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What is the best way for a political party to handle a sex scandal?

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, July 22nd, 2020 - 61 comments
Categories: jacinda ardern, Judith Collins, national, Politics, same old national, sexism, uncategorized - Tags:

It has been a big couple of days in New Zealand politics.

Sex scandals do this.  There is too much titillation involved.  And they are difficult.  There are human lives at stake, the victim, the perpetrator, the families of each.  Everyone wants certainty and justice.

So how does the left wing and the right wing handle these allegations?  There have been a few recent examples.  We can work out what the likely future response will be.

There was Andrew Little and Mike Sabin although this example relies on the general handling of allegations of inappropriate behaviour because the details have never been publicly specified.  Little was told about issues concerning Mike Sabin shortly after he became Labour leader.  Instead of trying to milk the issue he had his chief of staff tell National’s chief of staff about the problems.

I am still impressed by this.  Andrew was the newly minted leader of the opposition at the time and the desire to get media attention must have been huge.  Instead he held off and trusted National to sort the problem out.

I earlier posted this:

Note the ethical decisions made here.  The Standard was not told.  The first post we did on Sabin was my post in late December based entirely on a Sunday Star Times Article.  Parliament was sitting at the time.  The opportunity was not taken to embarrass Key with questions in the house.  The issue was dealt with in a quiet apolitical way in the hope it could be resolved.

Can you imagine if National had the equivalent piece of information?  Slater would have been posting non stop on the issue, the media would have been briefed, and there would be an all out hatchet job done on the unlucky victim.

National is trying to say that the only relevant date is the date that Eagleson told Key and no one can disprove that it happened on December 1.  But this is so improbable.  The media were asking his office questions about Sabin in August 2014.  Do you really believe that the Prime Minister’s office would ignore media enquiries into an allegation that a National MP was being investigated by police for an assault?

The story is not over yet.  The Police “no surprises” policy which caused them to advise Anne Tolley of OIA requests concerning Maurice Williamson and his interference in the prosecution of Dounghua Liu must have kicked in.  What was she told and when?

What ever the outcome it is clear that Andrew Little’s recollection is significantly better than Key’s and that he really is a principled politician.

And there is the recent matter involving former National MP Andrew Falloon.

He was accused of sending inappropriate photographs to young women.  His resignation clearly confirms that there is something in the story.

It emerged because late last Wednesday night Jacinda Ardern’s office was advised.  This is significant.  I am theorising here but I suspect that Falloon has the contact details of young women sympathetic to the National Party on his phone and sent to them unusual graphics of dubious taste.  I am pretty sure no young lefties would provide him with contact details.

His behaviour was of such concern that a couple of weeks ago a complaint was lodged with the police.  I get the strong impression that the complaint to Jacinda only happened because the family were so distressed that the police would not do anything.

I understand why the police did not take the matter further.  The law relating to objectionable material is complex and disturbing material does not qualify.  It has to be really disturbing and the availability of the material has to be likely to be injurious to the public good.

This is difficult for people to understand.  But unsolicited pictures to young women are not illegal unless they are really, really sick.

Jacinda’s decision to refer the matter to National’s leader’s office is in the best tradition set by Andrew Little.

But some elements are probing to see if somehow Labour can be smeared with what happened,

Yesterday Tova O’Brien sent out this really unfortunate tweet.

 

Let’s see.  The Labour leader did not deal with the letter immediately because she was out in the country doing what good Prime Ministers do and meeting with people.  Note to Tova.  Prime Ministers do not wait at their desk answering emails.  They receive hundreds or thousands of emails each day and have staff and a system to handle them.  Expecting a sub 24 hour turnaround is just crazy.  I rarely achieve this as the chair of a local board in Auckland.  Expecting the Prime Minister to achieve this is just bananas.  I am amazed that the response did not take weeks.  I have a formal letter to the Minister of Fisheries that has not been responded to even though it was sent way longer than 12 months ago.

Did Judith fail the country?

You becha.  She put out a press statement suggesting that Falloon was resigning because of mental health issues and not because he had been sending dodgy material to teenage women and had been found out.

