Ardern, Robertson in precarious positions

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the mishandling of bullying and sexual assault allegations, but pressure continues to build on Jacinda Ardern and the spotlight is now also shining on Grant Robertson.

In his brief resignation statement Haworth didn’t take any responsibility for his mishandling of two serious issues (the summer camp assaults and the staffer allegations, and there was no apology either.

Ardern did apologise in her statement and in standup interviews. From Jacinda Ardern accepts Labour Party President resignation:

“In the last 48 hours I have read incredibly distressing reports of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the Labour Party,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“This morning I was provided some of the correspondence from complainants written to the party several months ago. It confirms that the allegations made were extremely serious, that the process caused complainants additional distress, and that ultimately, in my view, the party was never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue.

“I discussed the correspondence with the Labour Party President this morning. Whilst he stands by the statements he has made on this matter I believe mistakes were made.

“Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do; for additional distress to be caused through the way those allegations are handled is incredibly upsetting. On behalf of the Labour Party I apologise to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with.

But this must just be a beginning in properly dealing with this.

In question time in Parliament yesterday Paula Bennett had a short exchange with Ardern, which concluded with this question and answer:

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

That seems to have been a setup that could be a problem for Ardern. Bennett seems to have used a common trap

Shortly after in a speech in General Debate Bennett said:

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told.

And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

Ardern doesn’t usually attend Parliament on Thursdays but may be advised to amend her answer, or claim she misinterpreted the question. Otherwise this is likely to come up next week in Parliament.

And Ardern has more questions to answer about what she knew, and when.

Newsroom: More answers needed as Labour president departs

This is far from the end of the matter, however. Using the protection of parliamentary privilege, Bennett named several senior members of Ardern’s office who she says knew about the nature of the allegations as far back as last Christmas.

We do not yet know whether that is true (a spokeswoman for Ardern said her office had no comment to make) but it is clear that the review of Labour’s processes will almost certainly uncover a few more skeletons.

Some potential findings – that some of Ardern’s staff did know but deliberately kept her out of the loop in the interests of plausible deniability, or that Ardern did know and has been economical with the truth – would almost certainly lead to more resignations.

Even if Ardern did not know that sexual assault claims had been made, some may question why she did not more forcefully ask her party to look back over its records, given the repeated claims made by complainants through the media.

And Bennett also named Grant Robertson as complicit.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

Robertson is not answering questions, claiming he needs to wait for the outcome of the QC inquiry that hasn’t begun yet. Burying difficult issues in an inquiry is a well worn political tactic, but I think in this case it could be more damaging rather than burying. Things will keep coming out. And they are today.

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Labour Party president Nigel Haworth has resigned – but it’s not over

Labour will be hoping party president Nigel Haworth’s exit will cauterise the wounds. It’s political management 101: feed the media a scalp and they will move on.

But it is not yet time to draw a line under the bullying, intimidation and assault allegations that currently shame the party. There are too many unanswered questions.

Ardern and the party must now be upfront about how much they knew about these allegations, and exactly when.

It’s important for a few reasons. Firstly, so that the public can be sure that senior figures did not shield this staffer.

His identity cannot be disclosed, but he held positions of influence within the party and then through his job, with the Labour Leader’s Office at Parliament.

There are other connections – which cannot be detailed for legal reasons – but mean he held more sway than an average volunteer or apparatchik.

It is one of the reasons why the complainants were so reluctant to come forward with their stories in the first place.

One of them told Stuff:  “Abuse only happens in a vacuum, it thrives in silence. And that’s the case here. For years he was able to bully and intimidate women and have relationships with women where he was abusive.

“That was reasonably well known and yet he was still given opportunities within the party. Despite his reputation, he kept on going up the ladder.”

The party needs to explain how that perception was allowed to take root among those young people.

We need to know precisely when senior ministers – including Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern (or their staff, because they are one in the same) were informed of the allegations. And what they did about it.

Did Ardern ever ask for a copy of Labour’s internal investigation, or the subsequent review? Why not?

Ardern says she didn’t know the allegations were sexual until this week. That’s hard to swallow.

An email sent to media outlets and others on July 12 very explicitly references allegations of extreme sexual violence. The first media reporting of the scandal, on August 5, details that some of the complaints were of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Is she saying that she wasn’t aware of these?

For the same reasons, it’s hard to accept that senior figures within the Labour party machinery had no inkling of concern about this man’s behaviour. The complainants say they flagged it with a number of senior figures going back as far as 2017 (one woman counted that she had raised concerns on eight separate occasions).

The branch that he was involved with is one of the party’s more influential, and its members certainly hold more access and sway with MPs and officials than others.

Was the party really blind to these allegations?

And then there is the shambolic internal investigation. Haworth has carried the can, but the decisions were not his alone.

The party’s ruling council decided the process. Why did they believe an internal inquiry, with no expert guidance, was appropriate?

Did the investigation panel ignore the more serious allegations of sexual assault, or not take them seriously?

Who decided the Labour staffer could bring his lawyer, when the complainants were denied legal representation?

And why were the complainants denied the right to see the final report? They have never had an explanation as to why their stories weren’t believed.

Ardern said on Wednesday: “It is my job to make that right.”

She and the party can start by being absolutely transparent with the public about these shocking events. Otherwise, abuse continues to thrive in silence.

Ardern has a big and urgent job to be seen to make this right. And I don’t think Robertson can keep hiding his involvement behind the next inquiry.

Paula Bennett speech on PM’s office involvement in assault claims

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

The Prime Minister says she did not know there were sexual assault allegations against one of her staff members until Monday. I could go through the various media reports since 5 August and my own representation since being contacted by victims to show the inconsistencies in this, but they have already been well traversed in the last 24 hours.

Back in 2016, Jacinda Ardern wrote an op-ed about the scandal surrounding the Chiefs rugby team. She said that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”

The resignation today of Nigel Haworth cannot be, in the Prime Minister’s words, “the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away.” Yes, Mr Haworth needed to go, and it should have happened weeks ago, but what is also known is that the Prime Minister’s own senior staff and a senior Minister have known the seriousness of the allegations but have not acted.

