The pay may be good, but many of our MPs face death threats and attacks on their homes, staff and families.
A study based on an anonymous survey of 102 sitting MPs found nearly all of them had been subjected to unwanted harassment. More than one in 10 had been assaulted, and a similar number had been stalked, or had received deaths threats.
One in three had suffered property damage at the hands of angry constituents, and half had been physically confronted by their harassers. Most had been harassed more than once.
Sadly this study doesn’t surprise me. Quite a few mentally ill people get obsessed with an MP, or MPs, and bizarre threatening things.
When I worked in the PMs Office, I would often see crazy letters alleging various MPs were aliens etc. I actually wanted to collate them and publish a book of the 100 craziest letters sent to MPs.
One received 1080 poison in the mail, another had their back door smashed and a bullet thrown through the window of their family home, terrifying their daughter and partner.
Attacks have involved a gun, a molotov cocktail, sticks and placards.
The authors of the study have called for better monitoring of threats to MPs, warning they are often lightning rods for a small group of severely mentally ill people who pose a serious risk to the public at large.
Conservation and Housing Minister Nick Smith has endured several death threats. In 2005, someone blew up his caravan with a molotov cocktail, while his young children were inside the family house nearby.
“My daughter had a lot of nightmares at the time, it was pretty dramatic,” he said.
“It’s one of those things that discourages people from choosing a career in the public light.”
He has also been threatened by people saying they would attack his family with a chainsaw, and poison his children with 1080.
I recall in the mid 90s a pharmaceutical lobby group ran an aggressive campaign against the Government over drug funding policies, with ads exhorting people claiming people would die and urging letters to the then Health Minister. Some of those letters were vile, including a threat to inject his children with AIDs.
MPs UNDER ATTACK
2012: A Canterbury earthquake refugee living at Waikanae Beach was charged with threatening to kill Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and an unnamed parliamentary staffer.
2011: A Palmerston North man was found guilty of threatening to kill Prime Minister John Key and his wife. The diagnosed schizophrenic said he would become a suicide bomber and blow the PM up because he was “attempting to poison everyone”.
2009: Key’s Helensville electorate office was attacked with a firebomb, and a staff member’s car was deliberately damaged.
2007: Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove’s life threatened on a website after he said he would crack down on boy racers.
2007: Green MP Sue Bradford received a death threat over her anti-smacking bill.
2005: National MP Nick Smith’s caravan was destroyed in a molotov cocktail attack.
The threats are bad enough, but the attacks by firebombs are of course even worse.