On one hand we have a leader that has led us through a terrorist attack and a world wide pandemic and has kept us in a stunningly good place.  On the other hand we have a want to be leader that told porky pies about one of her MPs who was ushered out of Parliament because he had done decidedly dodgy stuff.

And this morning Judith engaged in the dead cat strategy and said publicly that she had received an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by a Labour Minister and had passed it on to Ardern.

There is some attempt to suggest that Judith is now past her earlier ways of giving back double and is trying to live up to Jacinda’s standards.  If this was the case she would not have publicly announced the leak.  This removes her handling of this claim from the responsible category and transfers it to the wallowing in mud category.

There is another recent example involving an allegation of sexual misconduct and the use of it by National for political advantage.  That was National’s milking of the allegation of sexual assault made against a Labour activist.  The matter was fully investigated by the party and the conclusion reached by the QC instructed was there was insufficient evidence to back up the most serious allegations, critical elements of the complainant’s version of events were incorrect and she had admitted providing “misleading information” to the investigation.

I earlier said this:

Serious questions should be asked about Paula Bennett’s behaviour.  And why she rushed to judgment and politicised this for political gain.  It seems clear that she milked this for all it was worth and did not care about the complainants.  They were collateral damage.

She kept asking about why Labour did not have a “victim led response”. With the benefit of hindsight hers was anything but.

Using the protection of Parliamentary privilege she smeared the Prime Minister, as well as senior staffers in her office, and basically went to town on them.  Serious questions need to be asked, like did she actually talk to any of the complainants and what was she actually told.

And will she apologise.

It would be good for the National opposition to leave behind Dirty Politics and get on with releasing their discussion documents and having policy debates.  This trashing individuals for political advantage is not only tedious, but it is damaging for all involved and ultimately it damages the political process.

Jacinda Ardern has called a press conference to reply to Collins’ claims.  This could be another big day for New Zealand politics.  I just hope that everyone has enough gas in the tank to deal with the international pandemic that so far we are handling really well.

61 comments on “What is the best way for a political party to handle a sex scandal?”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    My hope is that the Prime Minister will speak to the processes around allegations such as the one Collins has floated, rather than addressing this particular issue. If she calls for a clean approach to such matters, especially the sly method Collins has used here, the PM might be able to gain control over that seam of political behaviour and neutralise the misuse of material such as Falloon clothed himself in. It would be a bold action to take. I hope she does.

    • Just Is 1.1

      We'll find out at the announcement at 11 I guess.

      Collins is seething after Arderns comments that "Bought the house down in laughter yesterday".

      It wasn't pretty for the opposition yesterday

  2. Ian Lees-Galloway. Why am I not surprised?

    Our PM's intention to be 'kind' is admirable, but really, getting rid of incompetents like the Minister for Health Clark (hiding in Dunedin breaking the lockdown during the worst crisis to hit NZ in post war years) , and the incompetent Lees-Galloway (does he not realize double barrelled names went out in the 80s and no longer impresses anyone?) would actually have been kind to NZ, and to
    the government itself.

  3. Just Is 3

    Just one word describes it

    PROFESSIONALLY.

    Probably not in the Collins vocabulary

    • How can you possibly say that?

      Maybe you are correct, but as yet, we have no idea of the what or the when, or whether full disclosure will occur in the PM's news conference.

      • Just Is 3.1.1

        I'm referring to Collins release of the info, deliberately.

        We will find out shortly about the substance, evidently Ian Lees Galoway is the member under scrutiny

        • Chris 3.1.1.1

          It can only have been deliberate. Ardern said the tip off was made without the woman's knowledge. The timing, Garner's question and everything else points to Collins orchestrating all of this.

          What Collins has done shows how dumb she is. It's well accepted politicans, staff and press gallery people get to know each other pretty well, and there's a strong convention that says none of this is ever talked about.

          If Collins has broken the rule then there'll be media people not happy. This might all backfire quire nicely for her.

