Editorial: Insults part of the job

By Annemarie Quill

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Green co-leader Metiria Turei in her Waitati home with her open wardrobe.
Green co-leader Metiria Turei in her Waitati home with her open wardrobe.

Resorting to commenting on people's appearance to make a point is unkind and lacks class. But there are some professions where it is a common occurrence. The gloves are off not just in the modelling or entertainment industries, but also in the political arena.

For females, the target is often our appearance.

Last week, a war of words began between Green co-leader Metiria Turei, and Senior Cabinet minister Anne Tolley over designer jackets.

Tolley said she was "insulted to be lectured on how out of touch I am with average New Zealanders by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle, and comes to the House dressed in $2000 designer jackets". Turei accused Tolley of being racist.

Tolley said this was "nonsense". Justice Minister Judith Collins said Turei was being a "sensitive wee sausage" and "a hypocrite". Yesterday Turei was on the PR defensive, photographed in the Herald on Sunday with a Warehouse T-shirt and no makeup.

More than a silly spat about clothes, a co-leader of a party that has desperately tried to shed its 'mad greenie' image has reacted poorly to something that was never about race. Turei's comment that she felt "bullied" seemed odd for a leader of an opposition party.

One cannot imagine a similar response from the likes of Helen Clark, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton or Angela Merkel.

In my book, Turei can wear what she likes. If she can afford it, and she can on her generous salary, then why not? Many women would. But they are not the co-leader of the Green Party.

Her reaction was criticised on Twitter. It was reported that fashionista Colin Mathura-Jeffree said a politician's clothes were a "first line of communication".

"The way you dress represents who you are and in an instant we recognise and judge the person accordingly. Dress to represent your people or at least wear clothes that fit."

Turei doesn't have to dress in a sackcloth and recycled cans. But if she wants to wear $2000 jackets and lecture on poverty, she shouldn't be surprised about political barbs. Collins doesn't come across well either in this but she gives as good as she gets. She also has often been called names, most recently by Labour leader Cunliffe who called her a "trout".

It is election year. The best jacket Turei could put on is a full metal one.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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