It was revealed yesterday that Karen Price, David Cunliffe’s wife, had recently taken to Twitter. But it seems that she did not make it clear who was behind the account. It seems the media became aware of the account, and who may be behind it, sometime on Tuesday. At that point they contacted David’s office for comment and they received comment that neither David Cunliffe, nor his staff, knew anything about the account. It was around this time that the account was apparently shut down. Karen issued a statement that backs up David’s statement that he did not know anything about that account:
Now I will take David at his word when he says the following:
I have no problem with politicians who don’t run their own social media accounts. In many ways politicians social media accounts, and in particular party leaders accounts, are more akin to corporate accounts than personal accounts. They are part of a brand identity that is trying to advance a cause. So it comes as no surprise that David doesn’t run his own account. Especially after the Christchurch By-election last year, when he tweeted on election day, in breach of the rules around campaigning on election day.
However the events do raise some questions. If Karen did this because she felt under pressure because of the focus on David following Labour’s election result, how would she react if she felt under pressure because of the focus on actions by David if he was Prime Minister? Would she have taken the same steps and anonymously attack opposition MPs? Or would she attack civil servants via an anonymous Twitter account? Actions on social media are indicative of deeper elements of people’s personalities. Karen has shown that, when under pressure, she may take steps that she later regrets. It has also shown that she is willing to take politically motivated actions without discussing them with her husband, what other actions would she be willing to take? Would she undertake actions as the wife of the Prime Minister without discussing them with him? Does she see the role of the partner of the PM moving towards a more politically active role? Tradition in New Zealand is that partners of PMs attend functions or trips with the PM, when needed, but otherwise they have no role. I see Karen’s actions as being a step towards a situation where the potential PMs partner sees themselves as having a political role, and a deniable one at that. Even though what has happened is mainly focused on internal party political issues it is something that the public have a right to know about.
Some have argued that it was just a silly mistake while under pressure. Patrick Gower has observed:
Would he, and others, be saying the same if Karen had been found anonymously leaking the same comments to the media and using the media to make the hits, instead of doing it on Twitter? Is it the medium by which she did it that changes the views of people? The Standard is attacking Clayton Cosgrove for how he has leaked things to the media and is whining about events. But if Karen had taken that route, would it still be seen as just “something silly when she was stressed” or would it be seen as more calculated? It should the actions that are judged, not the medium by which it was undertaken.
Some have taken to defending Karen’s actions, saying they are admirable and expected of someone defending their partner:
However there is a difference between defending your partner publicly, either via the media or an identified public Twitter account, and creating a deniable account and attacking both members within your party, and the media. Karen’s actions, were by her own admissions, questionable. But I believe there is more too it than just “stress”. She is an experienced lawyer, a partner in a firm. Are we really to believe that she does not have the awareness of how this would be seen if she got caught out? That she would not be able to foresee the damage this would do to David’s chances of getting reelected as leader of the Labour party? I find it hard to believe that she would do this without seeing these risks. I think that her actions were part of a calculated plan to achieve a goal. What that goal may be is unclear. But I don’t think these are the actions of someone “under pressure”.