The complainants were members of the Labour Party. They genuinely believed that the party would listen to their complaints and deal with the alleged offender appropriately, but nothing happened. It clearly has taken an incredible sense of frustration, disappointment, and disillusion for these people to come to me, a National Party MP, to try and see their complaints addressed.

These are serious allegations. The Prime Minister cannot keep her head in the sand and pretend like it is happening somewhere far, far away. It is happening in her own office, in her own organisation. She is the leader of the Labour Party. The alleged perpetrator works in her leader’s office—he works for her.

Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister was in New York at the UN, trumpeting “Me too should be we too.” Well, who knew that that meant her own office was following the path well trod by all those companies who drew a curtain over sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told. And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

This all smacks of a cover-up. This goes straight to the top: to the Prime Minister, to senior Cabinet Ministers, and—

SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20190911_053250000/bennett-paula-mallard-trevor


Possible of note is in Question time just before this Bennett briefly questioned Ardern.

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statement made by Jacinda Ardern in 2016 about the Chiefs rugby scandal that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. … After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”?

SPEAKER: No. That question does not relate to a statement of the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations.”, and how does that correlate with a situation where the victims were barred from parts of the parliamentary complex?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims,”; and, if so, how does that correlate that senior male staffers in her office have known about these extremely serious allegations since at least the beginning of the year and none of these men have brought it to her attention?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to answer the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be revising her statement made to the UN less than a year ago that “#MeToo must become we too. We are all in this together.”, in light of her own office’s failure to deal with sexual assault allegations involving one of her staff members?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

If Ardern “made the statement” after two complainants went to a line manger (Salmond) around Christmas time she could have a probem.

Credibility of Ardern, Haworth and Labour increasingly shaky over sexual assault claims

A follow up up on yesterday’s post Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party – the reputation of the Labour Party and the credibility of the party president Nigel, and increasingly the leader Jacinda Ardern, are on the line as the bullying and sexual assault claims grow in strength as more people and information comes out in the media.

The Spinoff: Timeline: Everything we know about the Labour staffer misconduct inquiry

Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.

The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.

The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.

A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.

They then detail “an incomplete chronology” based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff. This collates much of what has been made known already, but includes corroboration of the authenticity of an Open Letter to Ardern:

An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.

From the open letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are a group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations of repeated sexual assaults, harassment and predatory behaviour of one of your staff, who is a member of the Labour Party, as detailed in these stories:

https://thespinoff.co.nz/unsponsored/09-09-2019/a-labour-volunteer-alleged-violent-sexual-assault-by-a-senior-staffer-this-is-her-story/?fbclid=IwAR2w3BYBKCccR_hDGB-qNqohdFcXnS157NsZLbBj1yVrjl9M6mBscbQjuRo

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/115592299/young-labour-abuse-victims-barred-from-parliament-offices

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/08/exclusive-labour-forced-to-review-investigation-into-bullying-sexual-assault-allegations-against-staffer.html

Some of us are the survivors. Others are their friends and supporters. All of us have watched in horror as this story has unfolded, as the survivors have been repeatedly re-traumatised, and as the Labour Party has run a shambles of a process that has enabled an alleged attacker and shut out his survivors. This issue has been discussed for too long in secret meetings and private conversations, and it is our hope that by drawing attention to it in the light of day we will get the action that the survivors deserve. We are sending this letter to the Labour Party caucus, the entirety of the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party, and to all Labour Party LECs.

What has been outlined in the stories is nothing short of sexual assault. What has been outlined as the party’s process in addressing this assault is nothing short of enabling.

It has been claimed that this letter is a ‘false flag’, part of a conspiracy and attempts have been made to discredit it at The Standard.

Stuff: Complaints about Labour Party staffer taken to his employer

Two of the complainants in an investigation into assault, bullying and harassment by a Labour Party staffer have taken their concerns directly to the man’s employer.

The man, who Stuff cannot name for legal reasons, works in the Labour Leader’s Office, but is a public servant employed by Parliamentary Service.

A 19-year-old woman, who alleges sexual assault, and a young man, who has accused the staffer of throwing a punch at him, wrote to Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero on Tuesday.

But Gonzelez-Montero says his hands are tied because the accusations do not relate to the man’s employment. Neither of the complainants work at Parliament.

It’s hard to understand why this can be deemed not an employment matter.

The man has not been stood down. But he agreed to work from home after allegations surfaced about his conduct in early August.

The issue has a direct effect on the man’s employment.

It is also hard to understand why Ardern is allowing this man to continue to work for her office in the current situation. It could drag her and her Government down.

HDPA (Newstalk ZB): We must question PM’s honesty over Labour sexual assault allegations:

This is what we want to ask her: When did she know that the allegations against a staffer in her office were of an alleged sex crime?

She told media yesterday: ”I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual.”

She told RNZ this morning that she found out yesterday.

“The first I’ve seen the complaints of that nature was when I read then.” Asked when that was, she said “When I saw them in the Spinoff.”

That is very hard to believe. This has been reported in the media for the last five weeks.

If you believe that yesterday was the first the Prime Minister heard of this, then you must believe that the Prime Minister of this country does not watch, read or listen to the news reported in this country.

That she for the last five weeks has missed every bulletin, newspaper and programme that mentioned the fact this guy is alleged to have committed a sexual crime.

Like this on Newshub: “The Labour Party has been forced to review its own investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.”

Or this: “Two more of the seven people who laid complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and assault by a Labour staffer have told Newshub about their experience of the department’s internal investigation.”

You have to also believe that the Prime Minister didn’t ask what allegation was so serious that a staffer in her office stopped coming to work five weeks ago.

You also have to square it with this comment she made yesterday in her press conference”:

“A month ago I visited New Zealand [Labour Party] Council. Very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour of members of the Labour Party. But particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault. And that would be their view too.”

Why would she say to the Labour Party council that they were not the right people to investigate an alleged sex crime, if she didn’t know the allegations were of a sex crime?

Because she did. She did know.

