Metiria Turei

Equivocation and dissembling have been integral parts of political life. How should we judge them?

Among the sinners the drunk porter in Macbeth welcomes into hell is the ‘equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale’. Equivocation is a theme of the play; Shakespeare is thought to have been influenced by the recently written A Treatise of Equivocation by Jesuit priest Henry Garnet.

We all have our breaking points. Metiria Turei just reached hers.

Metiria Turei always acknowledged her decision to put a human face on the issue of poverty by revealing that she lied about her welfare entitlements some twenty-four years ago was a high-risk strategy.

The 2017 election campaign hasn't properly started, yet it has taken another twist as two Greens MPs chose their conscience over party strategy and broke ranks. But who's really been the most indulgent and how might voters react? 

Strategy vs integrity. The long game vs the short. Individual conscience vs the collective good. These are tensions at the heart of politics, tensions that create drama, and which can engulf a party, as they have the Greens right now.

Metiria Turei's admission about past rule breaking looks to have cost her a ministerial position, even if the Greens are part of Government after September. That's a pretty heavy penalty for being overly silly some twenty-four years ago.

While I can’t go so far as to claim Metiria Turei as a full friend, she certainly is someone that I’m friendly with. I’ve been to a party at her home, through my wife’s work with a local sustainable energy trust. I’m certainly on happy-smiles-and-stop-to-chat-on-the-street terms.

So a friendly acquaintance, if you will.

Some have rallied behind her. Some want to 'lock her up'. But Metiria Turei's confession of potential welfare fraud raises more complex questions for her and her party

The response to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei's admission that she lied to Work & Income (WINZ) while she was a solo mum in the 1990s seems to have split, rather predictably, along ideological lines. Saint or sinner, criminal or victim. But it's just not that simple.