Did Gilmore do the right thing?

Aaron Gilmore should have stayed on in Parliament, to reinstate his reputation.

Remember Aaron Gilmore? The MP vilified, bullied and hounded out of Parliament by the political elite, cheered by the public, about a month ago. The guy whose political career, reputation, and livelihood was ended because he was rude to a waiter when tipsy.

When he resigned from Parliament he completed the circle of public humiliation. It was a tidy ending. We got our pound of flesh. We could start looking for another to vilify for mistakes we’ve all made, and will make again (because they’re fun).

It was tidier for Gilmore. He got the bully off his back. He got the chance to return to normal life and purge himself of the toxin of politics.

Sometimes, when faced with the might of the political mob, the best option is to flee for the hills. Remove the subject and you remove the object, forcing the political elite, and the public, to look for another.

Here’s five reasons why Aaron should have squared his shoulders and stuck it out in Parliament:

1) The issue had a half life of two weeks maximum. The controversy was so trivial it would have collapsed under its own weight. Sure, it would have remained as a meme of some sort for occasional jokes, but largely not in the public sphere. Aaron just needed to get through this period.

2) He could propel himself into a career. The issue provided opportunity to be propelled, Winston-style, into the public eye; to carve out an identity which could keep him in politics for a length of time and at a level, that was unlikely to happen otherwise. The situation was ripe with possibilities: go independent, go rogue, go populist… but he’d need help and imagination to do that.

3) He could fix his reputation. Staying would give him time, and a platform, to show that he did not deserve the opprobrium. He could knuckle down and work as a solidly contributing backbencher. It’s unlikely National was going to let him have a career if he stayed, but it’s just as unlikely, despite what he was probably told, that he’s going to get a political career by leaving. 

4) He could remain employed. I don’t know what his income options were or what he is doing now. But frankly, it’s not right to get hounded out of a job, and risk the viability of your family, for such petty reasons. Staying would allow him to earn an income and build a post-politics platform. It’s on the taxpayers’ dime, but given what happened, that’s not necessarily his concern.

5) He could condemn those who showed him no loyalty. He was  wronged by people he should have been able to trust, and by people who just saw the whole thing as entertainment. It would eat most of us up to seek revenge (and it’s not worth it), but if he was determined, the only way he could do that was from the platform of an MP.

I suspect his reasons for resigning were not good ones, and that the above options were not readily apparent in the tumult of the times.

As distance grows between those terrible days, I would imagine that the best reason for leaving is becoming apparent to him: that the triviality and shallowness that drives public humiliation is not something that a sane or sober person wants part of.

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