          • Peter chch 3.1.1.1.1

            Chris, you mean Collins orchestred Galloway having an affair? I never thought of that angle 🤔

            • observer 3.1.1.1.1.1

              If she had only told Ardern, but not the AM show, what would have happened?

              The same result. Ardern sacked ILG before Collins talked about it on TV.

              Collins only did that because she is Judith Collins.

            • Chris 3.1.1.1.1.2

              Well, you have now. Well done. I wouldn't have thought of that, either.

    • Climaction 3.2

      professionally is right. Sacrificed a third rate back bencher for one of Labours strongest performers.

  4. Robert Guyton 4

    Gone in 60 seconds! Aegean stables stuff, this!

  5. weka 5

    Good post micky. Thoroughly sick of Collins, and O'Brien.

    I do want to raise this: this is not a sex scandal. A sex scandal would be something like Ardern as PM or Collins as Opposition leader having an affair while married. Historically no-one would care (eg Lange and the press ignoring the open secret), but I guess now it would be Tova-ed to death.

    A man in a position of power, eg an MP, sending pornographic images to young women is sexual harassment. I'm not talking legal definitions here but appropriate human behaviour and sexism/misogyny.

    'Sex scandal' blurs the boundaries between sex and abuse and that is part of the problem in NZ culture generally that leads to men acting in this way. It can also lead to conversations online where people dismiss victims and run rape apology or rape culture lines and thus the culture is reinforced. Feminists have been pushing back against this language usage in the MSM for this reason, it would be good to not have it used on TS.

    • Good definitions and clarification Weka, although sexual abuse is by no means an exclusively male domain.

    • Just Is 5.2

      I put a lot of this down to the "Loss of Moral Compass" from the Key era, I was disgusted at his views and the hair pulling, any other country in world would have forced a resignation for any leader delving in that behavior, but in NZ the media went along for the ride

      Key was morally corrupt, and the media loved it.

      • Andre 5.2.1

        … any other country in world would have forced a resignation for any leader delving in that behavior …

        Right now a majority of Americans are desperately hoping next year brings them a new leader whose creepiness goes no further than hair and slight handsiness and intrusions into personal space.

    • mickysavage 5.3

      Thanks Weka. I agree. This is inappropriate activity from a married man and on the other side it was creepy grooming behaviour from an elected official. They are different. The media won't treat them differently though.

      It was a label I used because everyone was going to conflate the two incidents.

  6. Ad 6

    A great question which the Labour Party is about to have to answer, with Minister Lees-Galloway resigning.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Sex scandal – if the society becomes too prudish and prurient it impinges on private life too much. But people do need to keep their 'privates' private, it is boorish to be sending images. Sex seems very interesting to everyone, a lessening of thinking about it, watching porn might be healthy for many.

    Having an affair while married is a private matter I would think. Something for the couple to deal with themselves. If it does not affect the performance of the person in their job then it should remain their private concern, but it is not right for unsuitable gender behaviour to intrude into the work place.

    • I Feel Love 7.1

      Cheating is not a private matter, it involves separate families, social groups, children, workplaces, schools, real estate agents, therapists and lawyers, & many others, this idea that "affairs" are private matters is what people who cheat think, those cheated on, & having to clean up the mess left & get their shattered, humiliated lives back together, not so much.

  8. Enough is Enough 8

    According to Robert Reid these rumors have been circulating for months within the beltway.

    Why did it take a Collins and Garner hot job on breakfast TV for anything to be done about it?

    • Chris 8.1

      Because Collins decided to use this as the vehicle for 'giving back double'. It's as simple as that. Not well thought through on Collins' part, though.

      • Enough is Enough 8.1.1

        Collins has a scalp and the media has moved on from the Falloon scandal and ILG scandal.

        Don't you think that might have been her objective?

        • Chris 8.1.1.1

          Isn't that what I just said?

          Collins' message to Ardern is "there's plenty more where this came from. I know you haven't got the guts to operate like this because it doesn't bode well with your prissy kindness and sunshine bullshit, so we're safe. But you know that I'm not like that and you know that I always give double back so look out".

