Patrick Gower: Jacinda Ardern must rule out Metiria Turei if she won't stand down

Update: Since this piece was published, Metiria Turei has ruled herself out of a ministerial role, should the Greens form part of the next Government. Click here to read Patrick Gower's updated opinion piece.

OPINION: If Jacinda Ardern is to be a strong leader, then she must rule out Metiria Turei from any meaningful role in a Labour-led Government.

Just condemning Turei will not be enough - Ardern has to publicly say that the Greens co-leader will not be deputy Prime Minister or a Cabinet minister.

At the very least, Ardern must stop Turei from getting the Social Development portfolio.

The hard political reality is that Turei is truly hurting the left - she could be what helps keep National in power.

Ruling Winston Peters out of Government at a similar point in the 2008 election was a very successful move, and Ardern should be looking to copy that.

Ardern needs to "do a Key". There is no doubt that a big, courageous call on the Turei issue by Ardern would really resonate with the public and further her and Labour's momentum.

Obviously ruling the Greens out of Government altogether or breaking the memorandum of understanding would be stupid - but getting rid of Turei would be politically smart for Ardern.

The only other option to stop the pain is for Turei to stand down herself.

She is such a titan in the Green movement, there is no way the MPs could force her to go - it would have to be Turei's own call. It would be a massive call.

The latest findings in a Newshub investigation show she cannot be trusted and that the Greens have lost control of the story.

As the political cliche goes, this story is not going away anytime soon. Turei is once again taking attention away from Labour for all the wrong reasons, right when it is enjoying the Jacinda effect.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll says it all: 74 percent say Turei was wrong to lie to get a bigger benefit.

Newshub poll

Does Labour really want to be tied to a co-leader that 74 percent of Kiwis think is in the wrong?

But Labour should also look closely at the voter breakdown for more reasons it should ditch Turei.

Newshub poll

The 85 percent of National voters that say Turei is wrong are the very voters that Ardern and Labour need to drag away to win the centre. Why would Labour want to be connected in any way to Turei, given this?

Then there's the 67 percent of Labour voters who say Turei is wrong. That's 67 percent of Ardern's own people who will be happy to see Turei cut loose.

Then there's 77 percent of NZ First voters who say it is wrong. Labour had been losing lots of votes to NZ First under Andrew Little, it wants these votes back - it is clear they don't like what Turei did either.

Then look at the Greens - even 51 percent of them say it was wrong for Turei to lie. Labour should be looking to them as voters they can bring back.

The Greens will be horrified that the Turei has divided the party's supporters like this.

The only upside for the Greens is that they are still polling at 13 percent - that's very high, and survived her fraud admission. But the fear will be that the ongoing scandal drags those numbers down in a double-whammy when the Jacinda effect kicks in.

The specific numbers on the fraud issue show that Turei is nothing but a problem for Labour and the left.

And Ardern and Labour's strategists should be looking at these numbers and thinking - we can turn the Turei weakness into a strength if we jettison her.

Metiria Turei should also be looking at the numbers and considering her next step.

Patrick Gower is Newshub political editor.

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