There's nothing edifying about the Jami-Lee Ross story.

From the moment he decided to take on the National Party, it's been dirty, bottom-trawling, way-too-personal.

So, I don't blame you if revulsion was your reaction to this week's naming of Southland MP Sarah Dowie as Ross' former lover. It's gross. But it had to happen. And here are three reasons why.


The first is that police are involved. Police are investigating a nasty text sent from Dowie's phone to Ross', which ended with the words "You deserve to die". Ross claims the text contributed to him considering self-harm.

A police investigation is a serious matter. Especially when it relates to a sitting MP.

The media cannot protect an MP in that situation. When weighing up whether to name Sarah Dowie, the question the media has to ask is not "why name her?", but rather "why not?". There has to be a very good reason not to name a Member of Parliament, who must always remain answerable to the public who elected her. The default must always be that the public has a right to know.

This isn't a judgement on whether police will find anything to prosecute. That isn't the media's job to determine. It's simply a judgement on whether the public deserve to know - or not know - which MP the police investigation relates to.

The second reason is not one that I imagine would have weighed on the final decision to publish Dowie's name, but it's one that now can't be ignored. And that is the National's Party's disgraceful personalising of politics.

Ross is no innocent, but the Nats played dirtier than anyone.

It's National's fault that this affair is public. More specifically, it's deputy leader Paula Bennett's fault.

It was Bennett who surprisingly lifted the bedsheets and publicly accused Ross of inappropriate behaviour as a "married Member of Parliament".


Bennett's stunt appeared a calculated attempt to deliberately discredit Ross. It took a story that had been about alleged electoral fraud and made it one about sex.

It seems the National Party had turned a blind eye to Ross' affair when it suited them, then weaponised it when they wanted him gone.

If that behaviour is unbecoming of a male married MP, it must also be unbecoming of the female married MP involved.

Unless action has also been taken against Dowie, the party risks being accused of hypocrisy.

Further, Ross has accused Dowie of being one of four women who anonymously levelled sexual harassment allegations against him. If that's the case, she can hardly expect to be able to lob grenades with the protection of anonymity.

And finally, some of the criticism around naming Dowie has been along gender lines. Which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. Surely no one can argue with a straight face that it's fair game to out a male MP for infidelity, but not a female MP for the same sin. Each is elected, each is accountable.

Truth is, neither of them should ever have been outed for this affair. It's none of our business. But the National Party took it there first. So if you're angry with anybody that it's got to this stage, be angry at them.

Even though the decision to name Dowie is the right one, the pity is that it still feels part of someone's political play. The media is still being used to someone's advantage. And it's probably Ross'.

He's really the only significant player who wanted Dowie named. He tried to do that at least twice in interviews with Newstalk ZB and the Herald. It's people close to him who released the text.

It's sad that it's come to this. So many people have been hurt along the way. Marriages are over, innocent spouses are hurt, children are involved.

This is on both Ross and National. Ross for repeatedly trying to out his former lover. National for first outing Ross.

Heather du Plessis-Allan is on Newstalk ZB in Wellington, weekdays, 8.30am-noon.