If one day can be a long time in politics, what do you make of 26 years! An old adage comes to mind: Every dog has its day.
On Thursday, after 26 years representing south Auckland as a Labour Party MP, Ross ‘Spot’ Robertson said he will exit Parliament at the 2014 General Election.
For politicians, dignified exits are as rare as hen’s teeth. Wisdom would suggest, that when a politician of some vintage is presented with such an opportunity then she or he should grasp it with both hands and be seen to do the honorable thing. The benefits of preserving a reputation and legacy outweigh the early cessation of income.
So it seems a strange thing indeed for Ross Robertson to reveal he plans to double-dip: remain an MP while campaigning for, and presumably winning, local office.
The question remains unanswered: Ross, Why? Why wait?
On announcing to reporters his intention to bow out of Parliamentary politics, Robertson said his intention is now to campaign for the Otara-Papatoetoe local board in the Local Government elections in September-October this year.
Robertson said, if he wins a seat on the local board, he will “donate any money” he makes as a board member to a local south Auckland school – that is until he finally resigns from Parliament at the 2014 General Election.
But surely the people of Manukau East deserve better than this.
Surely they deserve to have a representative in Parliament whose political ambition, and intention, is progressive as opposed to regressive; a representative who is hungry to push and pursue the very best outcomes on any issue for the betterment of his constituencies, his electorate, his people, those who voted for him to represent their interests.
There is sense in the proposition that an MP who has his eye on another political prize should do the right thing and make room for another who is hungry to drive ahead with solutions to challenges that impact on an electorate’s peoples.
Surely Robertson should resign from Parliament… at the very least once local Government campaigning begins. After all Robertson himself said: “It is not possible to be on a local board and be an MP…”
Through his own logic Robertson has rightly stated to hold office in two courts – Parliament and local Government – is incompatible.
What good reasons exist to justify Robertson remaining?
- 1. Another by-election campaign will run-down Labour’s campaign fighting fund?
2. Robertson needs insurance, that should he not win a local board seat then at least he has Parliament?
3. Robertson needs the money?
4. Robertson is finding it difficult to disattach from his 26 year routine?
Regarding points 2 to 4 the answer is no. Robertson has shown himself to be an honorable member of Parliament without having ever ascended to ministerial status.
Robertson’s performance as an assistant Speaker (for 12 successive years) has been not only admirable, but he also has acquired a high well-earned respect from members of Parliament of all political persuasions.
Robertson has achieved a reliable reputation. His engagement with members, when greeting them in a host of languages heard spoken on the streets of his electorate, is a delight. All this presents a legacy well earned and a reputation worth holding on to. So why does he risk eroding all this by double-dipping? It just does not make sense.
Perhaps Robertson is standing in the firing line, potentially taking a reputation-damaging bullet so Labour can avoid a by-election, that it would win, and save the party some coin. If that is so, then he or the party should say so.
But as Robertson told journalists on Thursday: “It is time to have a new MP for Manukau East. I think I can be more effective in local Government.” Adding: “It is not possible to be on a local board and be an MP, so I will retire from Parliament.”
If I can be so bold, let me speak directly: Ross, now is the time. Bow out with dignity. Resign with honor, with your head held high. Local boards do need politicians with vast experience. The challenges in our communities are huge, sometimes they seem insurmountable. If your community needs you, it needs you now, close by, with your eye on the ball, with a zest that once gained you the affectionate handle ‘Spot’ (the dog) all those years ago.
As you said yourself: “We need effective local representation to protect our neighborhoods.” On Thursday you said local issues had become more important than national politics, but that you had loved being an MP for Papatoetoe.
You said: “I have raised my family here and my grandchildren now go to school here.
“The people of Manukau East have been good to me and have given me one of the biggest majorities in Parliament. For the last 12 years, successive parliaments have elected me to be one of the Speakers.”
At the very least, as a gesture of thanks back to your people, Ross you should donate your Parliamentary salary to a local south Auckland school – rather than : donate any money you make from being on a local board to a local school… until the next election.
Certainly, south Auckland’s Manukau East LEC has a list of impressive potential candidates who are seeking selection, who are hungry and match fit for political representation.
They are eager to drive ahead progressive solutions for the region’s peoples. Candidates like Efeso Collins and others are ready and waiting to serve their country. Labour, now it is time to make it so. You will likely be rewarded for it.