    • I Feel Love 8.2

      O'Brien asked the question, twice, as she said rumours had been going around for awhile, will she ask Collins the same?

  9. ianmac 9

    It seems that the damage done is self-inflicted by Lees-Galloway. Luckily there seems to be nothing damaging for innocent parties apart from the Galloway family.

    Jacinda sacked him from his portfolios but he chose to stand down from re-election.

    The whole deal is as good as can be expected. Quick and decisive. The PM reacted well.

  10. Maurice 10

    Live by the Sword

    Die by the Sword

    There is certainly being a clean out of prurient politicians … of both stripes

  11. Marcus Morris 11

    Have been watching the PM's press conference. She is superb and such a contrast to the leader of the opposition. Collins couldn't wait to alert the media in contrast to the PM using tact and discretion. Extra-marital affairs involving MPs have gone on for years – remember David Lange – however , she has made the point that IL-G's specific responsibility for workplace safety was the paramount issue and his behaviour, which was tantamount to an abuse of power albeit that it had ceased some time ago, made his position untenable. He has not broken any law.

    For so called journalist Tova OBrien to claim in a piece today that both Collins and Jacinda let the country down over the Falloon affair is, frankly, ludicrous.

    • Dennis Frank 11.1

      For so called journalist Tova OBrien to claim in a piece today that both Collins and Jacinda let the country down over the Falloon affair is, frankly, ludicrous.

      My reaction when I heard it too, and I note she has recycled the claim onto a website. There are several obvious wrongs with this! Firstly, interpreting the news isn't what a reporter is meant to do. They're meant to report what happens.

      Second, making moral judgments about politicians has become long-term custom (editorialising), so media owners tolerate editors doing that.

      Since her Newshub editor approved her text (and/or suggested she insert the judgment into the story, that editor's judgment is in question. Did that person run the issue by their producer?? If so, the third wrong is that person approving the inclusion.

      Since Jacinda and Judith have both provided satisfactory reasonable explanations for the apparent delay in each case, the fourth wrong is the failure of Newshub to own their irresponsible behaviour. They owe both leaders an apology!!

  12. Andre 12

    What is the best way for a political party to handle a sex scandal?

    Swiftly. With a big axe.

  13. observer 13

    Let's be absolutely clear what happened here.

    Collins knew that she had to get in first before Ardern acted, to score a "point" (in her own mind, but not necessarily in the minds of voters, something Collins still doesn't get).

    So she told the AM Show today. It was calculated and cynical. It IS Collins.

    Ardern would/will not handle things the same way, and thank goodness (or her) for that.

  14. mickysavage 14

    Well that blew up.

    Parliament is a cess pit of scheming and rumour.

    If this is the new standard we are going to start to run out of MPs …

    • Andre 14.1

      Is bonking staffers really that prevalent?

      • mickysavage 14.1.1

        Staffers, reporters, each other …

        • Andre 14.1.1.1

          Staffers are a problem because of the power imbalance. Reporters are a problem because of how that affects the reporting, but that's an issue for the reporter much more than the MP. Each other strikes me as not a problem when it's at a peer-to-peer level, with no power imbalance involved.

          I'm pretty sure I don't wanna know what else might be covered by that ellipsis surprise

          • Chris 14.1.1.1.1

            Sure, power-imbalance can be an issue, but it's the cone of silence that's been broken here. And reporters have partners and families too. The rule is don't ever talk about it. If the "tip-off" has been in any way invited by Collins then a whole bunch of new issues emerge.

        • I Feel Love 14.1.1.2

          There must be some nervous spouses of parliamentarians out there… has there ever been a study why they're so sex crazed there? Are other workplaces so involved with each other? I must work in a nunnery (or I'm just not invited to the parties).

          • RedBaronCV 14.1.1.2.1

            It's the being away from home a lot overnight. Not such a biggie in the average workplace – your party invites are probably intact!

          • DB 14.1.1.2.2

            I worked at MFAT for decades. There were plenty of Ambassadors and senior staff who thought Foreign Affairs was their job description …

        • In Vino 14.1.1.3

          Pedant speaking – 'one another' seems more likely than 'each other.'
          ‘Each other’ conjures up amusing images.

