Opinion: That Stuart Nash had to be sacked now is an utter failure of leadership by the Prime Minister.
It’s the action Chris Hipkins should have taken after Nash’s first offence, definitely after the second or even third offence.
That he waited til the fourth makes him a sucker and he needs to own his shortfall here as PM.
You might argue that a good guy gives second chances and you’d be right, but not in this case.
This was a case of political naivety and poor leadership.
Hipkins is at his best when he’s at his most ruthless - whether you agree with his decisions or not - his political compass points sharp North. He’s usually pretty good at making fast, decisive, politically astute and broadly popular decisions.
On Nash, he let his guard down and trusted someone he shouldn’t have trusted - and it looks weak rather than charitable.
Just remember how Nash handled the fallout of that first offence - he outed himself on the radio, seemingly unaware there was even a problem with dialling up the Police Commissioner to give him advice about a prosecution. His brazen ignorance fast became defiance when questioned by the media. There was no contrition there. Nash didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. We were the idiots for daring to question his autonomy.
Nash was stripped of his Police portfolio but that was all despite the cabinet manual making it clear no minister can intervene with constabulary independence. Being Police Minister had nothing to do with it.
Then we learnt of a second offence - Nash was nearly charged by the Solicitor-General for this one and was given a telling off by the Attorney General - for his comments about the killer of police officer Matt Hunt.
Then a third offence - Nash shortcutted the rules, directly asking a senior Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) official to look into an immigration case of a constituent.
The Prime Minister demoted him in Cabinet. A nothing penalty. Hipkins screws up again.
Anyone who knows Nash knows he’s a brazen, bold, bolshy, blokey bloke prone to saying things he shouldn’t.
The PM should have seen this coming. It wasn’t just a failure of political leadership but Hipkins’ political foresight failed him here too.
He also looks gullible.
Nash took him for a ride. Hipkins had sought assurances from Nash there was no more naughty stuff, and Nash - all sunshine and lollipops - batted his eyelashes and said 'of course not PM, I promise...'
Hipkins believed that, looking the schmuck.
So a failure of leadership, a failure of decisiveness, a failure of foresight and a failure to judge character or properly investigate a problem minister.
The PM needs to own these labels and needs to own the embarrassment that comes with them all.
‘Cause it is embarrassing to have messed up so many times in so many ways.
That’s how Hipkins will learn from this and I suspect once bitten, twice shy, I pity the next minister who tries to get one past the PM. He won’t be walked over like that again.
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