On the 6th of August, one day after the story broke in the media, Mike Hosking raised it with her right here on this station.

He asked her: “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual assaulted someone?”

Her response was: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter.”

Exactly when the Prime Minister knew is important for a bunch of reasons.

Did she fail in her duty of care to staffers and volunteers?  Was this supposed to be covered up? But mostly it’s important because this is now about her integrity

It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe her version of events, and possibly this is the first time that we’ve had reason to question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty.

This is not just Ardern’s honesty and credibility at stake. Labour’s chances in the next election may be severely compromised by this.

It has been claimed that the man facing the allegations is seen by Labour as an important part of their campaign team. He may be more toxic than helpful. It’s hard to understand why Ardern can’t see this. Perhaps she is (or has been)too close to the accused person.

Grant Robertson also seems to be involved in this, and may have been trying to distance Ardern from the growing issue.

Newshub: Emails show Labour was sent details of sexual assault allegations against party staffer

Newshub has obtained emails that show Labour was sent details six months ago of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer.

The party continues to deny it knew the claims against the man included sexual assault, but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said the party President Nigel Haworth has to go if it’s proven he mishandled the allegations.

Newshub has been forwarded an email sent by a complainant to one the members of the Labour Party investigating panel on the day of her interview.

She wanted to be able to read off a timeline and testimony. She asked if someone could print the document before her interview which was taking place an hour later.

A document “to print sexual assault experience” was attached.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was shown the document on Tuesday morning.

She told Newshub, “You’ll understand why we will want to take away this and look at it directly.”

Labour agrees the email was sent but claims there were no documents attached. The complainant says all three members of the investigating panel were given a printed copy.

Newshub revealed in August Finance Minister Grant Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints, but he’s refusing to say how much he knew.

“I am not going to comment any further than what I have on that because I will be undermining the privacy,” he told Newshub.

In an interview on RNZ’s Checkpoint yesterday a man who claims to be the victim of an attempted physical assault and a physical assault indicated the accused man had family connections to the Labour Party.

Protecting him looks increasingly untenable.


And more just posted at The Spinoff: Fresh evidence emerges confirming Labour was told of sexual assault allegations on June 11

The woman who alleges sexual assault by a man currently employed by the Labour Leader’s office has expressed dismay at the response of the Labour Party president, Nigel Howarth, who yesterday issued a public statement doubling down on his position that sexual assault allegations contained in investigation published by The Spinoff were never made known to anyone involved in the Labour inquiry.

“He was like a fatherly figure to these six women, and he’s let us down,” she told The Spinoff.

Her comments come as a second email has newly emerged which shows Sarah, the pseudonym by which she is described in The Spinoff’s story, sending a written account of sexual abuse allegations to the Labour Party.

In the email, dated June 11 and sent to the three members of the investigation panel, she directs them to an attached document which contains clear reference to her allegation of being sexually assaulted by the man.

This is on top of another email, sent on the morning of her interview to the chair of the panel, requesting that attached documents be printed. He asked her to send it on to the party official who was overseeing access to Labour headquarters, which she did. According to Sarah four copies of those documents were printed and provided to the panel.

The Labour Party has told The Spinoff that no attachments were received by the investigation chair, and that no one involved in the investigation was aware that any of the people appearing before them was alleging sexual assault.

Sarah told The Spinoff yesterday she was “disappointed” by what she regarded as a “cowardly” statements on the part of the Labour Party. She maintained that her traumatic experience, as detailed Monday on The Spinoff, was first described to Labour at a meeting in October 2018 with Nigel Haworth and general secretary Dianna Lacy. She said this was reiterated to the investigating sub-committee in March 2019.

“We’ve had so many email exchanges that talk about the nature of the investigation,” she said. ““I’m incredibly saddened … Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk is cowardly.”

 

Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party

The Labour Party badly bungled how they handled the complaints of assault that happened at a Young Labour Summer Camp in 2018 – the accused person has just pleaded guilty to two charges of assault.

Worse than this, stories keep emerging of far more serious sexual assaults by a Labour staffer working in the prime Ministers’s office.

The responsibility for this disturbing mismanagement lies mostly with the party president, Nigel Haworth, but Jacinda Ardern is also tainted by association, especially by apparent close association regarding the staffer.

The party tried to deal with the Summer Camp problem internally until complaints went public, an inquiry was ordered, and police lay charges. Haworth and Ardern vowed to sort out their procedures for dealing with complaints. But they have botched again.

It finally got to trial last week, and after chargees were dreduced the trial ended with guilty pleas.

RNZ on September 4 2019:  Man accused of Young Labour camp assaults pleads guilty

The man accused of assaulting teenagers at a Young Labour summer camp has pleaded guilty to two charges of assault on the third day of his trial.

The 21-year-old, who has continued name suppression, was facing five charges of indecent assault in relation to four teenagers.

He was accused of touching the genitals of two young men, kissing and licking a young woman on her neck and face and groping another young woman’s breast and bottom.

Today, midway through the trial, he pleaded guilty to assaulting two young men at the camp near Waihi last year.

The indecent assault charges, in relation to the two young women, were dropped this morning.

The third indecent assault charge, in relation to one of the young men, was dismissed.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest had earlier asked the jury to consider whether or not the defendant was the sexual offender the Crown suggested he is, or just a young man at a party “caught up in a political storm”.

She has indicated she will apply for a discharge without conviction.

After the charges were withdrawn, Ms Priest said her client had always been prepared to take responsibility for the two assaults.

The man will be sentenced in November.

Judge Russell Collins said he hoped what happened at the camp wouldn’t put young people off being involved in political groups.

It sounds like the assaults were relatively minor but of a sexual nature, and there were multiple victims.

While the man’s name remains suppressed there have been suggestions he may be related to someone senior in the Labour Party.

Following the trial which brought up Labour’s poor handling of the assaults, more details and claims emerge from the party problem in Parliament.

It appears that the Labour Party is failing assault victims badly here. On Sunday from Stuff:

Young Labour abuse victims barred from Parliament offices

​Labour’s president Nigel Haworth barred complainants and witnesses in an alleged bullying and sexual harassment case from one of Parliament’s main buildings.

