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Marc My Words: What a tangled web we weave...

Marc My Words… 29 September 2006
Political comment
Marc Alexander
What a tangled web we weave….

When power becomes an end in itself, principle becomes an inconvenience to step around in much the same way as picnickers in high heels avoid cow pats. But sooner rather than later you might succeed in circumventing the calf's offering only to fall face-first into a bovine mother load. Lights, camera…and action! Labour is now doing the two-step but with shoelaces tied together.

Labour has steadfastly refused to acknowledge their complicity in the election overspend. They have floated the idea that even if guilty, they are quite prepared to change law retrospectively to acquit themselves of any legal consequence. The problem from their perspective is not so much how to deal with financial aspect of the overspend but rather, how to manage the strong public distaste for their remedy. It smacks of utter corruption and a perversion of the rule of law.

The rules are pretty clear: political parties may not use taxpayer funds for the purposes of electioneering. That means they must not solicit party or individual MP support. Labour, along with some other parties broke that rule but at least most of the others (National, Maori, Greens, Act and now purportedly even Winston First) have either paid back or intend to pay back their overspend.

None of the parties can claim ignorance of the rules (even if that was a legitimate defense - which it isn't) because the Auditor-General forewarned them in a report issued three months prior to the 2005 election. Most parties inadvertently broke the rules but they also took responsibility for their oversight - other than, at this stage, Labour and one of its supporting parties.

What labour has done, however, is to wage a singularly nasty campaign to obfuscate their own difficulties. Like a bunch of pre-pubescent school kids they jumped in the mud and personalized their attacks, dragging in the private lives of others. They also feigned surprise and indignation at the merest hint of being called corrupt even though that's exactly what many think about their proposed legislative remedy and refusal to entertain the notion of reimbursing the taxpayer.

They threw accusation after accusation against their detractors which, if the latest polls are any guide, are increasing daily. Helen Clark has grown so shrill in her condemnation of National (mainly for being effective as an opposition) that it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this issue (and the Labour response) has hit its mark and will doom this government's remarkable run of luck. Even Teflon eventually wears thin.

Clark's attempt to impregnate the public with an idiotic conspiracy involving the Exclusive Brethren has met with a justifiable disbelief from the public. Sadly for her though, Labour's attempt to fly the idea of going after their religious employment exemptions just look vindictive, nasty and even more despotic.

Similarly, screeching like a spurned housewife that National was selling policies for cash was as stupid as it was unbelievable. Instead they should be much more concerned about the credible charge of Union influence on their policies.

And just when things seemed to have simmered down a bit, Labour's allegations, like a boomerang comes back to hit them right in the goolies: Maori Party Leader Tariana Turia reveals that they turned down a $250,000 election funding offer if they agreed to support Labour.

Now, it seems hard to believe that anyone who was such a strong supporter of Helen Clark would offer such a large sum of money to try and secure political support, would do so without first Okaying it with Labour. That’s like ordering the hors d'oevres before the invites were sent out.

The Maori Party did the honorable thing and spurned the offer. No political party should ever sell its integrity or potential support in such a sleazy and anti-democratic manner. Of course the Labour Party is attempting to distance itself from these fresh allegations but they are very serious indeed. After all, attempting to bribe an MP is considered a corrupt practice under the Crimes Act, and it's hard to see much of a difference between that and bribing a party to support another. Had the election result been a little different (and the money accepted) the funds could have changed the hue of the bottoms now seated on the treasury benches.

Both Labour Party President Mike Williams and Cabinet Minister Maharey have said that they no nothing about the offer. Given the gravity of the accusation I would have expected the Prime minister to have given that assurance. Maybe, just maybe, she couldn't.


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