The Herald has been drooling over the salacious gossip. Yesterday's Herald on Sunday, a publication which I would consider unfit to papier-mâché a likeness of Adolf Hitler, carried this 'report' - and when I say 'report' I mean 'gossip column' - into the suicide of Margo McAuley. Today, the Herald leads with "Defiant Rankin slams 'vicious marriage critics". (Ah, where would headline writers be without the word 'slams'?) After this spectacle began with some relatively low-key 'pot, meet kettle' comments on a four-times-married woman telling people about 'family values' (whatever they are), Rankin has been forced to come out and deny having an affair with McAuley's husband - now Rankin's husband - as if adultery were still a crime on the books, and as if Rankin herself had pulled the trigger. The history of politicians and advocates of 'family values' meeting a grisly political end over revelations of their own infidelities and worse - think Graham Capill - is long and bloody, so Rankin's enemies in parliament and the media ought to be wary about casting the first stone.
So no, I don't think that Rankin's torrid, NW-friendly love-life should be a reason for her not being appointed to the Families Commission. I have plenty of other reasons for holding that opinion. Foremost has to be my doubts about the organisation itself - is it anything other than a quango that (deep breath) wastes public money (on, say, Rankin's salary) that might be better spent on social workers or hip-hop tours? I am deeply suspicious of any nanny commission telling me what a family is and what a family needs. In fact, it seems like just the sort of feel-good, achieve-nothing organisation that came out of 'third way' Labour governments here and in Britain.
But you don't need to agree with me on that. You can just accept that Rankin is unsuited for any position at the head of a large government body, least of all as an 'independent commissioner'. When Patrick Gower reports today that "they [Rankin and her new husband] were filmed dancing together on election night at the National Party's SkyCity celebrations days after Ms McAuley's death", he implies that this is inappropriate personal behaviour. I am considerably more worried about the implication that a card-carrying, event-attending member of the National Party* has been appointed by that same party to the head of an independent commission - let alone someone with the poverty of judgement to suggest "Oh what a lefty he is" of the notorious unreconstructed Marxist and fellow traveller Phil Goff. And that's to say nothing about the fiasco that resulted after her time at the head of Winz.
Sometimes the Herald finds stories where there are none; sometimes they don't report when there is one. This time, in my humble opinion, they've had one handed to them on a plate but missed the point entirely. In some sense, it's nice to interpret this as an end to National's honeymoon period with the media, and its generally matey relationship with John Key, but that interpretation may be untenable:
The appointment, announced last Monday, is said to have been bitterly contested within the Cabinet.O, vile machinations.
*Disclaimer: I should point out that I have no idea (or interest in) whether Ms Rankin is actually a paid-up member, card-carrying or otherwise, of the National Party. Her behaviour is more important.