John Armstrong: Field verdict shows perils of trying to play politics

John Armstrong: Field verdict shows perils of trying to play politicsThe Labour Party put Taito Phillip Field behind it some time ago. But there will still be relief in party ranks at yesterday’s guilty verdict which – barring possible appeals – brings an end to this embarrassing episode in Labour’s… [NZ Herald Politics]

John Armstrong climbs, quite rightly, into Labour over their taudry defence of New Zealand’s first politician to go down on corruption, bribery and perverting the course of justice charges.

Apart from slapping Field across the wrist for making “errors of judgment”, Labour instead held its nose and stuck by him for fear of alienating its large Pacific Island vote. Labour was wary of provoking him into holding a byelection in his Mangere seat. Crucially, he also held a casting vote in Parliament .

But the police began their own investigation. The smell would not go away and he was expelled from Labour after he made a few rash comments about possibly running against the party in last year’s election.

Labour still won’t apologise, instead they are actually refusing comment. Thispaints Labour as a deeply corrupt, almost mafia like organisation with omertà.

Like Donna Awatere-Huata, Field’s legacy will be as another illustration that no MP is above the law. However, his behaviour did not end up prompting what some MPs had hoped it would – a members’ code of ethics.

The biggest lesson may be to prime ministers to be more careful about playing politics when it comes to setting up inquiries. Labour thought it could get the outcome it wanted by limiting Ingram’s ability to investigate the allegations against Field.

Despite that handicap, Ingram produced a report which was damning of the MP. Ingram can hold his head high. The QC is alone in emerging from this affair with his credit enhanced.

The media should be dorrstepping Clark and throwing her words back in her face and asking her to justify them.

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