Leaked emails show Haworth and other senior officials instructed the women, all Labour party members, to stay away from the Labour party offices in Bowen House, where the man at the centre of their complaints works.

Monday from The Spinoff:

A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story

A Labour party staffer is alleged to have committed a serious and sustained sexual assault on a 19-year-old volunteer early in 2018. The volunteer told the Spinoff the assault was compounded by the resulting inquiry, during which the alleged perpetrator was not stood down from any duties, which included the supervision of Young Labour volunteers.

The complaint process, undertaken entirely by people within the Labour Party, has left her feeling “angry, quite fearful and desperate”.

The alleged perpetrator has ties throughout the party hierarchy. The woman, who remains a member of the Labour Party, said the man’s level of influence left her constantly frightened of the impact of speaking out.

Over the course of numerous in-depth interviews with The Spinoff, Sarah – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – detailed how she was pinned down and sexually assaulted at the man’s home during a private meeting to discuss party business in early 2018. The process that followed, beginning in April 2018 during the post-Labour Camp review undertaken by Maria Berryman, has completely eroded her faith in the party.

Sarah is one of at least seven people who made formal complaints in relation to the individual, ranging from bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment through to sexual assault. She described him as having a “pretty senior and active” role in the party, and being well-connected with several high profile Labour MPs.

The Party is running out of carpet to sweep this under. Nigel Haworth’s position must be in jeopardy.

Why Labour president must resign over sexual assault allegations

Ardern can no longer pretend that sexual harassment is someone else’s problem.

It will be a painful realisation, but Labour must accept that it has a toxic culture and does not look after its young members.

The first step in addressing that is to fire Haworth, the man who badly failed all the complainants.

This time, the party must protect them – and not turn away.

The Spinoff Editorial: Labour has failed vulnerable young members for a second time. There must be consequences

n the aftermath of revelations about an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Labour youth summer camp, party leader Jacinda Ardern fronted the media to express her dismay. Both at what had happened, and how her party had responded to it.

“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that,” she said.

Ardern and the party president Nigel Haworth vowed that such an experience and outcome was unacceptable, and when an inquiry was launched, announced that its scope would not simply be limited to the events at the camp, but open to other historical allegations, too.

Watching all this unfold was a young Labour member who had her own harrowing experience within Labour. Hearing their words, she found it within herself to approach the lawyer appointed to lead the investigation. After hearing from the lawyer that the summer camp allegations were taking priority, she met with the party president and assistant general secretary, who formed a panel to investigate her claims.

As The Spinoff’s reporting showed this morning, some of the experiences which motivated the young Labour members to get in touch were incredibly harrowing. The allegations they carried with them were about a single party member, and ranged from bullying to abuse of power to assault to sexual assault.

The very fact of engaging with the party was intimidating. The man they were speaking out about was an influential staffer, well-connected within the party and its parliamentary wing. The fact that it was the same party investigating made them worried about the security of their information, and unsure about where loyalties lay. Yet they fronted up on a Saturday in March, and told their stories to a panel comprised of three members of Labour’s governing council.

That panel appears to have been more intent on containing the story for political reasons, with victims claiming they have been treated badly.

As reported on Sunday by Stuff, the alleged perpetrator remains in his role. And Haworth, who has now presided over two acknowledged failures, remains in his.

He, and his party, need to quickly decide whether that is a state of affairs which should continue. At the very least they need to pledge immediately and unequivocally that all future inquiries will be run by qualified individuals independent of the party.

It has been a long and torturous process. A process which began when a young woman decided to come forward after hearing the most senior individuals in the party encourage her to do so. At the time the party acknowledged having “failed” its young people. Unconscionably, another group of young people are today living with that same sensation – of a party which they loved having badly let them down.

Jacinda Ardern had to front up at her weekly media conference yesterday.

The Spinoff:  ‘Incredibly frustrated, deeply disappointed’: Ardern speaks on Labour inquiry

The prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, has this afternoon responded to questions relating to allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and the controversial process surrounding an inquiry into his behaviour. She was “incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed” by the way it had been handled, she said.

“I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she said, speaking to reporters at her weekly post-cabinet press conference.

“I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”

Ardern said she had “sought assurances that they were not [sexual in nature] in the very beginning. I have obvious since seen and heard questions in the media raised as to whether or not that was accurate.”

Perhaps party management and the inquiry panel have tried to shield and distance Ardern from the issues, but their bungling has put Ardern in a very difficult position.

Ardern said she had attended a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, on August 10, after the story was broken by Newshub. She had “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault, and that would be their view, too”, she said.

Following that meeting, Maria Dew, QC, was appointed to undertake a review of the original inquiry.

The prime minister would not say whether the individual at the centre of the inquiry had been stood down from his role in the Labour Party, but that “the person referenced in the article has not been on the precinct … for roughly five weeks now and will not be on the precinct at least for the duration of the inquiry that’s being undertaken by a QC appointed by the Labour Party.”

She said she does not believe the alleged is still attending party meetings and events.

Ardern should know exactly what the situation is with the staffer accused of multiple assaults. David Farrar claims that as party leader Ardern has the power to terminate the employment of the staffer: The clause Jacinda refuses to use

The staffer should at least be suspended pending the outcome of the latest inquiry. That is standard practice in other workplaces.

When asked if she retained confidence in the president of the Labour Party, Nigel Haworth, Ardern said: “I absolutely believe that the president wants to do the right thing by those involved and by the party. But I have had competing reports now on the nature of the allegations and the complaint process. It was a month ago that I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party. And I’m now going to await the findings of the QC’s report.”

Awaiting the findings will allow this to fester further, but Ardern seems to want to continue with this hands off approach. She should at the very least be talking sternly with Haworth, now.

Ardern said the QC would report directly to her, rather than the NZ Council.

“I need absolute clarity. I have not received it through the competing reports to date … I do need a third party, a reliable, trusted individual to give me clarity and I will act on the findings decisively.”

