John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Labour should leave dirty work to Peters

Winston Peters. Photo / NZPA
Winston Peters. Photo / NZPA

Here is some free advice for Labour. Leave the persecution of Peter Dunne to Winston Peters to handle.

The hounding of United Future's sole MP is fast resembling an old-fashioned witch-hunt.

The rationale for Peters' pursuit of Dunne is obvious - the weakening of National's grip on power by forcing out the MP whose vote gives National a majority without having to rely on the Maori Party.

But the means are beginning to sully the ends. Yesterday's chaotic scenes in Parliament - which included Trevor Mallard's walkout along with the subsequent exit in similar protest of NZ First's full complement of MPs - was the result of fury with Speaker David Carter's decision to allow Dunne to keep the extra taxpayer-provided funding that he gets as the leader of a parliamentary party even though that party currently does not have the requisite 500 fully paid-up members needed to qualify.

Sure, Carter might have got it wrong in allowing Dunne to keep the money.

Equally, the Speaker might be seen as only being fair in giving Dunne a "reasonable opportunity" to put the matter right. Whatever, it all fails to add up to the sort of constitutional outrage which supposedly justified senior Labour MPs shouting "corruption".

The net result is that Labour looks like it is very much party to Peters' campaign to force Dunne out.

Peters has already done enough to put Dunne's standing as an MP in question if the inquiry being conducted by former senior public servant David Henry finds that Dunne was the likely source of the leak of the highly sensitive Kitteridge report on the Government Communication Security Bureau to the media.

There is another telling reason for Labour to keep its distance from Peters. Would Labour be complaining about the Speaker's ruling were the political boot on the other foot and Labour needed Dunne's support?

Of course not. The public can spot such hypocrisy from miles away. And it does not like it.

Labour beware.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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