The adage about the first casualty of war being truth is one that might often be applied to the political battle for hearts and minds, and of course votes.
A rather unfortunate example of this has been arriving in the letterboxes of Northland voters over the last few days, and it does no credit to its authors. Judging by the comments of people who have contacted me about a particular leaflet distributed by the National Party candidate, it could prove to be counter-productive, and discourage rather than encourage potential National voters.
One side of a leaflet that has been widely distributed is fairly standard fare – a photo of the candidate, his family and SUV, some standard promises about hard work, commitment, etc…. so far, so normal.
The mischief starts on the flip side, where the blue and white colour palette is abandoned in favour of black and white, and a most extraordinary claim is made, that only a vote for the National candidate ‘will retain the current number of MPs for Northland’.
This is abject nonsense, and the authors of the document must know it. The ‘current’ number of MPs ‘for Northland’ is actually zero – the electorate is temporarily unrepresented since the resignation of the former incumbent.
Just to be clear, I live in Kerikeri, and so under Parliamentary rules can describe myself as a list MP based in Northland, but if I were to describe myself as the MP for Northland I would very quickly find myself in trouble with the Speaker of the House, and rightly so. Only a person elected to an electoral seat can properly declare themselves as MP for that seat.
The outcome of the election of March 28th will restore the number of MPs for Northland to one, just like every other electorate.
This is not a trivial issue, or one solely of semantics. In my view, and that of people who have contacted me about this, the pamphlet is deliberately misleading at best, and outright dishonest at worst.