That’s what she and the party should have demanded over the summer camp assaults issue, and when the Parliamentary staffer story broke.

She added: “I will be seeking assurance that the party will provide all the information that it was provided during the original investigation to the QC.”

She should be demanding that for herself right now.

Newsroom: Labour fails to learn from its mistakes

A little over a year ago, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth promised the party he had presided over since 2015 would change.

In the wake of claims that four young supporters were sexually assaultedduring one of the party’s summer camps, Haworth announced Labour had accepted all the recommendations of a review into the events.

Among them was a commitment to review or develop policies for sexual harassment and assault, bullying and the party’s code of conduct, as well as introducing “a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice”.

Now, claims about Labour’s approach to allegations made against one of its employees suggests the party has not changed as much as it should have – but its president may have to.

…it is Haworth who is the constant in both cases, and Haworth who left Ardern expressing her concern and frustration about the Labour Party’s process.

The Prime Minister would not directly state that he had misled her, but her comment when asked if she had confidence in him that he had “articulated to me that he only wants to ensure he has done the right thing” smacked of damnation with faint praise.

Speaking after the complainants’ concerns came to light, Ardern said the investigation had been “a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from” the summer camp scandal.

It is a test the party appears to be failing – and Haworth may be the one who has to pay the price.

I think that after two major failures Haworth should step down, and if not he should be stood down.

But there is a bigger political price that may be paid.

This is seriously threatening Brand Jacinda. She has talked strongly about new standards of decency in politics, but has failed to match her own rhetoric with her distancing from these serious issues. I think it is quite possible this will impact on Labour’s re-election chances significantly.

But that’s just a political consequence.

The worst aspect of this is the victims who continue to be very poorly protected and listened to by the party they had thought was better than all of this.


Update: It looks like the problem for labour is growing, with more people and claims coming out today.

Another person (male) has gone to media, corroborating what others have claimed, and claiming the accused man took a swing at him when he confronted him over his treatment of women, and claims a separate physical assault.

Labour assault investigation retraumatised victims – witness

A man who says he was assaulted by a Labour Party staffer would like to meet with Jacinda Ardern to discuss the party’s handling of claims of sexual abuse and assault.

The Prime Minister has refused…

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712678/labour-assault-investigation-retraumatised-victims-witness

This is a problem that doesn’t look like going away for Ardern and Labour. Waiting weeks for the outcome of the QC inquiry to be completed may be too little, too late to avert or stem irreparable damage.

RNZ also gave credence to the open letter.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712686/ardern-urged-by-labour-members-to-act-on-assault-complaints

As did One News.

It comes after an open letter sent by some of the alleged victims of a Labour Party staffer asked for the Prime Minister to “do the right thing”.

Also:

A complaint has been made to Parliamentary Service against the person at the centre of the Labour Party staffer allegations.

It was made by a person who does not work at Parliament, meaning Parliamentary Service cannot act on it.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/complaint-made-parliamentary-service-against-labour-staffer

This may or may not be a different complainant again but the claims are a little different to what was said on RNZ.

Former Labour party volunteer says he raised allegations with party president Nigel Haworth

But one of the 12 complainants told Stuff he directly raised the matter with the investigating panel in March this year.

He has provided Stuff with an email he sent to Haworth in May which refers directly to “this investigation …which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence.”

And the man says he spoke about it in a two-hour meeting with Haworth in early July.

Haworth has been approached for comment but has not replied.

“I definitely had those conversations with him and there is an email proving it,” the complainant told Stuff.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115693354/former-labour-party-volunteer-says-he-raised-allegations-with-party-president-nigel-haworth

Labour camp review recommendations, but no holding to account, victim appalled

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said a report on the Labour Youth Camp near Waihi in February had made a number of recommendations which would all be adopted – but I can’t find any details on anyone being held accountable for the use of alcohol by young people, the lack of supervision, and the slow and poor response by party officials.

Timeline (Newsroom and RNZ):

  • 9-11 February 2018: Labour Youth Waitawheta Camp near Waihi in February
  • 12 March: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp
    The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
  • 12 March: PM investigating reports of sexual assault at Labour event
    Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton didn’t notify the Prime Minister, the police or parents that four teenagers were allegedly sexually assaulted at its summer camp last month.
  • 13 March: Labour camp misconduct: Victim reached out to Megan Woods
    It has been revealed that Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was contacted by a victim raising concerns about incidents of sexual assault of teenagers at a Labour Party summer camp.
  • 14 March: Second Labour sexual assault incident alleged
    Another person has contacted the Labour Party saying they too were sexually assaulted at a Labour event several years ago. Labour has already apologised to four teenagers who were sexually harassed by a 20-year-old man at a Labour youth camp in Waihi last month.
  • 19 March: Details of Labour’s sexual assault review revealed
    The review into how Labour handled complaints of sexual assault is expected to take up to three months and every party member will be contacted.
  • 22 June: Andrew Kirton steps down as Labour Party general secretary
    The Labour Party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, has resigned to take up a senior position with Air New Zealand.
  • 5 July: Labour Party camp accused in court, name suppressed
    A 20-year-old man has appeared in court charged with indecent assaults at a Labour Party youth summer camp. He denied six charges of assaulting four victims believed to be aged 16 to 18. The man was arrested on 26 June.
  • 29 August: Review reported on

The report was “expected to take up to three months” but has been partially reported on five months later.

RNZ:  Labour to review policies after Young Labour camp incidents

The Labour Party says it will implement all the recommendations of a report into indecent assaults at a Young Labour camp in February.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said Labour had committed to putting in place all the recommendations and had established a process for that work to be completed.

The recommendations:

  • Develop a more tangible and effective relationship between Young Labour and the Labour Party
  • Review and/or develop policies on The party’s code of conduct – along with consideration as to whether that should apply to the Young Labour Party, or whether a modified or separate code should be developed
  • Review and/or develop policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying and complaint procedure
  • Incorporate updated event registration and parental consent and risk disclosure information requirements and forms to ensure compliance with current best practice and all legislation relating to the care of minors when participating in party held events.
  • Ensure at least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout (solely or jointly with another nominated adult supervisor) to ensure compliance with safety and welfare expectations and the Young Labour Party should also nominate a welfare officer to attend all events
  • Introduce a new, over-arching alcohol policy, formulated in consultation with expert external advice
  • Introduce a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice.

