The non-naming of the National MP raises media issues

The non-naming of the National MP alleged to have had a several year relationship with Jami-Lee Ross continues, despite probably anyone who wants to know knowing who it is.

It is odd to see the media refraining from naming her, still. Neither National nor Labour want this going public, and there may be some journalists worried about where naming one unfaithful person involved in politics may lead.

The Southland Times should have a special interest in this considering where the MP has her electorate. Today’s editorial: ‘Moving on’ is not acceptable

An editorial published on October 25 raised the point that another issue had arisen from the Jami-Lee Ross saga, in relation to the “You deserve to die” text, said to be from a colleague with whom he acknowledged he had been having an affair.

Was it possible this text could be a breach of the Harmful Digital Communication Act, and could the sender of the text really stay in her role as an MP?

So, on November 8, the following questions were put to the National Party

* The “deserve to die” text reportedly came from a married MP. While National has indicated it is doing a review of its culture, has a separate investigation been launched to speak to the MP who reportedly sent his text?

* What discussions has the party had with the MP who reportedly sent a text like that?

* Has that MP been censured, faced internal discipline, or been stood down from duties? If no action has been taken by the party, why not?

* Does the National Party believe that the text message sent breached the Harmful Digital Communication Act?

* Does the National Party still believe the MP, who reportedly sent the text, is still fit to be an MP and represent the National Party, given they reportedly sent a text saying someone deserved to die?

* Has the MP offered to stand down? Or, are they still carrying out their duties as normal?

And wait for it, here’s the no comment from National.

“The National Party has no comment on these matters. Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a National MP and the party is moving on.”

Moving on … we don’t think so.

National may be “moving on” as it puts it, but in its wake it is leaving a trail of distrust, arrogance, and a big finger to its own party values.

Don’t forget that front and centre of National’s core values for building a society are two important words. Personal Responsibility.

Surely by now the MP in question would front up and take personal responsibility.

Hypocrites.

So the Southland Times slams National and the MP – but doesn’t name the MP.  This is a very strange approach from media.

It’s not just media – both National and Labour seem to want this kept quiet. On the AM show yesterday:

Duncan Garner: I’m not going to name names, ok, because um i don’t really know if it’s true or not, but can you tell me this, we’ll keep it generic.

Was Jami-lee Ross having relationships or affairs with National MPs?

Judith Collins: Well I don’t know. What I do know is that clearly there was something going on, but I always try and keep out of other people’s personal business, and what I do know is that that’s one of the things that I’ve always taken, is a given that you never get involved in other people’s business.

Michael Wood: …look, the Prime Minister from the top down in our Government has said that we don’t want to get involved in this stuff. We’ve got our job to do, going down the personal track with this kind of thing is not a healthy route for our democracy and our politics.

So that’s a clear message that Labour don’t want to get involved in personal relationships.

Given how much the parties attack and criticise each other over all sorts of things this is a curious situation.

More so the media’s reluctance to reveal a name – lest it become names? Jami-lee Ross threatened to ‘lift the bed sheets’ on Parliament, and if that happened it would be likely to name and out more than just MPs.

Graham Adams at Noted has concerns about this apparent pact of silence – The Jami-Lee Ross saga: Questions around cover-ups continue

Cover-ups — or allegations of them — leave a lingering stench that no amount of air-freshener can disguise. Simon Bridges may have tried to clear the air this week by testily telling journalists that he is moving on from Jami-Lee Ross and doesn’t want to talk about him any more but that seems much more like wishful thinking than acknowledging political reality.

But as the messy Jami-Lee Ross saga rolls on, accusations of cover-ups are not being levelled only at Bridges, Paula Bennett and the National Party. The news media — and particularly Parliament’s press gallery — have been accused of their own cover-up regarding the questions they are not asking in relation to the married National MP who apparently had a long-standing affair with Ross.

She was one of the four anonymous Newsroom complainants who made allegations about being bullied by Ross and she was later also reported to have sent Ross an abusive text that included the words, “You deserve to die.”

Richard Harman, who publishes the authoritative Politik newsletter, recently asked on the Kiwi Journalists Association Public Group Facebook page (which can be read by the public “in order to promote transparency, which as journalists we expect from others”) whether his fellow journalists thought he should publish her name.

