PM should hear Benson-Pope

It is unclear whether Prime Minister Helen Clark will be in Parliament at 5.30pm today when Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope gives his farewell speech in the House. But she should be.

He is calling the speech "his last as a Labour MP", further tantalising the party and voters in Dunedin about his future plans.

Since his failure to secure the Labour nomination for the electorate he has served for nine years, Mr Benson-Pope has remained coy about his future, leading to speculation that he will stand in some independent capacity while pledging his support to Labour.

Nothing he has done since he was dumped as the candidate earlier this year would have led Miss Clark to believe that the MP she sacked as a minister has been anything but loyal.

In fact, in an interview last week she expressed those same sentiments.

What has seemed particularly strange this past month is the way Miss Clark has stood by embattled New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Although Mr Peters has stood down as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he retains "the baubles of office".

Miss Clark had earlier sacked Mr Benson-Pope and Lianne Dalziel as ministers for misleading the public but this week tried to differentiate Mr Peters' case from those of Mr Benson-Pope and Ms Dalziel.

"That was a very clear-cut case of a lie probably being told to the media and to me and colleagues," she said.

That quote has upset Mr Benson-Pope.

He was sacked on the grounds he misled the public in his answers to reporters over the Madeleine Setchell affair.

Despite the general clearance of Mr Benson-Pope following a State Services Commission investigation, he remained on the outer and found himself up against the Labour machine when he stood for reselection as the Dunedin South candidate.

On the other hand, Ms Dalziel is back in Cabinet.

Miss Clark is due in Nelson this morning to talk to Grey Power members.

However, when she looks back on the last two terms of her three as prime minister she should find some room to thank Mr Benson-Pope for the legislation he delivered for her against all odds.

He pushed through the Civil Unions legislation, suffering personal insults in the process.

He changed procedures in the Resource Management Act and he secured some major improvements for the fishing industry.

But it is the social legislation for which Miss Clark should be the most grateful.

The Care of Children Act and the Social Security Amendment Act will be regarded by social commentators as legacy legislation for a centre-left government.

The Care of Children legislation ensures the rights, best interests and care of children no matter whatever family grouping they are part of.

The Social Security legislation ensures everyone on a benefit (such as sickness and disability) will receive case management supervision from Work and Income, not restricting the help to those on an unemployment benefit.

Nelson is a short flight from Wellington.

Miss Clark could do much worse than being on the House floor when a loyal Labour MP says goodbye.


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