OPINION: Stop mudslinging, for Botany’s sake

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross

By PJ (Phil) Taylor

For all our sakes, Jami-Lee Ross, shut up!

Your pop-gun accusations of wrongdoing are hardly astounding and earth-shaking, and what you’ve been accused of by the women you’ve deliberately targeted – the sexual harassment, bullying and manipulation – is shocking, disgusting, deplorable – and believable.

Just shut up – and go. Quietly. You were resigning – remember, on Tuesday?

And don’t run in the Botany by-election, you’d be a fool and embarrass yourself further. There is no doubt there will be a by-election.

People aren’t going to vote for a bullying, sexual predator.

The nation has had a gutsful of this news story this week, with fresh claims of foul play each new day. It’s dragged the good name of Botany through the mud into the sewer.

Former Times editor Phil Taylor. Times photo Wayne Martin

Even until Wednesday night, some locals may have shown some sympathy towards an undoubtedly ill Ross – with questions over who has been telling the truth and giving the benefit of the doubt – on the issues of behaviour, political party donations and bullying.

But by Thursday morning all sympathy was extinguished with the testimony from Ross’ victims of alleged sexual and abusive behaviour, revealed in the dramatic Newsroom.co.nz story. The accounts of the women are truly sickening. There could be more coming, which only makes one vomit again. So does the suggestion of more recorded tapes of MPs.

He owes many people the most wholehearted and sincerest apology, starting with his victims, and his family.

He must recognise his marriage is over, that his loyal wife is destroyed by complete confirmation that he’s been cheating on her and their two young children, and that his Nana, the loveliest, strong woman who he owes everything to, will be distraught. And plenty angry.

What Ross is failing to feel is the emotional impact of his actions on his family and the people who have had associations with him over long periods.

There’s a quiet air of sadness, disappointment and annoyance over Botany. His prominent office on Botany Road is locked and abandoned.

The list of people he owes unreserved apologies to is lengthy:

  •  His present and former staff members employed by Parliamentary Services, for his often rude and aloof behaviour that was often characterised by a severe lack of communication and patience.
  • All the party faithful that volunteered their time and efforts to the cause, from putting up billboards and distributing leaflets, to attending events and forking out donations of their hard-earned cash.
  • All of the Botany community, especially the people he’s had regular associations with and who have done things for him voluntarily, while he’s been paid handsomely by taxpayers.

To say Botany deserves better is an understatement. One of the newest parliamentary electorates, we’ve had two MPs over four terms, with both of them, Ross and his predecessor, Pansy Wong, resigning in controversial circumstances.

The Jami-Lee Ross on display this week is not the likeable Jami-Lee Ross who came to local and national prominence as the country’s youngest elected city councillor, for Manukau, at age 18.

I’ve known Ross for a decade and a half, since I started working and living in the Howick ward. We’ve had contact through the community newspapers I’ve been editor for – the Howick and Pakuranga Times, Botany and Ormiston Times (Times Newspapers; www.times.co.nz), and Eastern Courier (Stuff).

I’ve even worked for him, for a year between stints in the news business, as an electorate agent/MP support person in 2015-2016, employed by Parliamentary Services. I was appreciative for the part-time job and opportunity to work in that arena, to see how the public service and government operates.

I remember how Ross met his wife – indirectly through the Times; I know the respected gentleman who married them, the florist that supplied the flowers, and the photographer who took the pictures – and if memory serves me, I’m playing drums on the original music on their wedding video.

Many in our community have had more regular contact with him and valued their associations – there are scores of positive stories, results and times to recount. And he’s enjoyed great popularity during his time as an east Auckland public representative, a lot of that to do with his former party’s favour from 2008 to 2017.

The disappointment and sadness felt about Jami-Lee’s dramatic demise – what the people of Botany and the Howick ward are experiencing – is: What happened to that hard-working, honest, earnest, sincere and responsive elected member he started out as?

It’s said that we’re shaped by our environment, the circles we hang in, and in Ross’ case he’s only ever wanted to be a politician from an early age younger than 10, with a one-time side-line hobby of flying small aircraft.

But the change in character and sense of entitlement and abuse of power has gone to his head to extraordinary, unacceptable levels, and grown in dimensions, the longer he has been involved in parliamentary politics. The higher he went up the ladder, with more responsibilities and power, the more arrogant, self-centred, ungrateful and deplorable the behaviour became.

Ross was one of many people in the community that encouraged me to run in the recent by-election in the Howick ward for the vacant seat on the Auckland Council, following the passing of Dick Quax. He verbally endorsed my first-time candidacy in my unsuccessful bid running as a self-funded Independent.

Knowing how hard that campaign was, when you’re out there every day from dawn to dusk sincerely asking people for their vote of approval and doing it yourself, I’m in a position to know that Jami-Lee at present is in no condition to campaign in the by-election he’s causing in Botany.

Once a formidable, welcomed campaigner, he would now have to self-fund and run it himself, without anyone helping. Everyone is cutting him loose, which is sad and understandable.

The best thing Jami-Lee can do now is to shut up, get the medical help he needs, make his apologies and work out what he’s going to do next.

But he must recognise his political career is over. In the movie business, Harvey Weinstein has had to.

Ross is very persuasive and has been known to say “I get what I want”. But after this shocking week of the dirtiest politics, he should be reminded of the Rolling Stones song: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

1 COMMENT

  1. Agree 100%. JLR needs to shut up and crawl back under his rock. I used to respect him and he got my vote on several occasions, but not anymore. He is a total loser who has no place in our society.

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