That the events of this week make the Act Party look bad is so obvious as to barely warrant saying. So it's perhaps useful to also say that they also make the Green Party look good. Alone amongst the small MMP-era Parliamentary parties the Greens have, over time, conducted their affairs with dignity and decorum. They haven't blown up.
That might simply be because the Greens' ship has never steered through the destructive gravitational forces of government, but I think it's more than that. There have been, no doubt, rivalries in the caucus and factions in the wider party, but, even when Metiria Turei and Sue Bradford squared off for the vacant co-leader position, there was no sense of the off-putting weirdness that has befallen New Zealand First, to some extent the Maori Party and, most of all, Act.
Heather Roy's attempts to walk back from the explosive contents of the 82-page "note" she took into Monday's caucus meeting won't convince anyone that this isn't a party dominated by some damaged, unpleasant personalities – not only in Parliament but at large.
That said it might be perilous to take it all at face value. I was alarmed by this passage from the note about the draft defence document that Roy alleged was improperly taken from her office by Rodney Hide:
Much more concerning about this paper is the fact that the Minister of Defence, Wayne Mapp, has told me that he has been informed by a National Party activist that ACT Board Member, Nick Kearney, has a copy of this paper. He said Nick Kearney has shown the activist the paper and encouraged him to write an article for the blog ‘No Minister’. The activist has told me that he will not do anything with it – it is a sensitive document of national security significance and it was raised with Wayne Mapp because of this serious concern.
The Minister of Defence believes Rodney Hide has passed this paper on and he is upset that he could not trust a Ministerial colleague to keep a paper he gave him to himself. I have not passed this document to anyone – all classified or sensitive Defence documents I receive in my office are either securely stored in approved containers, returned to Defence or destroyed in the approved manner and I have a comprehensive record system to prove this.
Nick Kearney sometimes comments on this site, and strikes me as a decent fellow (yes, I think there are still a few of those in the party), so I was surprised that he'd be involved in such a thing. Indeed, I'm not at all sure he was. He posted this comment on Kiwiblog this morning, to clarify his since-withdrawn resignation from Act's board:
I resigned in anger at the lies and smears leveled against me by people in the party I thought I had confidence in. I penned the email immediately after the board meeting, in the heat of the moment. I was furious, and incensed at my integrity being impugned, not by opposition politicians (you expect that from them), but by fellow travellers, so to speak. I basically told them to f**k their party if that is the way volunteers of 14 years are going to be treated.
I then got home and talked it over with my wife, family and close friends. They were right: if you have done nothing (not nothing wrong, but nothing,) then don’t resign. So I withdrew it, which was accepted with relief I might add.
I now look forward to the next twelve months working cohesively to return up to 10 ACT MPs in 2011.
That’s all I’m saying on the matter, apart from challenging Trevor Mallard to repeat his statement outside the House.
I assume the Act-aligned blogs are awash with blood and bile at the moment, although I'm not inclined to go looking. I am pissed off though. I'm pissed off that a party as weird, dysfunctional and, not least, deeply unpopular as this one was helped not only into Parliament but into important ministerial portfolios by John Key's National Party. I'm pissed off that Roy, who had genuine credibility in her Associate Education role, especially amongst the special education sector, is being replaced by Rodney Hide, who has no credibility at all. I'm pissed off that a Minister of the Crown can be dumped in such a way, and the Prime Minister is his usual relaxed self about it.
And I'm actually pissed off that the classical liberals who could have formed a relevant, intellectually honest party – the equivalent to the Greens – allowed it from the beginning to be colonised by nutbars, creeps and angry social conservatives. Act could have been useful. Now, it needs to change or disappear – and I don't know which is more likely.
The recording of this week's Media7 Science & Technology Special went off pretty well last night – especially given that it was the first show to use the new production set-up in the TVNZ atrium, and, more so, that I've been suffering with a sinus infection this week. Vodafine's lamentable inability to operate a reliable email service didn't help either.
It features Peter Griffin, David Haywood, Rebecca McLeod, Alan Samson, Radio NZ producer Phil Smith, Bruce Macdonald and Vinny Kumar from the University of Auckland – and a robot called Charlie.
That's 9.10pm, TVNZ 7, tonight.