In a lot of ways I would rather not write this post, but I have been reflecting on what happened yesterday in the Parliamentary debating chamber and there are some things I want to say. The incident itself is not a political matter It was an awful experience, and had potential tragedy written all over it. The man who tried to throw himself into the chamber just a couple of feet from where I was sitting, clearly is troubled. Like many people I see in my electorate office it sounds like he has major problems with government agencies, and he was agitated. He was heading over the balcony head first, to a four metre drop, onto a collection of desks, chairs and people. To me it was the act of someone with deep and difficult issues and problems. I hope he is now getting help to deal with those.
The actions of the security guards and members of the public who pulled him back and then had to struggle further with him were courageous and certainly saved him and others from serious injury. I know that all MPs are grateful for their actions. From our party, Phil managed to speak to the guard before he was taken to hospital and Annette visited him last night in A and E (where, I am told, he waited nearly 6 hours before getting medical attention), and I understand he is doing ok today.
But there is a political element, and it was introduced by the Prime Minister. I just can not fathom his reaction. I could not hear everything he said, and it is not picked up on video because his microphone was not on, but from talking to others, it is quite clear he was talking about the incident and saying “Labour should be ashamed”, and that is “down to you”. He then did a strange gesture moving his hand across his throat (you can see it at 2.06 on the video below). What follows from that is the angry reaction from Labour members, and what I think was a very measured and calm response from Phil Goff.
Emotions were running high for all of us, and I accept that the PM would have been as disturbed as anyone in the Chamber. But now that he has had time to reflect, would it hurt for him to acknowledge that somehow trying to link Labour to the incident was wrong, inappropriate and highly likely to cause extreme offense? He has said he was making some reference to DPS. I am not sure what the connection was actually, albeit a DPS officer assisted once the man had been hauled back over the balcony. In any case, that does not make it right to link Labour with the incident.
Parliament can be a high emotion, robust and stressful environment, and in the heat of the moment some terrible things get said. If Mr Key had come out and said yesterday that he was sorry for linking Labour to the incident but that it was a very stressful time, he might actually have gone up in my estimations. Unfortunately, he has gone down.