Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Politics as an empty gesture

In the wake of the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Pike River mining disaster (the result of so many failings on the part of this country that we should collectively all go off and take some time to reflect on what we’ve been doing to ourselves for the last 30 years or so), the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, resigned her portfolio, declaring nobly that as it had occurred ‘on my watch’, resignation was the only honourable course open to her. Noble indeed, the sort of falling on your sword act of one who believes that while not being to blame, one can still be responsible. Soberly we should, no doubt, applaud her actions, the dignified manner in which she has laid claim to the mea culpa. But perhaps I’m not sober because I don’t find myself applauding her actions at all. Instead, I rather suspect this is just another crass attempt to curry favour without actually bearing any real cost.

Now, to be fair, I don’t know the minister and perhaps she is genuinely riven with contrition. So it behoves me to justify my claim. Here, then, is why I find it so pathetically disingenuous.  If she doesn’t think she’s fit to be a minister for one portfolio, why is she fit to be minister of others? If the motivation behind the resignation were genuine, she would have resigned all her portfolios and gone quietly to the back-bench, there to sit with her head down in penance. Instead, all this resignation amounts to is a handy reduction in paperwork – one less thing for the minister to think about. As an added bonus, the government gets to present itself as responsible and caring and honest and all manner of worthy epithets. At a time when even John Key’s smile has failed to save the government from one piece of idiocy after another, coming over all honourable and responsible like this is a jolly good move. You can just imagine the government strategists nutting it all out and then giving each other self-satisfied high-fives for being so dashed clever. Perhaps I’m wrong, grown jaded by too much engagement with the world. Perhaps.

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