Jane Bowron: You think this election campaign is crazy, what about the last one?

Metiria Turei's plan backfired spectacularly, and looks to have ended her political career.

Metiria Turei's plan backfired spectacularly, and looks to have ended her political career.

OPINION: I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing that no-one can remember an election quite like this.

Sure, election 2017 has been pretty torrid, starting with the resignation of Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party and the heralding in of The Jacciah, (Jacinda Ardern) as the new messiah of the Labour Party.

And yes, the Green Party is in disarray after two MPs made good on their threat to walk out if co-leader Metiria Turei didn't resign, followed by the resignation of Turei herself. 

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But election 2014 got pretty wild, too. The larger-than-life MegaUpload creator Kim Dotcom begat the Internet Party, roping in former Labour and Alliance MP Laila Harre to stand for the party in Helensville. Dotcom also managed to persuade Mana MP Hone Harawira to join forces to become Internet Mana, and the whole thing went down the toilet on election night.

And don't forget that a month out from the last election, author Nicky Hager launched Dirty Politics. Based on the hacked messages of Cameron Slater, the book's revelations contributed to the eventual resignation of National MP Judith Collins as Minister of Justice.

However, Dirty Politics was seen as too dirty for most, the electorate washing its hands of it, finding it too incendiary, and it failed to bring about a change in government.

Don't forget the 2014 election campaign, when Nicky Hager launched his book Dirty Politics.

Don't forget the 2014 election campaign, when Nicky Hager launched his book Dirty Politics.

People have short memories.

During the ensuing debacle over Turei's admission of benefit fraud, the cry went up that her sin was not as great as that of the Double Dipper from Dipton, when back in 2009, National MP and Finance Minister Bill English had to pay back $32,000, after dodgily claiming a housing allowance.

Some defenders of Turei's, who are now awarding all white male MPs the cliche of being "male, pale and stale", are claiming that the furore over English's fiscal foul didn't come under the same intense media scrutiny as Turei's. There was a hell of a stink about it, forcing English to pay back the money, but the Dipton moniker stuck and is currently enjoying a revival as Winston Peters applies pressure to the PM over the Toddlergate text messages. 

With Turei out of politics after this election, it will be interesting to see what her next move will be. After her admission of benefit fraud, the Greens got an initial bump in the polls.

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However, that discovery, combined with the anointing by Labour of Ardern as their new leader, led to a massive drop in the polls for the Greens. New Zealand First also experienced a huge drop as Labour, under the new Jacciah, appears to be cannibalising the Left.

Meanwhile, Turei is loudly and proudly maintaining je ne regret rien, having achieved what she says she set out to do - to crack open a discussion about poverty and the hardship of living on the benefit.

If she had stayed with the Greens and zipped it sweetie, she would have caused a split between the environmentalist and the social justice factions. She left just in the nick of time as her 'my starving baby drove me to it' story began to unravel when her relatives stepped forward to say au contraire, they had helped her out when her chips were down and were angry about the alternative truth Turei was trotting out.

Instead of Turei as a victim of Ruth Richardson's harsh beneficiary cuts, she had begun to look like Metirial Girl, living, as Madonna warbles, in the material world.

But to Turei's ardent fans, all that hasn't stopped many hailing her as a veritable Kiwi version of Diana the people's princess and the voice for the beneficiaries. Come election 2020, don't be surprised to see Turei, along with former Alliance MP Sue Bradford, materialise as the BOP (the Beneficiaries Opportunities Party) as opposed to TOP, and go for the broke.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how many pity party votes will be left in it for the unco Greens Party leader James Shaw, alone again unnaturally till after the election when the caucus can bring forth a new co-leader.

Shaw has cleverly held out the olive branch to the media by standing in front of the angry mob baying for blood. Don't blame the media, Shaw advised them. They were only doing their job. Some of their interviews with Turei were tough, he said, but that was only right and proper.

Perhaps in this election of surprises, this is the biggest surprise and will go down in many a journalist's diary as that strange day when a politician actually stuck up for the Fourth Estate.

 - Stuff


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