The Illusion of Integrity

I have spent 48 hours being entertained by the spectacular news cycle about Simon Bridges and Jami-Less Ross.  Now I am just angry.

Dishonest people try and control stories.  Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross are as dishonest as each other.  It is not a matter of deciding which person is worse, or who is winning.  It is not a matter of making timelines and piecing together in forensic detail paper trails.  At the core of this whole controversy are two men whose morals are determined by their desire for status and power.  They appear to behave well, and talk about principles only because that is what is required of them.  If public mores required them to kick children to gain power and status they would do so.

It is the thing to understand about this entire matter and it explains most of it.  It explains: (1) why Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges were friends (they saw each other as politically useful), (2) why they attended functions to secure money from donors they didn’t really care about (to get money), and (3) why they were cautious around donation laws (so as not to create a bad impression with potential voters who might not like wealthy Chinese making donations.  That is: they can take money from Chinese as long as they don’t offend their staple voters by appearing to do so).

They do not care about ethnic representation in their party for the principles of fairness and broader perspectives, about treating people with respect, or about sexual assault and harassment claims.  They appear to care about those things because they know that appearing to care about these things look good.  They appear to care to gain donations and votes.  They want to have a photo of their party that has some non-Pākehā faces in it because it looks good.  They know they shouldn’t swear and back stab people in public because it’s not a “good look”, and they will not deal with serious sexual and physical misconduct allegations if they can get away with making deals and having people go on leave.  The accusation of vile behaviour – “brutal and misogynistic sex” – is not important to them: damage control is.

The tape that was released was not a “blunt” conversation; it was how those two men usually talk to each other.  It represents how they think.

All of the people in that party who have come on camera to support Simon Bridges are culpable in this thinking and behaviour.  All the MPs who Simon attacked on this recording who have said it doesn’t matter are condoning the behaviour of an arrogant man who lied to their faces about their worth and then attacked them behind their backs.  Loyalty is a thing to be admired when it is to an admirable idea, principle or person.  This is loyalty to ideas, principles and people who are not admirable.  This is loyalty to men who exploit others for money, who stay inside rules only because they do not want to get caught, who will hide awful accusations to protect their own interests, and who do not respect – and seek to derail – the careers of the people they work alongside.

They are both like this.  Everything they say is scripted and planned to play out the best for them.  When Simon Bridges says things like: “lying, leaking and lashing out” he is not responding honestly, from the heart, because he is dismayed or angry, he is reciting a little catchphrase someone has worked out for him that he hopes will catch on.  He does not know what to do.  Now the smear machine of National has turned and aimed at Jami-Lee Ross he has fallen silent.

Time is never up for this type of man, and this type of politics, but I hope at least it is up for these two exemplars of the very worst reasons to enter the House.  Good riddance, and shame on all their political supporters.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō