The Prime Minister’s decision to honour a commitment to his son rather than attend the memorial service for Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, the two soldiers killed in Afghanistan, was a no-win one.
John Key was criticised for coming back from a trade delegation to attend the funerals of Air Force men who died in a helicopter crash. He is being criticised for not going to the service for these soldiers and he would have been criticised had he let down his son.
But there is no dishonouring of the men, the sacrifice they made or their families. He went to see the families, privately, which would almost certainly mean more than having him as one of many at a public memorial service. Acting Prime Minister, Bill English, will be attending the service as will the Governor General.
I can’t speak for the families of the dead soldiers but I can speak as a member of the Bereaved Parents’ Club. Family and friends who could, came to our sons’ funerals. A lot could not but phoned or visited before or after, wrote, sent flowers or showed us they cared in some other way. Whatever they did was appreciated and none was regarded as displaying more or less care.
The children of all politicians have to put up with repeated absences of their parents and many, many times when the their jobs impact on family life.
No-one is in politics for ever and most of what even the best politicians achieve will soon be forgotten. But parenthood is forever and when they can politicians must be free to be parents first.
One of the significant contributing factors to social problems is the absence – physical and/or emotional – of fathers.
Rather than criticising him, we should be grateful that our Prime Minister is a man who not only knows but also shows that fathering is important and family matters.