Unfortunate turn of events embarrass National Party

Unfortunate turn of events embarrasses National Party

The gaffe will undoubtedly tell on election fortune

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 8, 2020

Hamish Walker and Michelle Boag (Stuff Picture)

Michelle Boag has been a long-time friend of Indian Newslink and we have always regarded her as an astute businesswoman and that her success is directly related to ability to take wise and strategic decisions.

Strong Party Leader

We remember her years at the President of National from 2001-2002 at a time when the Party was being battered at opinion polls. She managed the affairs of the Party well although it took a more ambitious John Key to lead the Party to victory in November 2008.

Ms Boag continued her affiliation with National and was the mentor for Nikki Kaye as she rose in the Party ranks and was the chief-architect of her victory in the Central Auckland electorate.

It is therefore really unfortunate that she slipped – rather badly – by sending the list of Covid-19 patients (some 19 of them), to National MP Hamish Walker.

Mr Walker, already under a cloud for his perceived ‘racist remarks’ over arriving passengers from India, Pakistan and Korea, did what is totally acceptable – he leaked the list to mainstream media.

New Zealand may boast of a ferociously independent media but the country can also be proud of the integrity and moral responsibility of the media.

Thusly, the list was never publicised.

Lost credibility

The incident brings to the fore several points which New Zealanders have been raising with us, in other media and during talkback shows.

Some National Party MPs have lost their credibility by leaking information over the past few weeks to slam the government, saying that they got the information ‘from a well-known source.’

While they have the right to hold the government to account and score political points, especially with the general election less 12 weeks away, it is despicable that they used New Zealanders affected by Covid-19 as a pawn in their game.

All health-related data are private and anyone who comes into ownership of such information is expected to contact the authorities and ensure that the damage is limited.

To share it with the media is unforgivable.

The government has appointed a high-powered inquiry into the breach of privacy of people who have tested positive for Covid-19. The Inquiry is being headed by Michael Heron, QC and will be completed within three weeks.

Walker steps down

National Party Leader Todd Muller, who has been slamming the government since he assumed charge on May 22, 2020, is now on the backfoot.

He called the actions of Mr Walker as ‘an error in judgement’ and stripped him of his portfolios immediately and after pressure started mounting, wrote to the National Party Board to deselect Mr Walker as the Party’s candidate in the Clutha-Southland constituency.

The Board, which met this afternoon, could only reach one decision.

But Mr Walker made it easy for them by announcing that he was stepping down.

In a letter sent to National Party Southern Regional Chair Rachel Bird, he said that he will not be seeking re-election from the Southland electorate.

“I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland who I have loved meeting, assisting and representing over the past two-and-half years,” he said.

It is a pity that a young politician (he is just 35 years old) had to end his political career so suddenly. He had a bright future as a Member of Parliament and could have progressed high to perhaps even occupy the Treasury benches of a National government.

National Board apologies

It happens ever so often in politics in New Zealand that rising stars fall early, often on their swords. We have seen such falls in every political party in recent years.

National Party President Peter Goodfellow issued a statement that the selection process to replace with Mr Walker will begin immediately.

“On behalf of the National Party Board of Director, I would like to apologise for any distress caused to the individuals concerned as a result of the actions of our Members of Parliament,” he said.

Ms Boag would no doubt be reflecting on her actions, in trusting Mr Walker with sensitive information. As she mentioned in public statements, she did not expect the information to be leaked to the media and felt betrayed.

As well as quitting the post of Acting Chief Executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (in which capacity she had received the list of Covid-19 patients), she has resigned from her campaign and electoral roles for Ms Kaye.

It is a pity and a loss for National and Ms Kaye for Ms Boag was a campaigner par excellence.

But the incident should serve as a good lesson to all politicians.

It is good to debate and argue, because that is where democracy thrives.

But dirty politics has no place in New Zealand.

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