Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas: a time of cynical self-promotion

Those who caught the news last night might have seen the ghastly footage of Peter Dunne, visiting poor families with either the Salvation Army or Wellington Mission (I didn't catch which one), singing carols and delivering food and gifts.

I don't mind one bit that social services who work with the poor and lonely over Christmas court media attention. They're politicising poverty as well as drumming up support for the work they do.

But seeing Peter Dunne jumping on the bandwagon wasn't so edifying. Until recently, he headed a caucus including various reactionary characters critical of family breakdown - including of solo mums, like the very one Dunne sang carols to yesterday in his Santa hat. Dunne is in government with National who, last time they held the reins of power, intensified poverty with a campaign against beneficiaries and the systematic lowering of wages. In light of this, it was all the more distasteful to see Dunne visiting a solo-mum headed family, who thanked him gratefully for the benefit of the TV audience while he looked awkward.

To be fair to Dunne, I think he probably is concerned with poverty (in a conservative and paternalistic sort of way). And I gather that he's a reasonably diligent electorate MP who likes to keep abreast of what's happening amongst his constituents. But I'm a strong believer in charity being truly charitable when it's not done for an audience. Dunne's Christmas day activities look suspiciously like the efforts of a man who barely retained his seat, to reestablish some local support.

The actions of the government Dunne supports will be the test of his concern for the poor - not his willingness to wear a silly hat one day a year.


backin15 said...

A fair summary. Dunne is probably well meaning but should be accountable for his words and deeds on more than Christmas day. You post immediately bought to mind the biblical advice about avoiding sackcloth and ashes... one of the few I can ever recall.

Hugh said...

This sort of thing is not unique to Peter Dunne, sadly. Even the Greens get in on the act.

Oh and by the way, I presume when you talk about 'politicising poverty' that's not really an implication that poverty shouldn't be a political issue?

I think what Dunne is doing here is actually de-politicising poverty. He clearly doesn't want to be asked 'so you brought them a turkey, but what have you done for them in terms of getting laws passed?'