Rodney Hide: Jami-Lee delivers a strategic distraction that National doesn't need

Opinion 29/01/2019
Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: Spare a thought for Simon Bridges. The National leader should be busy with his top team deciding where to point the opposition guns. His problem should be that he is spoiled for choice.

But that’s not what he’s doing. Instead his year has started where last year ended: with Jami-Lee Ross.

Jami-Lee is now outside the National tent but still lobbing hand grenades - and he’s very good at it.

Jami-Lee claims to have left his hatred and bitterness behind him. That's good. But then he outs his former paramour Sarah Dowie by declaring her under police investigation for having sent him a text - which he says helped tip him over the edge two months after it was sent.

The text was an unpleasant one that included the words “you deserve to die”.

Of course, “police investigation” and “MP” running together make for news. Jami-Lee surely knows this. And so the Jami-Lee Ross story has legs again with National MP Sarah Dowie named and shamed in the allegations.

His behaviour is not that of a gentleman. Jami-Lee is a cad. But we already knew this with his taping of private conversations. A gentleman never reveals a lady’s name. Or the contents of private conversations.

Politics at best is hard to follow. But affairs, jilted lovers, marriage break-ups we can understand. That's the stuff of soap opera.

And when the rich and powerful are caught up in tawdry affairs, what would otherwise be cheap gossip is legitimated and made news.

And so Jami-Lee has piled on the torment to Sarah Dowie, her family, her friends and her supporters. He’s also forced Simon Bridges to return to the Jami-Lee business - this time, about whether he supports his Invercargill MP, Sarah Dowie. He can keep his own counsel while the police are investigating. It will become an issue once the police have concluded there are no grounds to prosecute.

It’s a distraction Simon Bridges doesn’t need. His job is to hold the government to account. Instead he is forced to defend his own team and his own decisions.

Whether Sarah Dowie has a future depends upon whether she has the stomach to carry on and whether her own team in her electorate want her back. That will depend on whether she is a good local MP.

Certainly MPs have survived far worse and have gone on to have successful parliamentary careers. I would hope she sticks it out and her team continue to back her.

Otherwise she will always be remembered for Jami-Lee Ross rather than what she can achieve in her own right as an MP.

I believe Jami-Lee Ross should resign. He has taken the trouble to explain how unwell he has been. For someone that unwell, Parliament is the wrong place. He should leave Parliament for his own sake.

He should also leave for the sake of his electorate. He’s now unable to do much for his constituents having rendered himself a Parliamentary pariah.

He won’t resign. I fear the tragedy that is Jami-Lee has a way to go.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on Magic Talk.