By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.
OPINION: Well, it would be nice to ignore the Jami-Lee Ross / Simon Bridges fight-to-the-death but that’s impossible. It’s drowned out all other political news.
It’s a saga that has it all. Allegations of lying, corruption, deceit, betrayal, abuse, sex, secret recordings, secret donations, bad mouthing MPs. I am sure I have missed some.
Paula Bennett's allegation of behaviour inappropriate of a married MP now looks positively old-fashioned and polite given the depths that have now been plumbed within the week.
And that's all from within one political party. It is unprecedented – and it’s not over.
Goodness knows how many secret recordings Jami-Lee has made. I am sure he has a little black book recording his colleagues’ indiscretions.
The tape and texts this week had no smoking gun but it's mortifying no doubt for Bridges to have his brutal assessment of his MP Maureen Pugh played on the radio and TV news.
There are no winners in any of this. And sadly, the most innocent of it all can suffer the most.
It must have been even more mortifying for Bridges to have to see Pugh and apologise. Pugh was very loyal and classy in graciously accepting his apology and making light of his comments.
Of course, she’s finished politically. Her opponents need only remind voters of her own leader’s assessment for their campaigns to succeed.
Pugh’s mum was great proving more loyal to her daughter than to the National Party in publicly leaping to her daughter's defence and ripping into Bridges. She’s a coaster and knows how to stick up for herself and her family.
Bridges’ assessment of Maureen Pugh was in itself shocking and damaging but largely lost in the melee of madness as two former colleagues and friends set to publicly destroy each other no holds barred.
The story of Maureen Pugh highlights how these public spats ripple out – affecting dozens, indeed hundreds of people, and for years to come. There’s Maureen Pugh, her parliamentary career trashed before it hardly starts. There’s her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her mum. There’s her friends and wider family, her supporters and her staff.
- No harassment complaints against Jami-Lee Ross, says Paula Bennett
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- 'Put up or shut up': Simon Bridges tells Jami-Lee to prove alleged electoral fraud
There are the woman alleging the abuse against Jami-Lee Ross. They have had a tough time but now it’s being re-lived and replayed for all the world to see. There are the colleagues, the staff, the party members.
And the families.
Jami-Lee has a wife and young family. I can't imagine the hurt and the suffering.
There are no winners in any of this. And sadly, the most innocent of it all can suffer the most. They don’t get to fire back. They suffer the taunts and the barbs with their dad the topic of conversation and the lead on the news.
It’s hard on our democracy and our politics too. The allegations and finger-pointing could confirms what too many already think: that all politicians are sleazy ratbags, just in it for themselves. While that’s certainly not my experience of Parliament, a blow-out of such epic proportions makes better news than MPs genuinely working together across party lines trying to make a better country.
Political life is life on a high wire. Everyone is watching wondering if you will fall. And when a public figure falls it can be spectacular as Jami-Lee is proving.
But there is one person at least to have come out of the melee looking good. And that’s Maureen Pugh’s mum. Well done, Mrs Brigg. I salute you.
Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.