Analysis: Why O'Connor's abortion post was a headache for Nats

Simon O'Connor

This is a story about political judgement.

Last month, a leaked document suggested the US Supreme Court may overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade case. Last week, that happened.

Last weekend, our politicians, along with millions of others around the world reacted to it. One MP’s reaction filtered through into New Zealand’s political discourse, dominating a significant chunk over the last few days.

That was Tāmaki MP Simon O’Connor, whose five-word Facebook post decorated with pink love hearts forced National leader Christopher Luxon to answer multiple questions over multiple days about his pro-life stance, reassuring the public nothing will change.

Amid a cost of living crisis – it’s the exact opposite of what Luxon wants to be talking about.

Luxon is trying to appeal to centrist voters, so they’ll vote for him to be Prime Minister at the 2023 election.

His biggest barrier is looking too conservative and too religious for your average New Zealander. It’s not rocket science.

So, when a big international news story breaks about abortion, the political instincts for a pro-life National MP should be to pipe down and protect your leader.

Jessica Mutch McKay

It’s no shock some MPs are pro-life, particularly O’Connor, who trained as a Catholic priest.

O’Connor has been around the block, but this was a blunder. Not helped by the fact he was unreachable for a few hours on Saturday because he was water blasting.

Yes, he performed well on Tuesday, stating his views and answering questions from media authentically (it could have been a train wreck), but these kinds of stories disrupt the momentum of a party.

He’ll have to be careful he doesn’t rock the boat too much and lose the support of his Tāmaki electorate committee.

This has been the first big test for Luxon and his new team. They could have been quicker to get the party message up on the weekend, but they get points for fronting up.

We asked to interview O’Connor and Luxon on Monday, however, only Luxon fronted. But on Tuesday they didn’t try and sneak O’Connor into the caucus room, putting him up before the press gallery. That bodes well for future issues.

Labour has been lucky that the Prime Minister has been overseas and hasn’t had to get into the mud on this story, but the Deputy Prime Minister hasn’t held back.

Labour knows it’s a weakness for National, so have sat back while the ball slowly rolls into its own goal.