Harman wrote: “Like most political journalists, I believe I know who that MP is… The inexorable pressure is now moving towards naming the MP. It’s a very difficult ethical issue. I certainly have emails from people on the left making the same allegation as Whaleoil — that the Press Gallery is party to a cover-up. But equally at what point does this simply become prurient gossip?”

There is certainly a difficult issue in how much personal relationship information should be made public. It would be bad if every little pash and bonk made the headlines. But there must be a line somewhere in between minor and major, rather than a comprehensive brick wall.

Although nearly all the opinions in response (including mine) were in favour of naming her, Harman concluded that he would be guided by the aphorism that “What the public is interested in is not necessarily in the public interest” and that she should remain anonymous.

Is ‘public interest’ the overriding factor here? Or is it self interest from media who fear what might come out?

In fact, there are very good reasons in the public interest to name her, and the Facebook discussion canvassed most of them. Obviously, there is the old-fashioned test of hypocrisy. If the married MP is indeed the one who has been widely named on social media, she represents a conservative electorate, is a social conservative herself, and publicly espouses family values. At the very least, you might think, voters might like to be told who she is so they could decide whether to continue supporting her.

It’s likely that many in her electorate will know who it is and may judge her accordingly at the next election, but that doesn’t excuse the media being some sort of moral guardian.

It’s not as if political journalists don’t know who the MP is either if they want to ask questions. All the news organisations to which the abusive text was leaked must know, including RNZ. And Heather du Plessis-Allan and others who work for Newstalk ZB must also know because in an interview with Ross he named her (which was bleeped out).

The hypocrisy test can also be used to judge the media alongside the MP. Certainly, the argument that it is not in the public interest to name her stands in stark contrast to the media feeding frenzy that erupted in 2013 when news of a sexual liaison between Auckland mayor Len Brown and a junior council adviser was made public on the Whale Oil blog.

Once the name is published it may open the floodgates, but not even Whale Oil has gone as far as naming her on this occasion – Slater has all but named her, but not ‘crossed the line’.

The fact that five years later the media is so coy about naming a married National MP who anonymously gave Newsroom highly personal details about her relationship with another married National MP inevitably raises uncomfortable questions — including whether there is one rule for Parliament which has a dedicated press gallery that operates in a symbiotic relationship with politicians and another for councils which don’t.

A casual observer might conclude that when you’re a woman like Chuang who is an ambitious nobody you’re fair game but when you’re a woman like the National MP who is an ambitious somebody the media will protect you.

And that’s hardly a good way to inspire trust in the media’s impartiality or its willingness to upset powerful people.

I suspect that some of the difference between Brown/Chuang and Ross/Dowie is national versus local politics. Local body politics is much more fragmented, both elected representatives and media.

Parliament is not just a grouping of MPs frequently in one place, it is also a media gallery of journalists who work alongside each other and alongside MPs a lot. It’s like some sort of club that has adhered to ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’.

I think that the media should name the MP who is at the centre of this issue, but if the do they should also look at the wider issue of relationships and sex amounts MPs, journalists and staff.

Journalists should disclose personal relationships if it relates to politicians they are reporting on and giving their opinions on. There are issues with journalists straying more and more into political activist roles, so the public has a right to know who may be influencing their opinions and their choice of stories and headlines.

The naming of the MP may be uncomfortable for parties and politicians, but they have long records of keeping things private and secret of they can get way with it.

It is up to journalists and media to investigate and to reveal pertinent political secrets. When they don’t want to go near the sex and relationship thing it suggests they could have secrets of their own they don’t want disclosed.

This is not a good situation for the supposedly without favour fearless fourth estate to be in.

The non-naming of the National MP

The National MP who is alleged to have had a relationship with Jami-Lee Ross and is claimed to have played a part in precipitating a claimed attempt at suicide has not been named publicly by media. Ross did name her in a radio interview, but in replays her name was beeped out.

Discussions have continued on why she has not been named by media, and whether she should be named.

One of the strongest reasons put forward for not naming her is her well being. It has been claimed she is the victim of harassment, so naming her would add to the exposure and harassment.

It can also be asked whether there is public interest in naming her. Just about everyone with an interest in this probably knows who it is. I found out without looking for it. Naming her probably has more risks than good reasons.

