they were a teenager should limit their ability to participate in our political system.
By all means we should challenge National on things like keeping the review private whilst they call for transparency from other parties. But as an individual what Sam did was decades ago, and whatever we might think of his politics he should be allowed to get on with his job without having it thrown back at him repeatedly.
I hope that wasn’t too unpleasant.
The thing we all know is that whatever Labour does they need to do it twice as well, to be considered half as good. Which is to say that if we expect the opposition to give people like Kiri Allan a fair go, then we need to give the likes of Big Sam a go. Even though the latter actually did something awful and it sounds like the worst Kiri is being accused of is being a tough boss.
Parliament should be a robust competition of ideas, and MPs and Ministers should be held accountable for their actions. But whether it is Kiri Allan allegedly being a tough boss a year ago, or Sam Uffindell doing what he did as a student, is that what our media and politicians should be focussed on?
As a society we make much of stopping bullying and treating mental health seriously. How do we do that when those in the most powerful and visible roles in the country are not living up to those values?
If we’re going to challenge the likes of Sam Uffindell on being a privileged jerk without regard for those weaker than him, then let it be for his current views and behaviours not what he did as a teenager.
If we genuinely think an MP or a Minister has acted so badly that it warrants investigation, then that investigation should play out as for any other person. Our politicians do not deserve to be tried in the media, any more than anyone else does.
Chris Hipkins seems to be handling things professionally and with the care that is due. He is a good man, and a strong leader. I can’t help but think of the image of Jacinda Ardern next to Kiri’s bed after her cancer diagnosis when things weren’t looking so flash. That’s what real leaders do.
What about you Christopher Luxon? What sort of a man are you going to be over the next few days? Are you going to let the attack dogs loose to harass and harangue this young cabinet minister over something you don’t really care about, all to take the heat off of your own mediocre performance?
Or are you going to try being a leader for a change?
I have confidence that Kiri Allan will get good support. That she will be back refreshed and ready to go. But I do worry that we are running the risk of losing someone who is in politics for all the right reasons - because they care about others and want to make lives better.
All to benefit the career of someone who is not in politics for those reasons. Someone who is motivated by personal ego, and above all by winning - no matter how dirty.
I don’t want to end on that so here are some words from Kiri Allan:
Over the past few weeks I’ve really been struggling with mental health and wellness. Triggered by personal circumstances, as well as other external things - even things like the cyclones having such a massive impact on our entire region. Sometimes things accumulate, and I hit a wall a few weeks ago. I kept going, showing up to events, smiling, giving speeches. But about a week ago, I had to be pretty honest with myself that I needed to put my mental well-being at the forefront of my focus.
I reached out to colleagues, friends and families to let them know where I was at. That was bloody hard. It felt a little embarrassing admitting I wasn’t doing okay. But what followed was an overwhelming response of aroha - and I am so glad I shared with people I love to help pull me out of my head.
So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been at work this week, it’s because I had to take some time to get some help and get back on track.
I’m feeling a lot better now - and if there’s anything I could share with anyone struggling at the moment - it’s to reach out, to friends, family and anyone that can help you to get the help you need.
I want to particularly thank my colleagues for their support, and my mates who dropped tools to just show up. It meant a lot.
So, I’ll be back at work tomorrow with a little skip in my beat - but honestly, it’s taken a little while to get there.
This isn’t a case of left or right, this is very much a case of what is right or wrong.
If we continue with the dirty politics, with the bullying, we are going to drive decent people out of our political system. Not out of any weakness, but because they are human beings who can only take so much.