NZPA report that Labour may try and prove Christine Rankin was having an affair with her latest husband, before his wife died:
The Government was challenged in Parliament today to say whether it would remove Christine Rankin from the Families Commission if it turned out she had been lying about rumours swirling around her private life.
Labour leader Phil Goff and two of his MPs, Annette King and Ruth Dyson, raised questions about Ms Rankin’s appointment to the commission.
The appointment was announced a fortnight ago by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
It was followed by reports in Sunday newspapers that Ms Rankin was involved in the break-up of the marriage between Wellington real estate agent Margo McAuley and Kim MacIntyre.
Ms McAuley was found dead in October last year. Ms Rankin and Mr MacIntyre were married in January.
Ms Rankin has publicly denied that she was having an affair with Mr MacIntyre at the time of Ms McAuley’s death.
So what exactly did Labour say:
Ms Bennett has said she heard about the rumours before the appointment, checked them out with Ms Rankin and was told they were baseless.
Mr Goff asked Prime Minister John Key what he would do if assurances Ms Rankin had given proved to be untrue.
Mr Key replied: “I can only accept people at their word and I accept the assurances that Christine Rankin gave to the New Zealand public at her word.”
Later, during a debate on the Families Commission, Ms Dyson put a question directly to Ms Bennett.
“I want to give her an opportunity to answer this – will she remove Christine Rankin if it turns out that she has been lying over the last few weeks about allegations that had been made of her?”
Now Labour has obviously had people approach them and say they think (or can prove) Rankin was having an affair with hew now husband.
This is a two-edged sword for Labour. As Rankin has denied any such affair (rather than simply say it was a difficult time for everyone and not go into detail) then it can be seen to be legitimate to raise the issue – as it is now one of honesty, not an affair. And if Rankin has not told the truth, and it can be proved, then her appointment would be threatened – by the lie, not by the alleged affair.
However Labour do risk a backlash that people will shoot the messenger, and resent them if they get up in the House and say “Miss X saw Rankin kiss Mr A at 10 am on this date”. It’s yucky stuff, and it may backfire. I think there has already been a minor backlash with a number of people telling me they hate Rankin, but are appalled at the attacks on her personal life.
Personally I think Labour will try and prove Rankin had an affair – otherwise they would not have had three senior MPs question the Government in teh House about it. My pick is that they will not front it themselves, but leave it for a Sunday newspaper to run with.
Ms King said Ms Bennett had not adequately investigated the rumours about Ms Rankin.
“I know what due diligence is,” Ms King said.
“It’s not a matter of getting on the blower and giving Christine a call and saying ‘what have you been up to, are any of the rumours circulating about you true?’,” Ms King said.
“Due diligence is ensuring that when you’re going to appoint someone to the Families Commission, you do the work.
“And you, minister, didn’t do the work.”
This does cause problems for Bennett. Personally I don’t think Rankin’s personal life affects her suitability to be a part-time Commissioner advocating for policies good for Families. Half the Commisioners are divorced for instance.
But by Rankin denying the affair on TV, she has opened the door to make this an issue about her honesty.
Ms Dyson went on to raise Ms Rankin’s appearance on TV One’s Dancing with the Stars programme.
She said Ms Rankin’s chosen charity for donations from viewers was a trust called For the Sake of our Children.
“The people who texted `Christine’ to Dancing with the Stars were donating to an organisation that employed two people and did no research, no service delivery, but only did advocacy,” Ms Dyson said.
“And the two people employed by For the Sake of our Children were Christine Rankin and her son.
“That is a very unusual charitable organisation where you would go publicly on television and say `I am dancing for a good cause’ – dancing for your own salary.”
I am not sure if the description of the Trust by Ruth Dyson is accurate, but if it is, I would have to agree it is not a good look.
UPDATE: Karl du Fresne has a good column on the Rankin attacks.