Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blame the woman

So, who's to blame for forcing National to unexpectedly reveal its KiwiSaver policy sooner than it planned to? Commentators are quite clear: it was the woman's fault. Here's John Armstrong:

Wilkinson, who was marked out early for promotion from the current crop of first-term National MPs, has blotted her copybook.
And DPF:
One can only feel some sympathy for Kate Wilkinson, even if tempered with some annoyance. Some MPs are known to be prone to speaking before thinking, but Kate isn’t one of them. It was an uncharacteristic mistake...
Both of these comments strike me as more than a little unfair. Lest we forget, Wilkinson isn't just a backbencher, but National's labour and industrial relations spokesperson. She was thus entitled to expect to be told of upcoming policy changes to avoid making this sort of "mistake". Instead, she was mushroomed - kept in the dark and fed shit. To then be blamed by party mouthpieces like DPF for the "error" of echoing previous statements and sentiments of National's leading clique - following the public party line, in other words - simply adds insult to injury.

But ultimately this isn't about National's misogyny or the way it relegates its female MPs to junior roles relating mostly to kinder, kirche, and kuche. It's about National's undemocratic strategy of formulating policy in secret and keeping it close to its to its chest, refusing to inform even its own MPs until it is ready to spring it on the public at a time chosen to give them little time to think about it. As Gordon Campbell points out, this strategy is the very worst of Roger Douglas. And sadly, I suspect the fact that policy secrecy has just bitten them in the arse won't convince them to be more open and tell the New Zealand electorate what they stand for so we can make an informed choice; instead it is likely to lead to even greater secrecy, and a fear of saying anything from junior MPs in order to avoid the "mistake" of contradicting a secret policy they have neither been informed of or consulted on.