Labour leader's strategy was straight out of the Helen Clark playbook.

Jacinda Ardern showed who's the boss by forcing Metiria Turei to rule herself out of contention for a Cabinet Minister's job in a Labour-led Government.

It was good politics for Ardern.

It enabled her to portray herself as a tough, no-nonsense Prime Minister in waiting. Brutal enough to make the hard calls and set standards for service in her Cabinet. Smart enough to send some faceless apparatchik to deliver the message.


Then postpone her press conference until Turei had "made her own decision" to drop out of Cabinet contention.

This bare-knuckle strategising could have come straight from the Helen Clark playbook.

Clark dispatched plenty of errant Cabinet Ministers to the backbenches for time out during her nine years as Prime Minister. She ran a tough and disciplined ship and used her chief of staff Heather Simpson as a political enforcer.

Ardern was a member of Clark's team and is already showing that elements of the former Prime Minister's mettle have been absorbed and learnt.

But if Ardern believes that Turei's transgressions - and we are talking about self-admitted benefit fraud here - rule her out of candidacy for her Cabinet, surely she must entertain some misgivings that that issue will continue to surface during the campaign? Add in the fact that Turei intends to continue to front the Greens' policy of raising benefits and getting the state out of domestic purposes beneficiaries' lives, and the potential for derailment of the Labour/Greens relationship remains.

The problem is that Turei's actions do not go far enough to cauterise any lingering political damage.

Not only will she stay on as Greens co-leader, but yesterday she made it clear she would continue to use her own martyrdom (my word) as part of her campaign to awaken public sympathy to beneficiaries' plight.

The problem with that approach is that as more and more revelations unfold, it appears (fairly or unfairly) that her actions were not simply about making a choice between "feeding her baby" or "complying with an unfair law". Self-interest may have gone a great deal further than that.


It is unfortunate that Turei did not take the more logical step, which would have been to also step down as Greens co-leader and clear the way for James Shaw to lead their campaign without distraction.

I was initially sympathetic to Turei's plight. But watching her performance on Facebook, I came to the view that she has reinvented a whole new meaning for "green washing".

This is unfortunate, as the time has come for a strong Green Party to focus attention on some burning environmental issues which get to the heart of sustainability, and champion well-targeted policies which will be picked up by business.

Shaw - who has earned wide respect in the business community - was standing by eunuch-like while Turei made her announcement.

But there are other Green MPs like Julie-Anne Genter who are credible, urban and progressive, who could embrace modernity and, over time, with Shaw forge the party as a potential king-maker at future elections.

This is also commented on frequently within the business community, where many leaders believe the National-led Government has been too slow to embrace sustainability. Particularly when it comes to the widespread damage to New Zealand's waterways through the intensification of the dairy industry, coupled with inadequate environmental practices and also a lack of focus at urban level.

Within the business community, there is a considerable clique of chief executives and other leaders who are broadly committed to "green" causes.

Sure, this will more usually be wrapped up in the "sustainability" catch-all slogan.

But CEOs like Air New Zealand's Christopher Luxon, Mercury's Fraser Whineray and Vector's Simon Mackenzie have been in the vanguard in introducing measures to reduce their companies' carbon footprints.

A party that mainstreamed "green policies" rather than those of the prior Alliance party could get good traction in New Zealand.

Instead, the Green Party has now been contaminated by the notion that "benefit rorting is OK".

This is not where Turei started out with her own good intentions. But each time she talks about the issue she compounds the damage.

How much simpler it would have been if she had first fronted to the authorities, written a cheque for the outstanding amount and then gone public with her prior plight.

The upshot of this week's events is that the Labour-Greens memorandum of understanding now means little.

The parties earlier signed what they said was a historic agreement to fight the National Government in the run-up to the 2017 election.

The one-page agreement said the parties would "work together in good faith and mutual trust" to defeat National. It left open the possibility of joint policy announcements or even a joint campaign.

Ardern's coronation as Labour leader has changed the dynamic.

Instead of two "losers" joining up to increase their electoral clout, Labour is now on a roll; the Greens will be less appealing to the centre ground.

Spare a thought for the authorities in all of this.

New Zealand elections have exposed all sorts of unethical behaviour, particularly attempts by the parties themselves to rort the system for taxpayer funds.

Police have investigated. Criminal charges have not been laid even where prima facie cases exist.

There will be a great deal of thought before charges (if any) are laid in Turei's case.