However, Mr Haworth said he would not be releasing the report.

One of the victims:

“As far as I’m concerned the failure to release the report to the media is absolutely disgraceful”

“I feel to a degree that there is conflict of interest in a sense – one of the most influential figures that was aware of the original complaint, which is the President of the party, is also the person that is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the review.

“Further to that, the fact that it hasn’t been released to the media shows an absolute lack of transparency, but a copy also hasn’t been released to the victims or the people that were interviewed for the review, which from my perspective as a victim is absolutely disgraceful.”

Jacinda Ardern…

…said she has yet to read the full report, however, it would not be made public because the events detailed in it were still before the court.

The review was undertaken for a reason and the party knows there were things it needed to do differently, Ms Ardern said.

I understand the need to not make the full report public due to matters still being ‘before the court’.

There seems to be no reason why victims should not be given the report, except that Labour may want to keep things from being revealed that could impact on the prosecution.

Perhaps Labour have given their report to the prosecution to help with the facts of the matter, but I can’t see any indication of this having been done.

I can see no indication of anyone apart from the alleged offender being held accountable.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton resigned in June and left the party in July.

Labour need to maker sure things like this don’t happen again in the future, so it is good to see recommendations on that.

But there appears to be no holding to account for those that allowed underage drinking at February’s camp, enabled alleged sexual assaults to happen, and then tried to deal with it alarmingly inadequately, and secretly.

Newsroom:  Victim slams Labour summer camp report

One of the victims from Labour’s youth summer camp scandal has slammed the party for its “absolutely appalling” handling of a review into what went wrong, saying nobody is being held accountable.

“Failing to release the report shows a blatant lack of accountability and from my perspective as a victim, is absolutely appalling.”

The report should have been released with the redaction of any information which could have identified people, they said.

The victims and witnesses involved in Austen’s inquiry were not given a copy of the final report either.

They also questioned the news that Haworth would lead the work on changing Labour’s procedures, given the failures of the party in handling the initial complaint.

“The person in charge of implementing the recommendations is the person that hasn’t been trusted in the first place to provide support and resolve the issue…I don’t see accountability there.”

The victim believed alcohol should be banned entirely from events which had significant numbers of people under the age of 18, rather than allowing adults to drink while in attendance.

Labour have failed again to address concerns of at least one victim.

 

 

Labour front up over summer camp allegations

After copping a lot pf criticism over the last two days Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern and party president Nigel Haworth fronted up at a media conference today.

I think they did a good job of accepting responsibility and detailing what they would do to address the problems coming out of their one of mishandling the sexual assault allegations, and what they would do to try to minimise the chances of anything like it happening again.

They had little choice but to do this, to try to stem the damage and restore some credibility.

They have put a hold on any Young Labour events.

Interesting to see Ardern and Haworth fronting up on it today. Until now party secretary Andrew Kirton had copped most of the media attention on the issue.

RNZ: ‘We failed in our duty of care’ – Labour leadership

The Labour’s Party leadership has apologised “deeply” to the victims of sexual assault at a Young Labour summer camp, their parents and the other young people there.

At a media stand-up held this afternoon, Leader Jacinda Ardern and party president Nigel Haworth unveiled a number of measures the party was taking, two days after it emerged four 16-year-olds were sexually harassed or assaulted by a 20-year-old at a Young Labour camp.

“We understand we failed in our duty of care during the event,” said Mr Haworth. “We have failed in our duty of care in terms of support we’ve offered since then, we are very, very distressed about this.”

He wanted to “apologise deeply” to the four young people who have been so “grievously treated”, to their families and the other young people at the event.

Changes will be made to way Labour events are held, including having a “senior member of the party” at all Young Labour events, once they are resumed.

No heads would roll as a result of the handling of the Waihi incident, said Mr Haworth, including his own and that of general secretary Andrew Kirton.

I don’t see any need for resignations at this stage. Everyone can make mistakes, especially in politics and political management – and Labour and it’s officials have major mistakes here. They should learn from them. If not and mistakes like this keep happening then jobs will be in jeopardy.

Ms Ardern did not want to make detailed comments about what happened while investigations were underway. But she did confirm a Labour MP was present “generally” at the camp.

“Liz Craig was there, she had an early flight the next day so was in bed at the time this all occurred.

“I cannot say when she went to bed but she’s been very clear about the fact she wasn’t present when the sexual abuse took place”, said Ms Ardern.

She was present during some of the drinking though – there are photos of this circulating.

However she is not likely to have been responsible for organising or supervising.

She also backed Mr Kirton saying while the assaults had been handled “very, very badly” by the party, he had acknowledged there were failings.

“He is now very much a part of the party’s work to fixing the issues and the failings that we recognise.”

In statement posted to Facebook, Ms Craig said she was at the Young Labour Summer Camp at Waihi as a guest speaker on oral health issues.

“I overnighted at the camp as I was unable to get same day flights and left early the following morning.”

She attended a quiz event and went to bed early once that had finished, she said.

“While alcohol was present, I understood the organising committee had put in place measures to ensure those under the age of 18 were not drinking, and that organising committee members had been designated to oversee the evening’s events.

“I was dismayed to hear of events being raised in the media this week, as I was unaware until then that anything of this nature had occurred.”

If she left early on the Sunday morning she may have missed the eviction frrom the camp of the offender.

Senior barrister Maria Berryman has been brought in to look at how the party deals with harassment and abuse at other Labour party events.

Labour also confirmed today it had suspended all events held by its youth wing as it reviewed the sexual assault claims, one of which was now being investigated by police.

Mr Haworth said when they were reinstated they will be run by the party and not Young Labour officials. They will also be alcohol-free and a senior member of the party will be present.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Ms Ardern said she was not aware of any previous instances at events she had attended as an MP and as a member of Young Labour.

