It is an unwritten rule among the media and political elites in Wellington that MPs’ private lives are off limit. So last week when there was a threat to expose the “bed-hopping” behaviour of many of our leaders there was a tone of near panic among the establishment. MPs and journalists alike much prefer the code of silence that keeps the rest of us in the dark.
We are told the reason for the secrecy is to protect MPs’ families. It is a reason that appears noble but which is merely self-serving. Of course no one wants innocent family members to suffer the embarrassment of public scandal. However MPs who are unfaithful to their spouses have already severely harmed their families. Maintaining silence on their actions simply allows such behaviour to continue and be perpetuated. Indeed the secrecy on these matters in Wellington facilitates the dishonesty which allows such sleaze to flourish. Establishing a culture of transparency and accountability, and expecting high personal integrity from our leaders would in the long run be far more effective at truly protecting MPs’ families.
The code of silence also insults the public of New Zealand who have a right to know the true character of the people they are being asked to vote for. Many of the electors in Botany will no doubt have a very different view this week of the integrity and suitability of the MP they previously voted for. The Wellington establishment arrogantly assumes we have no need to know and such matters are not relevant to public life. This is a lie. Those who act dishonourably with those closest to them can hardly be trusted as noble servants of the public good.
None of which is to say that we should expect our leaders to be perfect. None of us are. Neither does it mean we should rule out candidates who know they have made mistakes in life. This is not about casting stones. It is about casting a vision for our people of what is truly noble, honourable and good. It is also about affirming those values which are critical to the wellbeing of our nation. If we want to rebuild strong family life in New Zealand it needs to start at the top.