Democracy is like a community food garden, it requires nurturing and the removal of unwanted weeds.
Something very basic has been lost sight of in the furore that is the Todd Barclay affair.

It’s not the employment dispute at the back of the affair.  That aspect is now done and dusted.

And it’s not the legality of Barclay secretly recording a conversation he was not party to.  That aspect will be probed and, hopefully, prosecuted by the police.  Of note, are that, if convicted, the punishment is two years imprisonment, and that section 55(1) of the Electoral Act makes it clear that: “The seat of any member of Parliament shall become vacant…if he or she is convicted of an offence punishable by … 2 or more years’ imprisonment…”

The matter that concerns me most, is our acceptance of the way that societal and individual morals and values have been trampled over.

Trampled in two ways.

First is the apparent ease with which lies are said and accepted.

I am not referring to the “white lies” that many will tell to avoid embarrassment.  Nor to the lies we tell our children about Santa or the Tooth Fairy.

No, it is that in tolerating bare-faced lies, in not demanding openness, honesty and accountability from our elected representatives, we jeopardise the integrity of our democracy.

The lies are apparent.  Barclay, in giving a “categorical assurance” that he did not use a dictaphone to secretly record conversations.  English, in not remembering who told him about the recordings.   The lies were established when, in April 2016, English gave a statement to the police volunteering that Barclay had told him of such recordings.

Second is the ease with which our laws are glossed over so that accountability is avoided by those with influence and power.

By not holding Barclay accountable at the time of this illegal act, English assured him the reins of power.  By still supporting Barclay, many in the National Party show they value retaining power ahead of trustworthiness.

Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is a bad system of government, except when compared to all the others.”  As imperfect as it is, democracy will only work for us if we have trust in our politicians.

That trust is built on self-evident probity, competence and integrity, things that are missing in the handling of this affair.

This week, we saw Prime Minister Bill English framing this issue as solely one of “two people falling out badly”.   In pushing that line, he is avoiding important issues of principle and to me, forfeits his moral right to govern our democracy.

Democracy is like a community food garden, it requires nurturing and the removal of unwanted weeds.  The responsibility for that nurturing lies with you and me, and must not be left with the holders of power.