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Soper on Labour’s sex problem

14/08/2019

Clearly Barry Soper has gone off his Jacinda pills because his piece for NZ Herald is not very kind to Ardern and Labour, but still pulls it’s punches. It could well have been much sharper in tone.

Soper started with

First of all the Labour Party dodged answering questions about allegations of sexual assault and rape by one of its workers because “the process” involved in the investigation exonerating him was under way.

This seems to mean,we are not saying anything until we have worked out the spin.

Now that they’ve set up an appeal process for the complainants they’re not commenting because that process is underway. It’s a convenient shield for the party to hide behind.

This means that we can spin as before, because we have a problem, but we don’t know what to do. This appeal process means we have a figleaf we can hide behind for weeks if not months. In fact it’s what we normally do, except we call it a working group which delivers a report which allows us to claim progress without actually doing anything.

And all of this from a party leading a Government that Jacinda Ardern promised would be the most transparent in our history.

An unkind person might say Ardern lied, but we know that cannot be right because she said this to Patrick Gower during the election campaign in 2017

Perhaps she was merely economical with the truth.

Because this government has been so economical with the truth so often , that sometimes the fog of obfuscation and lies hangs over Wellington like a fog. It is always a thick fog when Labour gets caught out in sexual misconduct allegations.

In passing we should note Ardern referred only to bullying and intimidation complaints as she tried to spin the issue. She tried as well to run the ‘it’s a process issue’ line as well. Well Ms Ardern allegations of rape and predatory sexual advances are just that, allegations of rape and predatory sexual behaviour. The allegations should not be downplayed by a politician desperate to deflect from an issue.

Soper then turns to the complainants:-

These women have told me they’re frightened. Their original email, sent a month ago, talked about the huge power imbalance, they feel as though they “couldn’t do anything, they couldn’t move or couldn’t speak”.

They say they were told by the party they’d be on their own if they continued speaking to the media.

So the Labour Party sought to keep this very much away from the media. No doubt other parties, might do the same. Yet let us remember that this Labour Party tried to do this at least once before whilst Ardern has been leader and Haworth has been president. The infamous youth camp,of which a final disposition via the courts still seems not to have happened.

Now they’ve talked to the party again and president Nigel Haworth said in a statement they asked for the appeal process themselves and the decision to put it in place acknowledges their concern, he says.

Not before time. Thankfully it won’t be another navel-gazing exercise.

So damage control is now in full swing,complete with an appeals process. I am sure I am not the only one left wondering if any appeal process would have been established without the recent publicity. As with the summer camp debacle we see the culture of hide,obfuscate is the first reaction,followed by promises of review.

An independent expert will, we’re told, be at arm’s length from the party – important, they tell us, to build trust in the process in the future.

Yet they had a review and supposedly changed processes after the youth camp mess. Perhaps that review was too constrained by the terms of reference, though as Soper comments

It seems as though the party learned nothing from the inquiry into the alleged summer camp sexual debacle last year.

Indeed the famous quote often attributed to Talleyrand about the Bourbon Kings of France comes to mind ‘they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing

Soper continues

The latest scandal is more serious, with allegations ranging from sexual assault through to rape.

Get with the programme Barry, the PM says it was bullying and intimidation nary a mention of sexual misconduct.

What I found interesting is that the NZ Herald in the article quoting the PM, in the version I read made no mention,no mention I repeat of the allegations being about sexual assault and rape.Why did that article not mention that?

Soper then writes

If a rape did occur, why didn’t the complainant go to the police? That’s the most frequently asked question. A complainant told me her friend was admitted to hospital with mental health issues after being traumatised by what happened to her.

She felt if the Labour Party didn’t take her seriously then what chance would she have with the police?

Indeed. The behaviour of the Labour Party in this matter appears to have been more about covering this matter up and protecting the perpetrator than supporting the victims.

In addition it has long seemed to me that the NZ Police are extremely reluctant to get involved in cases where politicians are concerned. Acting only when pressured.

Now the women will have to pluck up the courage to appeal the findings of the internal investigation that they felt was a cover-up.

Why would the women have any confidence in a review? I suspect much will depend on who is approached to conduct the appeal process and the final terms of reference.

The independent and experienced expert will determine the terms of reference for the confidential appeal process.

In the meantime rumours will continue to circulate, especially as the perpetrator is alleged to work in the PM’s Office and to be well known.

Consequently, I think some mud will undoubtedly stick to Ardern as a result of this issue. How much mud is yet to be seen.

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