  15. RedBaronCV 15

    I believe that a news organisation doorstepped the Falloon parents yesterday. Could some senior media figure take those involved aside please and explain that we basically leave families alone in this country and why? This dates back for over 50 years to the Kirk Rowling government for a matter that was in the public domain then but which I would not expect to reiterate here.

    • Jilly Bee 15.1

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if the same news organisation doorsteps the Lees-Galloway family home as well. The 'journalist' involved is really the pits and I'm about to contact the news organisation involved to let them know that after watching their news channel since it's inception I'm about to bail out.

  16. Robert Guyton 16

    So, where does this fit in???

  17. Gerald 17

    I've just re-read "Dirty Politics" are National going down the same "double-up" track?

    [You have used too many different user names and e-mail addresses here. I have changed your user name to the most recently used one on 7 May 2020. Please stick with this combination of user name and e-mail address from now on, thanks – Incognito]

  18. Tricledrown 18

    Throwing grenades about politicians private lives will be a a tit for tat tennis game there will be plenty of ammunition people will quickly overlook this as what has been going on for years.

    Its not in the same league as unsollicited sexual harrassment.

    But when in a glass house it pays not to throw stones.there could be a lot more resignations.

  19. SOB 19

    John Key always stated he had a bottom draw full of allegations such as these.

    Why would anyone think Judith doesn't have the same.

    Not sure what the issue is anyway, consenting sex between adults is no crime.

    Unless of course the perpetrators have a moral conservative righteous viewpoint and so therefore become hypocrites.

    • SOB 19.1

      Sorry you can remove that post was under a "false" name.

    • Muttonbird 19.2

      Of course she does and this one was pulled out of that bottom draw because she was in serious trouble over the mental health excuse for Falloon.

      The Nats probably never intended to use this but Collins couldn't allow herself to be further questioned so out it came.

    • Danny 19.3

      What worries me is the alarming judgement and punishment attitudes of many younger supposedly liberal people. Consensual sex is certainly no crime but it's being judged from the viewpoint that there is a power imbalance and the (male) party is somehow exploiting the other party without any evidence necessary or nuance allowed in the discussion. National know this and they know that all they need to do is throw out an allegation and watch Labour turn on each other.

  20. newsense 20

    So what even is a Heather Du Plessis-Allan?

    • PaddyOT 20.1

      I would ask a similar question. Does HDPA consider herself a journalist or a pollie now?

      She had talked in the past about her interest in entering political journalism and despising pollies.

      "Politics matters because the decisions politicians make "will affect you directly at some stage of your life". And then there's the drama of it, which seems harder to justify "in a news sense", but still matters, because the backstabbing and nastiness that goes on is "the powerplay of the people who make the decisions".

      She then was quoted after making a dig at Key , " So if, by way of example, Judith Collins was to backstab John Key and take his job from him, you know that the decisions she takes are going to be completely different from the decisions he takes. So people should be interested in the drama."

      However, then HDPA goes on to villify journalist line crossers saying, " she enjoys catching pollies out. Those guys are slick, man. They stage things. They make it seem there's conflict in the party when there isn't, in order to achieve an aim. They release information in order to distract you from something. That stuff is so reprehensible that calling them out on it is the rewarding part."

      So which/what is Heather Du Plessis-Allan?

      Stuff

      The real Heather du Plessis-Allan

      Adam Dudding Nov 29 2016

  21. karol121 21

    Is this not a great thing for Ms Collins' image building?

    A ferocious hammer to slam down on Falloon. It's almost as if he was a "made man" for this particular scandal.

    National would surely have figured out months ago that their chances of any sort of win this September would be like spitting dried peas from a blow pipe across the Wellington harbor, and thinking that they would actually hit something.

    So what a great time for them to tactically withdraw in a sense, clean up house, and progressively replace a candidate or two, probably already known to have had some issues.

    She is a career orientated animal and she revels in her glory. I wonder which of the other National Party MP's she might have written in her little black remedy book to sort out prior to 2023.

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