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.