Comment: Gone but wrongs not forgotten

Clare Curran is supported by fellow Dunedin MP David Clark (right) at a media conference in...
Clare Curran is supported by fellow Dunedin MP David Clark (right) at a media conference in Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The resignation of Dunedin South MP Clare Curran as a minister yesterday will still bring distractions to a Labour-New Zealand First Government struggling to present a united face.

The Government will still face questions in Parliament about Ms Curran’s private emails and National will be sure to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who appears to have given her former flatmate a free pass on some of the worst offences.

Ms Ardern first reprimanded Ms Curran for meeting  high-profile broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld in a Wellington cafe without alerting her staff or including the meeting in her diary.

Ms Curran survived that incident only to  transgress again when she failed to alert her staff or include in her diary a meeting with Derek Handley, a front-runner for the chief technology officer post she was overseeing.

For that, she was demoted by Ms Ardern, surviving as a minister outside Cabinet only because of bullying allegations made against Meka Whaitiri, the next highest-ranking female MP.

Ms Curran was never suited to be a minister. She struggled in Opposition to build a credible reputation after unseating  MP David Benson-Pope in a contested selection  in February 2008, and was never confident under scrutiny. There have been  Dunedin South and St Kilda MPs with a long list of achievements, stretching back to Sir James Barnes, Bill Fraser, Sir Michael Cullen and Mr Benson-Pope. Those  MPs racked up a list of local and national political achievements, something Ms Curran cannot do.

During her time as MP, the Hillside workshops closed and the South Dunedin shopping precinct remains shabby. While she had some good ideas for new uses for Hillside, for example as a training centre operated by  Otago Polytechnic, they never came to fruition. She could not complete a task and was very defensive when questioned on any of her actions.

Her relationships with even the most accommodating of local media personnel were fractious, to say the least. Arriving late for interviews was stock in trade.

In fact, this reporter used to wait 10 to 15 minutes and return to the office rather than continue to wait for the then Opposition MP. As a minister, she has not been in contact.

Those in the technology industry say Ms Curran was highly consultative both in opposition and government. However, nothing ever came from the consultations. It was as though she could not bring herself to make a decision in case it was wrong.

Looking back, the selection of Ms Curran ahead of Mr Benson-Pope split the Dunedin South Labour organisation.

Loyalties run deep in Dunedin South and the sense of betrayal Mr Benson-Pope’s supporters felt about the defecting officials continued for years.

Let us not forget, former Labour leader David Cunliffe also demoted Ms Curran to number 30 of 34 Labour MPs while in Opposition.

After a tumultuous time as a minister, it is now time for Ms Curran to review her future.

By 2020, after 12 years as the local MP, it will be time for Ms Curran to seek other opportunities, giving Labour the chance to find a candidate who can rebuild what has been one of the party’s strongest electorates.

National has won the party vote in Dunedin South before and if the party can find a strong candidate to attract a personal vote, both the electorate and party vote could swing against Labour.

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