Toad from the Greens has an insightful piece as to why the centre-left lost power:
- The Taito Phillip Field Affair Allegations of misconduct against Field had been simmering since just before the 2005 election. Instead of implementing a proper investigation with the teeth to interview witnesses under oath, Clark implemented an Claytons inquiry that was widely perceived as a whitewash designed to clear Field. Then despite further very serious allegations, Field was retained in the Labour Caucus right through to February 2007, creating a perception of tolerance of impropriety and possible corruption.
Dead right. It was a disgrace, and even after the Ingram report they defended Field with Cullen saying he was just working harder for his constituents than National MPs did. Richard Prebble showed the correct way to respond to allegations of corruption around an MP – Helen Clark did the opposite.
- The pledge card Labour’s handling of the pledge card and the Auditor-General’s report was appalling. The should have simply admitted “we got it wrong, and we’ll pay the money back” (as the Greens did). Instead, they allowed the pledge card affair to drag on interminably, and were subjected to daily allegations in Parliament of corruption. They hadn’t actually done anthing that most other political parties had done, but their reluctance to own up to their mistake and put it right undermined public confidence in them as a Government. They only conceded to pay the money back after they had taken all the flak for resisting. And the attacks on the Auditor-General were disgraceful.
- David Benson-Pope Much like Taito Phillip Field actually, although the allegations were not so serious. The perception was created, through Clark’s continued tolerance of Benson-Pope through the “tennis balls affair” in which he had quite clearly been economical with the truth. He was finally dispatched in July 2007 after allegations of him lying to Parliament over matters relating to the appointment of a Communications Manager in the Ministry for the Environment. Clark said at the time, “The way in which certain issues have been handled this week has led to a loss of credibility and on that basis I have accepted Mr Benson-Pope’s offer to stand aside”. Pity for her that she didn’t realise he had lost credibility much earlier.
Benson-Pope clearly lied about the tennis ball incident, with 11 or so pupils recalling it. And the issue was not whether or not he was a perfect teacher – it was that he called his former pupils liars and denied an incidents. He created all the problems for himself by the way he went on the attack.
- The Electoral Finance Act This was handled by Labour in the most appalling way. The original Bill was so poorly drafted that Justice Minister Mark Burton deserved the sack for allowing a Bill that was such a shambles to come before Parliament. He was later quietly stood down, but by that time the damage had been done. Labour railroaded the Bill through Parliament, refusing to consider very pertinent submissions from organisations such as the Human Rights Commission or suggestions from the Green Party who were left with a “take it or leave it” option. This allowed the right to create the perception of the Electoral Finance Bill, and consequently of Labour, being undemocratic – a task which the NZ Herald took up with great gusto.
Here I will have a go at Toad. The bloody Greens voted for the EFA, and they voted against many good amendments that would have made it a lot better. They sacrificed any moral high ground on electoral issues with their shameful kowtowing to Labour. If the Greens had the backbone at the beginning to say we won’t vote for this at first reading unless you consult with all parties, then the EFA would never have happened. I’m actually getting sick of how many people on the left are now decrying the EFA, when they never spoke up at the time.
And while the final EFA was bad enough, I agree Mark Burton should have been shot for letting the original EFB through – that was the most draconian law I have ever seen with statutory declaraions needed to send an e-mail to a mate on a topical issue.
- Winston Peters Need I say more. Clark stood by Peters as allegation after allegation of impropriety and, in the last few weeks, even corruption emerged against Peters. In her first and second terms he would have been promptly dispatched, at least temporarily, for allegations of far less substance, but her continued tolerance of him as a Minister allowed her and her government to be tarred with the same brush as Peters.
Here at least the Greens can take a bow, and did put some heat on Clark. Clark’s legacy will always be tained by her disgraceful defence of Peters, and her total lack of concern with the evidence from the Serious Fraud Office and the Muerant papers about possible policies for cash.