Clayton Mitchell: Why does politics have to be so nasty?

Opinion 13/06/2019

By Clayton Mitchell, New Zealand First List MP, Tauranga.

People in Tauranga usually ask how I cope with going from a team oriented, collegial business environment, to the petty, senseless and adversarial environment of politics.

Sometimes politics appears to be like the end of a four year olds birthday party when the sugar high has hit.

Politicians can be so precious, so temperamental and so horrible to each other.

That’s why I was so disappointed with National trying to score points off the government by releasing the budget early.

This is not what a good person would have done.

A good person would have immediately notified Treasury & Grant Robertson that there was a problem and told them to solve it. Instead, National published it and made it sound like it was the end of the government.

Unfortunately this is a pattern of behaviour with National.

They were happy to politick over the leak of Winston Peters’ private superannuation details after an accidental overpayment had occurred.  As soon as Winston found out about the overpayment he immediately paid it back.

The matter is now before the courts to address the alleged duplicitous privacy breach. National seem to think that this kind of shabby hit job is a good way of persuading the public they are trustworthy and honourable people.

This is not how things work in the real world.

There have been occasions where police were attacked by hood rats and I’ve jumped in to help them without hesitation, as other people stood by and did nothing.

I could have done nothing and justified my lack of action as not being my responsibility (like other onlookers did) but I didn’t, I did the right thing and stood up for people who needed my help.

Many of my business competitors have reached out to me over the years and given me a hand up, not tried to push me down. Most people in our community are like this.

It seems like most of the National Party are not.

Contrast this to my good mate & Labour MP Stuart Nash. In opposition, when he was Labour Police spokesman, one of the Prime Ministers security detail left his hand gun in a bathroom.

Unlike National trying to score points out of what was an honest mistake, Nash said “That bloke will be buying his mates in the DPS beers for the rest of his life” – the response of a good man and a normal New Zealander.

Good character is an important quality for our politicians to have.

We should be asking ourselves “What would a good person do?” and applying that rule to our politicians. It’s called integrity!

If I had been Simon Bridges and one of my staff had found an honest mistake by a Treasury worker accidentally making parts of the budget available before it should have been, I would have told the Finance Minister and told the Treasury. I would have asked them to solve the issue discretely, saving the embarrassment and feelings of dread the people in the Treasury would have been feeling.

That’s what a good person would have done.

That’s what just about every person I know outside of politics would have done. It is what a good bloke like Stu Nash would have done, even though he is a politician.

So why does National always have to play nasty?

Clayton Mitchell is the New Zealand First List MP based in Tauranga.