“[However], I cannot, hand on heart, rule out that this hasn’t happened before.”

Thias is far from over for Labour, but they took a big step in the right direction today.

Labour target 40%

Labour’s president has set a target of 40% party vote in September’s election. This looks optimistic given Labour are still struggling to get 30% in polls.

1 News: Labour sets target of 40 per cent of the party vote

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth has set campaigners the task of raising support to 40 per cent of the party vote between now and the September election.

“Our task in the party is simple – we just have to turn out the party vote to ensure we are in government,” he told about 500 delegates at Labour’s election year congress yesterday.

“I don’t use numbers like 30 or 35… 40 is what we want, 40 I like.”

Labour should be targeting the 40s if they want to compete head to head with National, but they have as good as conceded they were relying on the Greens to make up the numbers.

They will now find it hard enough to get to 35% and Labour+Greens will struggle to get enough votes to form a government without needing NZ First and/or the Maori Party – apart from their lack of popularity and Greens appearing to have hit a support ceiling if one of them gains ground in the polls it tends to be at the expense of the other.

Can Labour get anywhere near 40%? Not on current performance and polls.

Having a target to strive for is worthwhile, but it needs to be a realistic and achievable target, otherwise it can demoralise party members when they don’t look like getting close, and it can also be counter-productive in getting public support.

There is discussion on this at The Standard in Forty or bust!, with AB saying:

Nice target – but 35% would be a huge achievement and probably good enough to win. That means picking up 5-6% from current levels and preferably without taking some of it off the Greens.

Right now I just don’t see where that 5-6% is coming from.

Recent polls have Labour stuck around  28-29%.

With a media establishment that overwhelmingly supports them and so much more money than the others, the bottom for National is probably 40%. They are currently 44-45% so they won’t lose a lot more, and a chunk of that from the comments I hear around immigration I believe will go to Winnie.

Blaming the media is a common (and stupid) excuse for their own inadequacies and failures, and won’t help them lift their support.

I think that leaves only the “missing million” and our hopes for this demographic have been dashed in 2 elections running.

The ‘missing million’ is a failed aspiration. The Greens and union organisations tried to tap the non-voter pool last election without noticeable success.

Thinking that if only the media would show everyone how good they were and how bad National was, and if only those who don’t vote would realise how deserving Labour are their votes – and actually get out and vote – is unlikely to move the polls or improve Labour’s prospects.

The reality is that currently 24% looks more likely than 40%, unless National stuffs things up badly (Alfred Ngaro had a good shot at that in the weekend).

Positive PR is good, unless it is pie in the sky posturing.

Last election the Greens targeted an achievable looking 15% but failed to improve on their previous election result.

Haworth has proposed what looks like an unachievable target – it would need Greens to drop a few percent.

It’s easy for party members, MPs and voters to just dismiss something that looks out of reach.

Labour’s annual conference, offline

I think Labour is having their annual conference this weekend and will mark 100 years since the party was founded, but it’s hard to tell from their online presence.

13615386_10153752496691452_3217164495635400169_n

Oddly I can see no sign of this on the home page on their website.

labourwebsitenoconference

The ‘latest’ is last weekend’s news.

I got the 100 years graphic from their Facebook page, but remarkably there is no obvious sign of their conference there either.Under Events:

labourfacebookevents

That August campaign launch is presumably for the local body elections. No mention of any event relating to the Mount Roskill by-election, and more remarkably, no sign of their centenary conference.

I also see that there’s a gap in the history montage, no Norm Kirk from the 1970s, nor David Lange from the 1980s.

“New Zealand Labour Party does not have any upcoming events.”

Remarkable. Is this a result of the exodus of communications staff from Andrew Little’s office? Or under the Memorandum of Understanding do they leave social media to their Green Party branch?

No sign of any posts  about the conference at The Standard yet either.

Someone must have thought to tell a journalist though, as 1 News have reported Labour to mark centenary, look to future at annual conference.

Do they see no future in online promotions?

Labour will celebrate their past and their future when as many as 600 delegates head to Auckland for their annual conference this weekend.

This year marks 100 years since the party was founded and while marking the milestone the event will focus on the campaign to win government in 2017, President Nigel Haworth says.

“We know it’s going to be difficult because we’ve got a well funded, well resourced government in power,” he told NZ Newswire.

“We’re feeling very comfortable we’ve got a strong campaign.”

“I think the way it’s come out over the last year we’ve dealt with most of the hard issues, this year is very much about campaigning,” Mr Haworth said.

Maybe that strong campaign will be launched at the conference.

“It will be an opportunity for us to reiterate our platform about New Zealand being a place of genuine opportunity for everyone regardless of the circumstances of their birth, and I’ll have a policy to announce relating to jobs,” Mr Little said.

The Party is expecting between 500 and 600 delegates to attend the three-day event which kicks off with a President’s welcome from Mr Haworth tonight.

It starts tonight. Maybe they notified some of their members by snail mail.

Mr Little will address delegates in the main event on Sunday afternoon.

Will Little’s policy on jobs include a new opportunity for someone to promote the Labour Party online?

Ika: Labour WTF?

I missed the start but I have been watching Labour WTF for a while now.

Labour, WTF? – Live from Ika Seafood Bar & Grill in Auckland, New Zealand, Simon Wilson leads a panel discussion about the state of the Labour Party.

With Nigel Haworth (Labour President), Andrew Campbell (former Green Party Chief of Staff), Dr Deborah Russell (tax expert), Chloe Swarbrick (former mayoral candidate).

Nigel Haworth comes across as a woolly waffler, maybe he runs a tight dynamic ship for Labour but he doesn’t exude confidence.

Deborah Russell is little more than a Labour cheerleader. She sunk to a custard comment about Key’s ‘moral fibre’. She is clearly positioning herself for a political future with Labour.

Chloe Swarbrick is worth having in the discussion. Having considered views of a young woman is great to have in the mix.

Andrew Campbell is the most interesting and forthright about the reality of Labour’s shaky position.

Chloe thinks Jacinda should be Labour leader.

