It looks like National’s dirty politics team are at it again.
It seems pretty obvious that they were leaked a draft copy of the report into Meka Whaitiri, spent Tuesday claiming that she had caused bruising to the complainant and then overnight leaked to Audrey Young at the Herald a copy of the report. That way they will keep the story in the news cycle for another day.
It may be that the two events are not linked. But that does not seem very likely.
The practice is cynical but just what you expect. Elements of Labour have used similar techniques in the past. Business as usual for Wellington.
Jacinda Ardern’s request that we have robust democracy where people can also be kind is not going to happen.
It must be acknowledged that Whaitiri continues to maintain that she had not touched the complainant. The allegation is that there was an over vigorous grabbing of her arm that left bruises that were visible and have been photographed.
Presuming the leak is accurate David Patten, the Wellington lawyer conducting the inquiry, has decided that on the balance of probabilities the staff member’s version was the more likely explanation.
He has decided that Whaitiri did not pull or drag the press secretary outside from the foyer of the building where the meeting was taking place.
But he found it more probable than not that Whaitiri approached the staffer from behind and grabbed her by the arm and that Whaitiri spoke in a raised voice to the staffer.
Calls for Whaitiri’s prosecution are fanciful. This is at worst a low level assault over a short period of time and the allegation is disputed. And there are no eye witnesses. More likely than not is not proof beyond reasonable doubt.
And Whaitiri has already paid a significant price.
Similarly calls for Whaitiri being thrown out of Parliament are also fanciful. There are plenty of cases where MPs have done worse in terms of assaults on others. Gerry Brownlee is one example, Trevor Mallard is another.
There will be a major question about who leaked the report. It looks like there will be the circus of another inquiry into how the report became public. I hope that the inquiry is a low key below the radar one. The last thing we need is the circus of a Simon Bridges type inquiry.
Claims that Whaitiri should not be a Cabinet Minister in the future are frankly strange. Mallard and Brownlee both went on to hold senior positions for incidents that were worse than what has been alleged.
Unless there is a different rule for male politicians and female politicians.