This week has been pretty shit for National.
On Monday Nick Smith announced his retirement from Parliament. A leak of a Parliamentary Service investigation around “a verbal altercation in [his] Wellington office last July” was getting close to the reporting back stage. And the report was not good. And the Press knew something about it. As Smith said:
I was advised on Friday [the week before] that the inquiry and its details have been leaked to the media for release tomorrow. It is inappropriate for employment disputes to be litigated in public.
I will put on the record that I regret the incident, I apologised at the time and I apologise again today.”
Smith was replaced by Harete Hipango, who, shock horror, had her own employment relation problems last term.
When asked about employment issues involving her office she managed to achieve something with a significant degree of difficulty. She managed to deny knowledge of any employment issue and at the same time admit knowledge of an employment issue but then deny it was an employment issue because it had not made its way to Court yet. Read this slowly and be amazed at the digital dexterity that some National Party aligned lawyers can display.
Here is Newshub’s reporting of the issue.
[S]ources close to the party have told Newshub that Dr Smith’s replacement is problematic too – that Harete Hipango had cycled through staff in the last term.
Newshub asked Hipango if it was correct that the irreconcilable differences clause was triggered by two of her staffers in the last term.
“That’s news to me and those are employment related issues from the past, so it’s not to be re-litigated now, and in fact it didn’t go as far as litigation as such,” she said.
The sources told Newshub “they are replacing one bully with another bully”.
Hipango’s response: “Oh really? That’s interesting, that’s news to me. My response is that I’m surprised by that and I’m not a bully.”
National should be thankful the Jake Bezzant issue hit the media. They could engage in a ritual beheading and pretend they have the situation under control.
Although questions are being asked.
It is clear from this article (paywalled) that Richard Harman at Politik had received information in June and July last year suggesting that Jake Bezzant was not necessarily the shiny new thing that the National Party was looking for.
The allegations are mounting up. CV and corporate fantasist, someone who pretended on line to be his former partner apparently for personal jollies.
He is holding out and has not admitted any wrongdoing. But he has resigned from the National Party and announced that he will not again be a candidate.
You have to wonder how it was possible for him to get so far. If it was not for the sabotage job conducted by elements within the National Party as well as an outstanding campaign by Vanushi Walters this guy could have been an MP.
The common feature of this week is that all of the damage has been inflicted by leaks from within the National Party.
National operatives spiked Bessant’s campaign, they ankle tapped Smith and caused his retirement, and Hipango already has a negative vibe about her caused by some pretty unflattering comments making their way to into the public realm.
And Labour has sat back and not said a thing. The one response is to note that Louisa Wall’s private member’s bill will address the issues that Bessant’s behaviour is highlighting.
His disappearance adds to a growing list of National MPs and candidates who disappeared under a cloud because of what appears to be inappropriate behaviour. Remember the following?
I can’t be sure that I have captured everyone. But to that impressive list we can add Smith and Bezzant and I suspect Hipango’s employment relations practices will come back to haunt her.
Occasional Standard reader Matthew Hooton also thinks there is a problem. From this morning’s Herald:
… the common theme through National’s troubles is poor candidate vetting and selection, and a lack of seriousness when allegations emerge, whether of spying, sexual harassment, bullying, fake CVs, poor business practice or just plain old not being up for the job. That speaks to governance, identified as a serious problem in National’s still secret post-election review.
Goodfellow has been party president since 2009. He has taken a close interest in all key candidate selections and all long-term strategic decisions, and would be responsible for them even had he not. After 12 years, whatever shape the party is in now is his legacy.
In my opinion it is time for him to take responsibility and go, and for the party membership to elect a new board of competent people willing to deal with the current crisis — if they can find any.
National will achieve no long-term operational success until its members demand accountability from those they elect to run the party’s affairs.
These latest incidents indicates how bad National’s culture problem is. Who would have thought that gathering so many people who think they are born to rule into one group would cause so many difficulties?