We need to talk about Jami-Lee

Photoshopped image credit: Pixy

I am not going to wade into the matter of Jami-Lee Ross’s affair with Sarah Dowie, or his alleged treatment of other women. It is a sordid business, but Dowie will pay the price for her indiscretions with the end of her political career at the very least.

I am much more concerned with the explosive situation we are about to see unfolding as Jami-Lee Ross returns to parliament next month.

Ross has written to his former colleagues, ostensibly to assure them that he is going to be a good boy when the house resumes. Nobody from National has commented so far on whether they believe this, hoping that a stone wall of silence will make Ross go away.

It won’t.

Jami-Lee Ross has turned out to be the biggest asset that the Labour-led government has ever had. While the government’s flagship policies crash and burn, Ross has kept the media busy with scandals and secret taped recordings which show that, as far as the National party in concerned, he is hell bent on carnage. There is no reason to think that anything is going to change, despite his protestations to the contrary. With his political career in tatters, and little prospect of being employable anywhere in New Zealand, Ross has nothing to lose. National, however, has everything to lose.

At a time when we should be concentrating on the failure of Kiwibuild, the increases in poverty and homelessness, and the implementation of a punitive new tax regime, all eyes should be on the government, with the opposition holding their feet to the fire. National has some excellent MPs desperately trying to do this. But every time Ross raises his head above the parapet, the media, like a shoal of reef fish, follow him around to see what click bait he can provide. Jami-Lee provides an ideal distraction, in spite of the fact that the party that sponsored him and the voters that gave him a chance do not want this. This will not stop Jami-Lee. He just can’t help himself.

His is a sad story of a wonderful life unravelling, of illicit affairs and mental illness; but politics is a brutal game. It is unlikely that he really has recovered sufficiently to be able to cope with the rough and tumble of the house, particularly now that he will be totally on his own.

Simon Bridges has to act decisively, for the sake of his party and his own political career. He cannot have Ross sitting in the house day after day, reminding him and everyone else in opposition that there is an unexploded grenade in their midst. This will only be a distraction to an opposition that needs to concentrate on tearing the government’s record apart, as all oppositions are supposed to do.

Simon Bridges must diffuse the situation by using the one weapon that Winston has inadvertently provided. He must invoke the waka jumping bill, and throw Jami-Lee Ross out of the house.

Yes, it is hypocritical, as National opposed the legislation all the way through the house. Yes, it is tough on a politician in an already fragile mental state. However, Simon Bridges must demonstrate that he is capable of running a strong and cohesive government that can make the hard decisions whenever necessary. Unless he does this, Ross will just be a festering sore that National will never be able to shake off, because the media will not allow it.

If Simon cannot do this, opting instead to ignore Ross in the vain hope that he will go away, then he will demonstrate that he is not fit to lead the country. In that case, Simon will need to step down and allow a leader who is prepared to make the tough decisions to come forward.