It was always a possibility in the back of my mind that Metiria Turei’s admission of benefit fraud – and the absolute flood of hatred, hypocrisy, bullying and mucky insinuations unleashed upon her by people who’ve never faced a truly hard choice in their lives – would cost her her political career. I had hope we would be better than that, especially after she had so much support from the members of her party, her co-leader, and the public.
And now she’s gone. And I’m heartbroken.
But let us be absolutely crystal FUCKING clear about this. Metiria did not resign because her admission was political suicide. She did not resign because it ~wasn’t a good look~ or whatever nonsense my commentariat comrades want to spin.
She resigned because her family, any family, could not withstand the appalling, personal, vicious abuse being hurled at them.
And I just hope all the people with loud public platforms, who absolutely dedicated themselves to destroying this wahine toa over the past weeks, are feeling proud. You’ve done great work. You dragged a young woman’s parentage into the dirt for a political hit. You positively salivated at completely minor youthful transgressions and told the nation, unequivocally, that they were the blackest sins. You gleefully reinforced every terrible stereotype about solo mums being lying sluts on the make.
You refused to let the issue die and then turned to the camera to narrate dispassionately: “this issue just won’t die.”
You’re the real winners tonight.
There was an issue people wanted to die, though: the brokenness and heartlessness of our social welfare system. The reality, which has now been exposed and brought into the light, that we as a nation are not looking after the poorest and most vulnerable. We are not making sure every child born in Godzone gets three square meals a day and shoes to run the school cross country in.
We are failing children and their parents, and it is by design, and has been for thirty years. And boy, is it clear after the firestorm of the past few weeks that y’all do not want to talk about it.
Well, too bad.
I’m not letting this issue be put back in its box, to await the magical day when a progressive, socially conscious government, which somehow defies the odds to gain power without ever letting on that it’s a progressive, socially conscious government, pulls the rabbit out of the hat and says “ta-da, we’re going to fix the welfare system.”
The question of social welfare is literally the entire point of government. How does the government ensure people live a good life? Does the government do this at all, or merely ensure the poorest and most vulnerable get just enough gruel to make them useful cogs in the economic machine? Do we give a damn about babies? Yes, even the babies whose parents made a few mistakes in their lives?
Those are the questions we must answer. This is the policy which must be changed, and changed right down to its core, not tinkered at the edges for fear of frightening the middle-class horses.
This is the conversation which we are going to have, New Zealand, because there is solidarity here. #IAmMetiria does not go away just because you’ve bullied the woman who sparked it off the scene.
Thank you Metiria. I am so, so sorry that we are not the caring, compassionate country we like to pretend to be.
17 Replies to “Thank you, Metiria.”
The blackmail and witch hunts, of anyone who puts their head above the parapet, about the right wings evil and punitive treatment of the poor, is obviously becoming a feature of the right wing narrative.
The only thing the Greens are guilty of, is underrating the amount of bad faith, mysgony, racism, unjustified vilification of the poor, creepy interest in condemning young mothers and lack of compassion, in the right wing media and New Zealand establishment. Meanwhile. Blighting the lives of 300 thousand children, by keeping them in poverty, is legal!
OK, well, for starters it’s very hard to initiate a conversation like this without drawing meticulous attention to the circumstances you’re asking bigoted voters to excuse. Then you have to control the story for as long as you possibly can and toss it in a direction where you have some chance of other people protecting you beyond your ability to control it yourself. You need unanimous support from your colleagues. You need to understand the consequences of every decision, on others beyond the nameless beneficiaries on behalf of whom you’re advocating, like aspiring MPs on your party list. The downside for them is life-changing too. And you have to have in the forefront of your mind the experience of 15 years as an MP. It’s a bit hard to argue that after a decade and a half on the parliamentary payroll that you’ll wait for WINZ to ask for their money back, and that you don’t quite know yet how politics works. That all this came as a surprise isn’t about mean journalists hounding your family. It’s about putting your, and their, circumstances out there for scrutiny and crying that it’s all unfair. The benefit system is unfair and deeply flawed, we know that, it needs to change but to take this kind of stance and then not only walk away claiming victimisation, but quit politics altogether, is not a sign of a developed strategy to achieve a crucial objective – bettering the circumstances of desperate New Zealanders, Māori, Pasifika and Pakeha alike, and bringing an end to poverty among plenty. Sorry, I’m with Finlay Macdonald on this – they failed as a unit to work this one through.
“Be perfect, or never speak up for what’s right” is a very convenient argument, if one never wants the status quo to change.
This is a very necessary conversation started by a professional politician. Metiria entered Parliament in 2002 and has been present through Labour and National administrations. The decision to divulge details of her life in the early 1990s at this time was, she has said, to generate “cut-through” in a media environment in which the Greens were largely sidelined. That’s a reasonable call in an election campaign, but having achieved that, what next?
Unless of course someone already had this info and planned to out her in the runup to the election, so she took the initiative in an effort to control it. Understandable and not entirely her doing. But no one’s claimed that – not even Cameron Slater, who’ll claim anything that makes the left squirm. Seems the timing was hers.
Nobody’s claimed that, as you say, so your point is?
Simply trying to figure out why it caught everyone by surprise in the Greens and Labour. National we can ignore – they were always going to feign outrage.
There is a tendency to indulge in smug cynicism – “oh well I knew everything would be terrible, I’m the smarter person here”. There’s nothing wrong with expecting that the media, after the first few jabs, would actually talk about the issue instead of treating the story like a competition to see who could make them cry first.
Thanks for that Srephanie, Sums up what I was feeling. But it has pushed me fully towards a total break with the parliamentary system, being able to do anything for working people. Especially if your Brown, Disabled, or any other group the hateful section of our society delights in stomping on. I’m done dealing with the amoral, hateful and self righteous pricks in this society.
Sheesh can I spell your name right. Stephanie. Can I ask where is the edit button?
I don’t feel angry – I feel sad. Metiria was someone I admired and we need people that aren’t afraid to speak out……but this time she simply got it wrong. My family was on the benefit around the same time, I am grateful to live in a country that had a welfare system and I did everything I could not to abuse it and believe me that wasn’t easy. It was horrible to have to stand in a WINZ office and explain our situation to a well-meaning employee, it was awful to have to go in every week with payslips as my husband picked up some odd hours of work and we declared it and it was very, very frustrating when he got work and they demanded we pay back some money as by declaring income we were penalized – but we did it. We have a system that isn’t working and discussion needs to happen, but no one looks at the realities, and I don’t believe Metiria helped in this instance. We want to make NZ smoke free so we keeping taxing and putting up the cost of cigarettes STOP! Make cigarettes a whole lot cheaper. People are not giving up smoking, they are just struggling more to pay for them – and who misses out – the children. Make landlords have properties warm and dry – or fine them every week until they comply. Give children the books and equipment they need for school, and this includes shoes and coats. How about giving children school lunches and having an onsite nurse in school to help and educate. We need discussion and ideas, not mud throwing and abuse……..and the abouse came from both sides.
[I was going to reply to this, but you know what? This isn’t a space for unbridled bullshit, smears and a continuation of the abuse Metiria Turei has received over the past week. She did what she had to, to raise her baby and make a better life for herself, and if she were an old white Sir who ripped off millions of dollars from investors you’d have no problem with what she did. So sod off. – Stephanie]