Metiria Turei is now a martyr.

An amazing woman drummed out of office. A legend demonised by the heartless majority. A selfless voice for the poor. Lots of sad-face emojis.

This sort of outpouring of anger and grief has filled social media since Turei quit the Green Party co-leadership.

Mostly, the blame is being placed on the evil media and cruel New Zealanders who don't understand what it's like to live on the edge of poverty.


Some of the sentiment is bang on: many Kiwis can't imagine what it's like to scrape by on a benefit.

But some of the commentary is so way off as to be ridiculous.

Metiria Turei is not a martyr. And, turning her into one only continues the damage she started.

Instead of being a champion for beneficiaries, Turei has actually done a lot of harm to them. It wasn't so much her admission of benefit fraud that caused the damage. It was her smug attitude. It was her refusal to apologise. It was her sense of entitlement.

Turei will have confirmed prejudices up and down this country.

She may believe she has started a debate about poverty in New Zealand, but it's more likely she has driven people further towards the views they already loosely held.

She now represents the exact opposite of Ruth Richardson, which means few can now have a rational conversation about her benefit story.

Turei also did her own party a lot of harm. For the first time, the Greens were on the cusp of getting into power. But that dream must be fading as fast as a flying golfball.


The Greens have fallen from 13 per cent to 8 per cent in one poll, and you should expect them to fall further still. The smaller their vote gets, the less likely they are to be included in a Cabinet.

And the more drama they create, the less Labour will want to take a punt on them. All this disarray has given Labour the perfect excuse to lock them out. Again.

There was a time, one week ago, when the Greens had something no other political party in New Zealand had: an unblemished record. The Greens had seemed to put principles before anything else: ambition, in-fighting, power.

Now, they've lost the gloss. Two MPs quit in frustration at Turei. Then a party staffer tried to run a dirty-tricks reputation attack on the pair. And finally the leadership ranted and raved and called for the pair's expulsion from the party.

Once a party starts pulling itself apart, there's a risk it may just keep going.

There are divisions in the Greens most of us don't see: the members who care about social justice and the ones who wear suits.
Turei is the champion of the social justice side. Co-leader James Shaw is the leader of the suit wearers. The sides don't like each other.

They're constantly trying to drag the party in their own direction and constantly fighting the other side's attempts to do the same. In any party, that's a ticking time bomb.

Finally, Turei did her co-leader Shaw a lot of harm. The fact that he let her go public with the benefit fraud strategy calls into question his leadership. He didn't help that perception by later flip-flopping on whether Turei would quit or the two defectors would be welcome back in caucus.

What's more, she has left him alone to run a party of suit wearers who dig him, and social justice warriors who really don't.

It'll take a lot for Shaw to lift the vote. But if he doesn't, he'll be vulnerable.

To be fair, Metiria Turei is a loss to the party. She was warm, likeable and, truly, a voice for the poor.

But she's not a victim of martyrdom. She's a victim of a political gamble that she fluffed.