I get frustrated that something like Willie Jackson talking with gangs is such a political problem.
He’s not giving them money, he’s not preventing arrests, he’s just talking to them.
When did we develop such an objection to people talking to each other?
Isn’t half the complaint that all these people in power sit in Wellington all day long and never actually get out and understand the issues that they’re dealing with?
You can’t complain about that and then attack Willie Jackson or Marama Davidson or Paul Hunt the Human Rights Commissioner for talking to gangs to understand the issues.
Having said that, what I think and what the vast majority of the public think is not always the same thing.
And so, if I was in the media team in the beehive, I’d be calling Willie Jackson up and telling him "that’s the last time you meet with anyone wearing a patch".
That’s because this Labour government is locking in the public perception that it is soft on gangs.
Willie’s meeting the gangs. Marama - their mate in the Greens - is meeting the gangs.
Stuart Nash is pretending there’s no gang problem in Hawke’s Bay when there clearly is a massive gang problem in Hawke’s Bay.
Andrew Foster, their choice for top cop, is policing by consent nowadays and there's a sense that includes being a bit soft on the gangs.
And then no one is doing anything to avoid the nonstop flow of 501 deportees from arriving here and joining up to the nearest gang.
The headlines of gang members shooting each other in the Sofitel, and someone firing a gun in a viaduct bar in Auckland, and gang members shutting down a school for a two day tangi, and gang members on bikes taking over roads – that’s all feeding that narrative.
The public is rightly getting increasingly frustrated about a growing gang problem, and the impact on their towns.
And that’s not helped by Ministers of the Crown meeting with gang members.
So forget the nuance or explaining this away - just stop meeting with them.
Gang members can be talked to, but not by a minister in a Government already perceived as being soft on gangs.
Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.
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