Deborah was asked who outside Labour who would make a good leader, she sidesteps it and promotes a few Labour people ‘coming through’, like Michael Wood who is standing in Mt Roskill.

Andrew names Grant Robertson as ‘an amazing contrast’ to John key as leader and Jacinda as well would be the future leadership for Labour.

Nigel is asked about whether Labour should change their selection rules and he deferred to the members.

Andrew says he agrees with much of what Simon wrote in Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

Deborah refers to Labour as a ‘broad church’. Perhaps it was in the past. It has narrowed alarmingly. And then she refers to Justin Trudeau as Mr Yummy when asked about trustworthiness in Labour.

Then she rejects charisma, saying trust is all important.

Nigel is asked if he thinks the Memorandum of Understanding is important and says it didn’t come entirely from the Greens, but has avoided the question – should it become a coalition agreement. He is wedded to a strong alliance.

Asked about the Maori Party he says it is difficult to see their ‘type of behaviour’ as incompatible with Labour.

A questioner says he has seen no evidence of policy solidarity based on the MoU. Nigel says that it is far to early in the election cycle to come out with substantial policy. He is worried about National moving in on their policies. He says Labour has to time their policy announcements very well. But there remains a vacuum, for how long?

Andrew says there would be a major benefit in Labour and Greens having separate tax policies so Labour+Greens can’t be described as a tax/economics bogey man.

To a question on fundraising Chloe says that money isn’t so important, getting a message across needs to be clear, there needs to be a vision.

Nigel says that money is important. Labour missed an opportunity on public funding of campaigns.

He says Labour has established an ‘extraordinary digital periphery’ – I guess he is talking about their email harvesting.

Someone questions the MoU, saying that it looks like Labour has given up recovery, in contrast to National’s recovery after their 2002 disaster. All Labour has done is ‘cuddle up to the greens’.

Andrew emphasises that the New Zealand electorate hates instability.

Someone says that she wants to be a Labour supporter but she isn’t enthused by Andrew Little and unless they can bring threw people like Chloe they will lose the next election.

Deborah launches into another promotion of Labour/Little. She says Labour has the leader they need.

She then squashes Chloe’s enthusiasm saying that pragmatism matters.

Is Chloe Swarbrick the future of the Labour Party?

Nigel says he would be delighted to have her and over time he wants the party to be attractive to people like ‘Chloe’. They don’t have a lot of time.

Chloe says she represents engagement. She stood as a protest candidate because she was pissed off with the system that doesn’t stand for the people.

She doesn’t see a revolt happening any time soon.

She has a lot of problems with media not holding politicians accountable.

Deborah avoids the question ‘is Andrew Little the future of the Labour Party?’

Andrew says “there is a malaise in the Labour caucus” and refers to National’s ability to turn of MPs compared to Labour’s stagnate bunch.

Chloe says Labour can win when they can empathise and communicate.

Simon says they can win when they have”a leader we can admire and trust and we want to be the Prime Minister”. He talks of the need for charisma.

The discussion comes to a close.

The title remains unresolved – Labour WTF.

Andrew and Chloe should start a new party.

Is Labour sliding towards oblivion?

This question is being asked tonight when Simon Wilson chairs a Spinoff debate at Ika Seafood Restaurant about the future of the Labour Party.

Wilson writes Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

What is the point of Labour? Is it a twentieth century phenomenon sliding into oblivion in the twenty-first?

If you’re an urban progressive, the Greens look like a more natural home. If you’re worried about modernity in any or all its forms, New Zealand First is ready and waiting. If you’re a Māori activist, you can choose from the Māori Party and the Mana Party.

If you’re working class? Any of the above, isn’t it?

In reality, Labour gets votes from all those groups. That’s a good thing: major parties need broad appeal. But Labour doesn’t always treat it as a good thing. They let the inevitable contradictions of being a broad church undermine them – this is expressed through absurdly frequent leadership battles – rather than becoming a source of strength.

Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.

If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.

In New Zealand, it’s generally accepted that Labour’s main job right now, working with the Greens, is to win the next election.

But it’s not obvious this view is shared throughout the Labour Party, where many people clearly prefer to have a leader they agree with, or feel is “one of us”, rather than a leader with great electoral appeal.

And that, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of the Labour Party. They don’t understand the importance of personality. They don’t have a leader capable of charm and because they changed the voting rules to get rid of the last one they did have, David Shearer, they don’t have the ready means to get another one. It’s not that they can’t win, but they have made it a lot harder for themselves.

It’s fashionable to say charisma shouldn’t matter, that personality politics is a scourge. That’s such nonsense. There’s a good reason voters want to feel we can like and trust our leaders: our trust commits us to the political process, commits politicians to us and helps give legitimacy to lawmaking.

So, what are the prospects for Labour heading into election year? Andrew Little will remain leader so they have to double down on becoming the voice of the future. That’s about policy and articulating a vision. Becoming the champion of the compact city in all its forms – from decent affordable housing to creating a cycling city – is a heaven-sent opportunity.

Will they grasp it? What’s their future if they don’t? On the positive side, there’s only one John Key. When he retires, National will lose its charm advantage. On the negative side, it’s only a matter of time before the Greens find an immensely charismatic leader of their own. When that happens, if Labour hasn’t done the same, they really could be annihilated.

There’s no sign of a charisma threat from Greens at the moment, nor does charisma seem to be lurking in their ranks.  So the left in general seem to have a problem, but Labour has been suffering the most.

Tonight’s debate should be interesting.

Tonight at Ika: Labour WTF? – why, what and how is Labour as it turns 100? Simon Wilson chairs a discussion with Labour president Nigel Haworth, former Greens chief of staff Andrew Campbell, commentator and Labour candidate Dr Deborah Russell and third placed Auckland Mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick. The Spinoff will livestream the event via ye olde Facebook page from 7.30pm

That’s a distinctly left wing panel, but it’s their problem so it’s up to them to show they recognise the challenges they face, if they do.

Chloe Swarbrick seems to be the in person in politics these days, she has been picked up by media and pushed. But it will be a while until she can lead whatever party she may eventually join, if she does.