Island Life by David Slack


Ice-cold rabble rousing

Helen Clark will, now and then, and often on a Monday morning, turn to a spot of ice-cold rabble-rousing. Monday is post-cabinet press conference day. It is also the day the Prime Minister has her weekly chat on the radio with Paul Holmes and, in more recent times, a chat on Breakfast TV with Paul Henry. It has become the day to climb up upon your bully pulpit and speak plainly with the people.

The Sunday papers all dwelt at length on the sorry outcome of the Kahui investigation and trial. People were angry and frustrated that no-one would be paying for the death of the boys, and angry to hear the Police declare the matter to be at an end.

The Prime Minister knew what to say on Monday morning.

I certainly would urge them (police) not to leave it where it is because our society now has in front of it a case where two beautiful young babies were killed and we don't know who did so justice has not been done.

Gears graunch when the Prime Minister uses uncharacteristic language. From time to time you can hear the cue cards turning. That’s the price she pays for being authentic. She’s absolutely right when she avers that no-one will die wondering what she thinks. Here, it seemed, she wasn’t offering her own thoughts. Rather, she was purporting to embrace the undiluted outrage and emotional frustration of the voters as her own, and she was prepared to overlook constitutional considerations with which she is only too familiar.

Congratulations, then, to Marie Dybergh for having the fortitude to stick up for the separation of powers as she did today on Morning Report. We overlook the way the justice system works at our peril. The golden thread that lets ten guilty men go free rather than see a single innocent one rot in jail will inevitably have days when we will feel it has let us down. But the alternative is too authoritarian and arbitrary to ever be acceptable. The words the Prime Minister used were nuanced, but the tenor was not. It was bully pulpit, it was rabble-rousing, leaning on the police to go looking once more, perhaps at the deeply unlovely Macsyna. Let’s just assume that Chris Kahui was in fact guilty. If someone else should, under the Prime Minister’s urging, now be prosecuted and convicted, in what sense would that be right?

A more fruitful avenue to pursue might be to ask how an entire family, such as the group of adults that surrounded those babies in a fog of drugs and alcohol and neglect could be living such feckless lives. Fix that problem, and you might save the lives of some other children.

If the Prime Minister would like something less momentous but nevertheless equally outrageous on which to vent her spleen, she might like to consider that Porkometer in the Herald. If you thought the butcher had his thumb on the scales last week, wait till you get a load of today’s edition. It has totted up the budget spending and declared that Labour is promising 16 billion of ‘pork’ and National still just 1.5 billion. I won’t shoot every one of the many smelly fish in this pork barrel, I’ll settle for just the one. The four years of tax cuts that Labour are promising are, we have been assured by John Key, going to be at least matched by National. So that thin blue line in the Porkometer graphic of 1.5 billion could get at least 10.5 added to it. Surely.

Elsewhere in today’s edition they also have a photo of new protective clothing for the brave lads who have to disable bombs and open letters from Cameron Slater.

They look very snug and secure, I must say. In fact I think I might get one for myself, because I fear that at rate the toxicity of its bias appears to be growing, I many need to slip one on before I go out to the letter box to pick up my copy of the Herald.

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