Darren Hughes has been suspended from his shadow portfolios due to the continuing police investigation. Goff probably should have done this earlier, despite the understandable wariness of a leader can’t punish an MP on the strength of a complaint alone. As Key did with Wong and Worth, Goff has waited until the media issue became too big.
I think we can all agree that the accusation is serious and, without saying anything about its validity because I have no evidence regarding it, I think we can all hope that a just conclusion is reached with all due speed.
Sticking, therefore, to the politics, that it’s important in these situations to be consistent and front-foot things. Goff probably should have sent Hughes down to the press gallery to tell them of the situation and his full side of the story with the understanding that they wouldn’t reveal details that are sensitive to the police investigation (and I think the media can be trusted on that – they all know who the complainant is and haven’t named him). In fact, I have heard that his did happen, although I can’t state that for a fact.
I have sympathy for Goff in not standing Hughes down immediately when a police investigation was launched. People in the limelight do get accused of things and the police have a duty to investigate. This complaint may or may not be valid – I have no idea and nor do those who are trying to join the dots from what is public. But if a leader says they’ll stand down anyone merely for being investigated by the police that invites trouble. Most senior political figures will be investigated for something during their political career, whether it’s a violation of electoral law, or contempt of court, or the three MPs on the front bench who have been investigated for assault. Key didn’t suspend Nick Smith during his assault investigation.
On the other hand, Goff should have been up-front sooner. When it became clear that this would be a long-ish investigation, which is must have relatively quickly, Goff would have been wise to go public and stood down Hughes until the investigation was concluded because the serious and sexual nature of the complaint is such that it was always going to generate a media storm. Waiting was a mistake because Judith Collins was always going to leak this story when the commissioner, as he is duty bound to, informed her of the investigation.
By waiting, Goff has allowed National to dictate the course of events and line up follow-up muck (I’m sure there’s more of that to come), and the delay itself has become part of the story. Not standing down Hughes straight away only gave the story a second round when he inevitably did do it. There’s no need for the story to become about Goff’s leadership and it wouldn’t if that leadership was more staunch in its decisions – that is one thing Goff could learn from Key, he gives the appearance of being decisive, even when he changes his mind. Frankly, there seems to have been a little too much hoping that things would go away by themselves (although, this does show they genuinely accept Hughes’ statement that he did nothing wrong).
Now, some of you may have seen Cameron Slater and John Key staffer Jason Ede trying to whip up rumours a Labour coup in their echo chamber of a blog with half a dozen ludicrous posts this afternoon. I’ve not heard anything to suggest there’s any substance to this. It’s just two losers’ fantasy as far as I can tell. Bludger Slater is probably just making trying to make some money by moving the ipredict markets and betting against the chumps who believe him. I seriously doubt anyone is talking about a coup and, if they were, Slater and Ede have killed it. Goff is the man to lead Labour into the election and, hopefully, be the next Prime Minister. So far, nothing has changed that.
It’s telling that the muck-racking on this is being led by Slater and Ede, not David Farrar. One, Farrar has to be able to show his face in public and, two, Slater and Ede are tight with Collins.
[we’re opening comments on this post but don’t dare try to post any information regarding the investigation that isn’t already public]