Imagine this. You’re a public figure. An accusation has been made against you, not of any criminal act, not even of breaching any rule, but of displaying an attitude of entitlement to the perks of office. Others have been as guilty as you, some more guilty. But the world seems largely uninterested in them. Its focus is almost entirely on you.
Imagine that for months you are vilified daily in the press, on radio, on television, on the Internet, to your face, behind your back. Imagine that this relentless attack goes beyond what you have done to what you are said to be – a person without integrity, without conscience, egotistical, narcissistic, a sponger on the public purse, a waste of space. Imagine being branded ‘worthless’. Imagine not being able to open a newspaper, listen to radio, watch television, surf the Net without finding this judgement of your character somewhere expressed. Imagine it happening every hour of every day for months.
Imagine being chased down corridors by people with microphones and cameras. Imagine them camped day and night outside your home, their spotlights trained on your doors and windows. Imagine them following you everywhere you go. Imagine them calling out: Answer! Explain! Apologise! Imagine that when you do apologise, do try to explain, it is still not enough. You must apologise again. You must be publicly humiliated. You must not be left with a vestige of self-worth. And when all of this has finally been achieved, imagine how normal, how rational, how entirely sane, how capable of coping, even of going on, you might be.
I don’t know Chris Carter’s state of health, but I imagine he is unwell. I imagine he has been unwell for some time. And I imagine that his ‘unwellness’ may explain his recent irrational and self-destructive behaviour. As he emerged from his meeting with the Te Atatu LEC, Labour Party President Andrew Little said he had been asked to deal ‘compassionately’ with Chris Carter. I thought the word appropriate. It seems to me that if Carter has indeed been found guilty of displaying an attitude of entitlement to the perks of office and, now, of disloyalty to his party and leader, natural justice would at least require that he be credited with ‘time spent’ in the purgatory which must have been his recent life.
Before deciding his fate the Labour Party Council and Party Leader Phil Goff should imagine how it might feel to have everything you have done, worked for, achieved, reduced to nothing. They might then show compassion and generosity, by giving their long-serving MP time to heal, perhaps even to return, albeit under notice, to the party fold. How they deal with this matter will ultimately reflect as much on them as it does on him.