But there could be some public interest in knowing of an MP who allegedly had a long term affair with another MP, and that that ended with a harsh text that some have claimed incited suicide (I don’t see that, especially looking at the timeline – the claimed suicide attempt event happened months after the text was sent).

And identifying the MP removes suspicion from other female National MPs, but this seems to be a minor consideration given that most people involved in politics will know who it is.

Why has the media not named her? Obviously they are not saying.

One risk that has been mentioned is the risk of it opening the floodgates of publicising Parliamentary promiscuity, and some journalists are alleged to playing a part in that generally, and accusations and names have been mentioned (no evidence that I’ve seen) that at least one journalist has been involved with Ross.

Do the public have a right to know if there is a compromised MP who may also be under severe mental health stress? That’s a difficult question. Usually there is no way of knowing which MPs are under health care. Most operate under some degree of stress. Medical information is governed by privacy laws.

It should be noted that Ross was the first to out himself as being subject to claims of harassment (as well as naming the MP on air).

Cameron Slater blames the MP (and a wider conspiracy) for Ross being dumped from the National caucus and for causing his mental meltdown (alleged, all we know about Ross’ mental state is what has been claimed by peoeple with vested interests, Slater being prominent.

He has all but named her a number of times at Whale Oil, making it easy to work out who it is (his obvious intent). He has also complained bitterly about the media not naming her, but despite repeated threats to out her himself, and despite promoting himself as media, for some reason he doesn’t want to be the first to do so. One can imagine that if mainstream media do name her he will be using that as an excuse to continue in ‘full retard’ mode against the MP, Simon Bridges and National.

One thing holding Slater back may be finances. He is facing what could be some large legal bills for overstepping in the past on Whale Oil, and is now mired in multiple defamation actions. He may be reluctant to risk another.

And he has admitted losing subscriptions at Whale Oil over his ongoing campaign attacking Bridges and National, which he escalated on the back of the Ross revelations. Subsequent self praise promotions and promotions of Whale Oil by SB suggest that the loss of subscription revenue is of concern to them. The timing is bad.

And the motives and methods of Slater, who claims to be acting for Ross who has gone silent, are highly suspect. he haas admitted making incorrect claims, and it is sensible to be highly sceptical of anything he says that isn’t backed up by evidence – and that means more evidence than screen shots of communications that are not authenticated and could be cherry picked and at real risk of being out of context.

Slater will probably keep agitating and complaining, but most people who had an interest in the Ross and MP issue are largely over it. As are the media.

I have considered naming the MP but continue to choose not to. I’m not aware of all the facts so can’t justify the potential risks.

One possible risk is legal – given the silence on identity there could be legal injunctions that have gagged the media. Similarly as for court suppressions, these make things difficult for non-mainstream media like Your NZ – there is no way of me knowing what I am legally not allowed to say.

So no names and no hints here please.

It may be best to move on, and to ignore a Wail Oil desperate for attention and intent on inflicting political utu. he may eventually do what he has promised and name names, but Dirty Politics has done it’s dash and should be trashed.

A discussion on the naming or not here (Kiwi Journalists Association):

https://www.facebook.com/groups/216332661716385/permalink/2424609580888671/

Slater had ‘good and lucid discussion’ with Ross just before ‘suicide’ text

Someone emailed me and pointed out what could be a significant part of Cameron Slater”s post Another hit job from David Fisher which I must correct and tell the truth that the National party fails to

Saturday 20th October – Jami-Lee Ross is back in Auckland, but he is homeless. He has slept in his car and hasn’t slept much over the past week. He phones me at approximately 8:30 pm and he is distraught. We had a good and lucid discussion. However, as he sat there in his car he began scrolling through his past messages and he came across the nasty text from the female MP. It set him off. At 8:51 pm he texts her and then turns his cell phone off. She frantically tries to respond via text and makes 4 phone calls to him. He turns his phone on and off over the next three hours.

This says that Ross was distraught before talking to Slater and before scrolling back through his texts.

There is very specific detail in this from Slater, in which he says he had “a good and lucid discussion” with Ross just before Ross scrolls through old texts and then replies “You get your wish” to a two month old text from a National MP which, Slater claims, triggers a suicide alert.

