Māori Party vice-president John Tamihere has come out in support of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her husband to be, Clarke Gayford. The couple has suffered months of personal attacks on social media and Tamihere says it needs to stop.
"This isn't about politics. This is about her personality. This is about her looks. This is about her integrity and ethics. This is about her partner being dragged into it."
"Never in the history of New Zealand politics, have I ever seen this pack attack happen."
In a post to social media, Tamihere made reference to "personal attacks" on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"These past weeks have seen Ardern’s face being superimposed on some rather distasteful material along with constant disparaging comments on social media, plus there’s that nutter who was arrested for threatening to kill her."
With the arrival of Covid, and the following restrictions and mandates, conspiracy theorists have attacked the Prime Minister online and in public, with many insulting placards seen at the various anti-mandate protests around the country. Tamihere says it's unfair to lay the blame at the feet of the prime minister.
"We all had to stop and lose our civil liberties. We all had to bow to vaccine mandates in an effort to win the war against Covid-19."
'Never lose our mana'
The Māori Party has an uphill battle against Labour at the election but Tamihere says that needs to be put to one side. He says decency and what's right are what he is talking about.
"Even though I'm staunchly in the Māori Party and we can only take votes from Labour, what we have to do as people, is to never lose our mana."
"I am the vice president of Te Pāti Māori and come the next election, the only place we can get votes from is Labour. However, we will win votes because of our unfettered, unapologetic policy programme. We will win votes contesting ideas, not personalities."
He says the onus is on everyone to call out these types of attacks online.
"When it comes to us, there is a standard, and if you attack under that standard, it's just low, horrible, and classless and you should be called out for it."
As disinformation spreads, the balancing act of maintaining free speech online while punishing hate speech continues to be a challenge for the government and for the prime minister especially.