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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Courage of Your Convictions

I have been reflecting on courage a lot lately. Courage is an incredibly rare thing in politics. In New Zealand politics, political courage can be like a needle in a haystack. Our political system, MMP, rewards loyalty to party hierarchy if you are a list MP, and a safety cushion of a high list placing if you lose your seat, if you are an electorate MP. Defying the party leader cannot only be troublesome, it can be fatal to your career.

Edmund Burke, the greatest Tory who ever lived (first-equal with Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher), once said that in relation to having the courage to stick to his personal convictions against the will of the people, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” In short, an MP that is not prepared to stand up to people they represent, and tell them they are wrong, is not worthy of representing the people.

Members of Parliament, in our representative democracy are generally better educated, less ignorant, and worldlier than the people they represent.  We charge them with leading our country and advancing our national conversation. Members of the National Party have had the courage to advance legislation to abolish capital punishment, the first failed attempt to legalise homosexuality, and to pass human-rights legislation. Members of the Labour Party have had the courage to advance legislation to legalise homosexuality, and legalise homosexuality, and give the right to marry to all New Zealanders regardless of sexuality.

It is then with profound disappointment that I read Maryan Street has withdrawn her euthanasia-legalisation bill from the ballot. Now the bill has been withdrawn, this issue will not be considered again in this parliament. The Labour Party does not wish it to be an election-year issue.  There is not much I admire about the Labour Party, but the one thing I do admire is their commitment and courage when it comes to the cause of advancing social liberty, even if they don’t get the concept of economic liberty. The right to die, or be assisted to commit suicide when you have a terminal illness, when your mind is going to desert you, when your own body will become your prison while you slowly, painfully die… should be an election issue. To do so would show they have the courage to stand by their convictions. It appears political courage is now in terminal decline.

What a bloody shame.


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