Slater says that the text “set him off” – but that wasn’t the only thing that would have been influencing Ross at that time, given he was having a discussion with Slater.

It could be that Slater was unable to de-distraught Ross, but that’s not the only possibility in this situation.

Also in the same paragraph:

At one stage, a journalist communicates with him. as her company had someone stationed near his house and had observed a Police i-car turn up. [WO:  The journalist concerned has contacted me to clarify this situation. I am satisfied that there was no company watcher in place] She was concerned. This short text conversation occurred at 10:25 pm as Jami-Lee Ross was driving to the Waikato.

Rather ironically in a post headlined “which I must correct and tell the truth” Slater stated as a fact something he now acknowledges was not the truth.

National MP confesses to leak, warns life at risk

RNZ are reporting that a National MP has sent a text to Simon Bridges and to the Speaker Trevor Mallard, confessing to leaking Bridges’ expenses information just days before it was due to be released publicly.

They also say the MP has asked for the leak inquiry to be called off, and that exposure could put their lives at risk.

I don’t think there’s any way this can be kept quiet – obviously this news makes it impossible, but Bridges couldn’t have kept the text secret,

RNZ Exclusive: Text plea to call off Bridges expense leak inquiry

A person claiming to be the National Party leaker has sent an anonymous text to Opposition leader Simon Bridges pleading for the inquiry to be called off, RNZ has learned.

Sources have told RNZ Mr Bridges and the Speaker Trevor Mallard both received an anonymous text message last week from a person claiming to be responsible for leaking the information to Newshub.

The author of the text warned they suffered from mental health problems in the past and said being exposed publicly could push them over the edge and put their life at risk.

The text, which RNZ has not seen, detailed a number of conversations and pieces of information from National caucus meetings over a period of weeks in an attempt to prove the author was a National MP.

In the message, the author said they had leaked the expenses because they disagreed with Mr Bridges’ leadership style, describing him as “arrogant”, and wanted him to be held to account for his spending of taxpayers’ money.

Bridges had said he was confident the leaker was not a National MP, but his caucus was the most likely source, as it was only them and Parliamentary Services that had the information at that stage (it is now public).

I don’t see how the offending MP can avoid exposure, nor can they avoid having to resign.

But it gets more strange – who leaked the text?

RNZ was approached by a person with details of the text message this week.

They said they were speaking out as they were worried for the safety of the text’s author and the potential impact of the investigation.

The source said they were concerned Mr Bridges and Mr Mallard were not taking the text message seriously because the inquiry was still pressing ahead.

Mr Mallard has the formal authority to put a halt to the inquiry but if Mr Bridges really wanted it stopped he could influence that decision.

RNZ has since verified the existence of the text and its contents with another source.

It was baffling as to why the expenses were leaked just a few days before they would have been made public anyway.

It is curious why Bridges and the Speaker treated the leak with so much concern and immediate action in moving towards an inquiry.

Why was the text kept secret? Is it that the identity of the MP is not known, and the threat of risk to their well being kept it hushed?

There will be more on this no doubt.

UPDATE: The text was sent from an anonymous number LAST WEEK. The identity of the MP is unknown (by RNZ).

I don’t think Bridges could call off the inquiry that has just had a former solicitor-general appointed to lead it – actually RNZ have just said that Mallard appointed someone to lead the inquiry after receiving the text message.

‘Anonymous MP’ cuts Collins

Newshub are reporting that ‘unnamed sources’ in the National Party are saying that the leadership contest is effectively Bill English versus Jonathan Coleman with Judith Collins a distant third.

English versus Coleman: ‘Two horse race’

A National Party MP has revealed to Newshub the leadership race is down to just two candidates.

The anonymous MP says the true competition to become the next leader of the National Party is between Finance Minister Bill English and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

My guess is that Newshub is being used. Any ‘unnamed sources’ and anonymous MPs within National have some sort of vested interest, in this case trying to eliminate Collins from the caucus reckoning because it suits their agenda.

The MP also told Newshub there is a “sentiment for change” within the party – which could be expressed in a different style of management, or an unexpected leader or deputy.

English is hardly ‘change’, he is as close to a continuation of the same as anyone could be.

‘An unexpected leader or deputy’ sounds like someone promoting Coleman.