Saturday, September 14, 2019

Mike Hosking: Jacinda Ardern's explanations not good enough

The trouble with explaining, especially in politics, is it often leads to more questions.

The fact the Prime Minister, who is ending her worst week in office by about several country miles, decided to hold a last-minute press conference indicates just how worried they are about the sex scandal that has enveloped, not just the Labour Party, but her personally.

And that is why it has become as big as it is.

They have faced scandal before. Clare Curran was a scandal, KiwiBuild was a scandal, Meka Whaitiri was a minor scandal, and Iain Lees- Galloway and his Karel Sroubek handling was a pretty decent scandal.

But this one exceeds all of them for the simple reason it deals potentially in a crime, a potential cover up, and goes directly to the Prime Minister of the country. Not to mention to the heart of what a left-leaning party like Labour is supposed to be about, and a stance they so openly promoted: equality, fairness, kindness, care, honesty, and transparency.

So the explanation yesterday sadly leaves us none the wiser. Why? Because telling us the way she did that Monday was the first time she had seen evidence of a complaint of sexual assault is not new. I am sure that part is true: that was the day she literally laid eyes on the complaint. To a degree it's playing with words, but it doesn't tell us whether she knew about it earlier, as opposed to actually reading the detail.

Her other claim is, after public reports all those weeks ago that there was a complaint of a sexual nature, she sought assurances and was told there wasn't.

That doesn't square off with Paula Bennett's claims that senior staff knew, and that Grant Robertson knew and said nothing. The fact Robertson is refusing all questions is in my opinion deeply suspicious, and I wonder if he ends up being one of the political victims of this disaster.

Most would see Robertson as a decent sort of bloke. A bloke who has kept his nose clean, the finances in the black, and carried a general reputation as a solid, professional operator. If it does turn out he knew and did nothing, what would that say about him?

The questions for Jacinda Ardern, despite all her rhetoric, are not dissimilar. Why didn't she care? Why is everything a reassurance? Why isn't she asking questions? Why isn't she desperate to know what's going on in her own party enough to reassure herself that nothing is coming back to bite her? Fresh out of the summer camp disaster, why are there no red flags? Where is her instinct? Where is her leadership? These are all questions well worth asking even if everything she says is 100 per cent accurate.

Which brings us back to the explaining. The more you explain, the more you dig.

I'm not sure on Friday morning, even with two resignations in a week, that we are any closer to the end of it than we were on Monday.

Mike Hosking is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB, who has hosted his number one breakfast show since 2008 - see HERE.

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